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Contemporary first language curricula such as the Australian Curriculum: English strongly advocates the teaching of multimodal digital literature in the form of film in which understanding how characterisation is developed is a key task in comprehending and composing literature. In printed literary work, characterisation relies on the only semiotic resource-language to directly or indirectly depict a character's personality. However, in digital multimodal literature such as film, language is only one among many resources including actions, body language, sound, cinematography, and lighting that all negotiate their shared roles to contribute to the characterisation process. This paper discusses the pivotal role of gesture in the characterisation of Coraline, the central character in a stop-motion animation adaptation of the novel with this name. The paper proposes a framework for examining attitudinal meanings in gesture from the perspective of systemic functional linguistics, which was applied to analyse the deployment of Coraline's gesture during points of tension in the movie. The analysis indicates that gesture and co-occuring speech by the character never realise the same kinds of attitudinal meanings. Even when the two semiotics converge, gesture always has more attitudinal meaning commitment (i.e., Graduation) than language. These findings call for a conceptual renovation in first language education curricula. The pivotal role of body language should be given the status it deserves if digital multimodal literature education is to be taken seriously as indicated in the curriculum.


School of Education

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Journal Article

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