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4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,446 ratings  ·  204 reviews
The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making? Written and drawn entirely as comics, Unflattening is an experiment in visual thinking. Nick Sousanis defies conventional forms of scholarly discourse to offer readers both a stunning work of graphic art and a serious inquiry ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 20th 2015 by Harvard University Press (first published March 30th 2015)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  1,446 ratings  ·  204 reviews

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Tom LA
May 14, 2015 rated it liked it
"Unflattening" is an "experiment in visual thinking". A scholarly discourse through the form of comics. How unique.

The author, Nick Sousanis, earned his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies last year from Teachers College Columbia University, where he produced his dissertation entirely in comics form.

Harvard University Press decided to publish the dissertation as a book, the first time the press has printed a comic. This in itself can explain why the content of the book is not as exciting as the
Paul Bryant
The artwork & design of this big graphic work is


Great stuff, every page different, you never know what’s coming next.

The TEXT of this book is…. so sorry… a big fat


And therefore – here is a book impossible to rate.

I get that this is a philosophical dissertation and not no normal graphic novel, but to call it philosophical is an insult to Plato and his little argumentative friends because it’s patronizing eyewash mostly, of the sort I might expect to read in The Egyptian Book
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sousanis' syncretic work, while not as paradigm-shifting as he likely hopes it will be, is still a fantastic example of what can be done with the comic/graphic form, which is sort of the whole point of the book: to point out the potential of the comic as philosophical map. It is a meta-example of itself, and it is very, very well done.

Here, text and image flows and flows intentionally, with both words and pictures pointing the way for readers - and see-ers - through a sometimes (and again,
David Schaafsma
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: Nick Sousanis is one co-author of my book, Narrative Inquiry. At the time he was a doctoral student of another co-author, Ruth Vinz, at Teachers College, Columbia University, where I had for five years worked with her. I don't really know Nick at all, though we had a few brief exchanges in the publication process, through Ruth, knowing him, was the primary one to work with him. I did check out some of his online work, and liked it a lot, and he sent me some samples of some of ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A though provoking exploration of different modes of perception as well as the complementary roles of text and illustration.
Seth T.
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
Review of Unflattening by Nick Sousanis

In one of my favourite moments in Nick Sousanis’ Unflattening, he postulates (by way of citation) that we should consider argumentation as a dance. Rather than as a battle, with the requisite victors and losers, mounting casualties, and abiding sense of aggression, we should look at argument as an evolving cooperative effort. Two sides—two people—with their oppositional stances (in that they stand opposite each other) collaborating in a joined back-and-forth. Together, the participants artfully
John Pistelli
The pseudo-poet who writes his thesis in poetry is a pitiful writer (and probably a bad poet). From Dante to Eliot and from Eliot to Sanguineti, when avant-garde poets wanted to talk about their poetry, they wrote in clear prose.
—Umberto Eco (qtd. here)

This book became famous before it was published, as it is the first doctoral dissertation done in comics form. Unflattening is based on a great idea, one implicit in several of the most important comics and graphic novels of the last few decades
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is a dissertation written in the form of comics - I hope there will be more and I hope they will be better than this one.
The text seemed so basic and the images so Banksy - I mean, same-looking people going into the identical slots, because they're prisoners of their single perspective? References to other authors were ok, but I felt they were poorly developed. The main idea of the dissertation is that other perspectives broaden our mind, but it fell flat.

One star added for the idea of
Derek Royal
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I very much enjoyed this book, especially the first half. Sousanis sets the stage in the first three sections of the book, using Abbott's Flatlands as a springboard and presenting a condensed history of scientific/philosophical ways of looking at the world. But then in the last half, he seems to elaborate on his earlier thoughts without much progress or moving forward with his argument. When I was reading the first half, it hit me that this would be a wonderful text to use in a college course on ...more
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Disappointing. I read the NYT book review and I was so curious that I immediately ordered the book. A philosophy thesis written as a graphic novel, published by Harvard!? What could be better.

Certainly, I give it an A for effort. The ideas were so simplified that they made me sleepy. I guess, though that I an being bitchy because I really did not like the drawings. I am a huge fan of graphic novels. This one would have benefited from cheating (finding a collaborator to do the drawings and
2015 has been a pretty awesome year for comics. But this has got to be the most surprising release. A major university publishing a comic book? What's not to love? Now I can justify my comic obsession to my family!

Through the medium of comics Sousanis explores all of reality and our perception it (and communication of that perception).

Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is no easygoing graphic novel. This is a serious piece of cross-discipline art: you will see and you will read, and you will be in awe.

The verbal and visual references range from literature, philosophy, science, and theory of visual art, to Greek myth and modern culture. They are seriously researched to the point of quotation and context; they are woven into a web of meaning and ingeniously rendered. The somewhat conventional message is clear from the title—unflatten yourself and your way
Apr 15, 2015 added it
Shelves: favorites, english
Deploying the comics form was a brilliant choice.
Jimmy Ele
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uber-favorites
"This was a very interesting read" (strokes beard whilst wistfully looking off into the abyss of thought).

Continues to speak: "The premise of this book is to argue that comics are a superior form of communication."

pauses to clear throat: 'cough' "The author argues that people see things in a very narrow way. He likens most people's views to the characters of the dimensional odyssey "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions".

Slaps at a mosquito that has decided to land on his cashmere sweater:
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Disclaimer: e-ARC provided by Harvard University Press through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes may not appear in the final edition.

Welcome to Unflattenland, where life follows a a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behaviour.

This was so more intricate and intense than I was expecting from a graphic novel.
Then, I realized this has been described to be a Philosophy doctoral thesis, on comic-book format, and published by Harvard University Press. Well, that explains a lot.

Stewart Tame
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure that I'm capable of reviewing this. This would seem to be nothing less than a philosophical treatise in comics form. It's a lovely, deep, thought-provoking book, and I have a feeling that, for every connection and nuance that I spotted, I missed at least two or three more. Sousanis is generous enough to provide a section of notes at the end of the book explaining some of the artistic references and other interesting tidbits about the genesis of the project. This is an outstanding ...more
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

This is totally brilliant.

My brain is so unflattened, I need to sit back and think about what I've just read.
Chelsea Martinez
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Apparently this book was a dissertation before it was a book, and it reads like it.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
4. 5 stars (for originality and subject matter)

At first, I did not know what to make of this book. I honestly only picked it up because I was flipping through, liked the black and white artwork(contrary to some that read the book) and I also like some of the shorter bits I must have stumbled upon. It seemed a little spacey in the beginning especially, which I liked at times. Yet, I kept losing interest and kept thinking to myself...let's get to the point. I read that other readers felt the same
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
I liked this at the beginning but liked it less and less as it continued. After a while I realized that it tended to introduce a quotation in passing and then not provide enough context or explanation to make it clear what the author was getting at exactly. Eventually I was bored with the book, but I think that's because--counterintuitively--it wasn't long enough: I think if the author had taken more time to explain what he meant, I would have understood more of it and had more patience for it.
Bart Everson
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's possible to read this in one sitting, because there are not a lot of words. Yet it might take a while longer to absorb the profound insights the book offers. Deep, heartfelt, true. Occasionally veers into academic erudition and flirts with an prose style that borders on aridity, but the images remain juicy. Did I fail to mention this is a comic?
Laura Pena
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I got this book for kai in the summer and didn't get around to reading it until now. I thought it might be a good way to get back into reading since i have been preoccupied with knitting and can't seem to have more than 1 hobby at a time, but tbh this just made me want to knit/crochet some more! i've been feeling bad about my brain post-grad, like i'm not learning stuff like I was able to when it was structured out for me and that i've been in a very flat routine, but this just made me think ...more
Mar 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Nick Sousanis’s Unflattening has the look of a graphic novel, but it’s actually a group of interrelated philosophical essays presented in comic book form. This stunning work of art presents a gauntlet of brain-teasers that challenge our assumptions about the nature of human perception and understanding. Sousanis’s central message––that we should learn to see from multiple perspectives at once instead to searching for the “correct” outlook––is an important one, despite not being particularly ...more
My son, Josh shared this book with David who shared it with me. We were both in awe of the way the words and drawings combine to make this unlike any book we've ever read. The theme is multiple perspectives...but that simplifies it far more than you can imagine. I love the section on empathy...which the author claims is far more an act of imagination than "stepping into another's shoes." You actually can't step into another's's the imagination that allows us to understand. another's ...more
An Te
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
What artistry! Beautifully illustrated. It's a hodgepodge of comic strips designed to literally open one's mind. From Abbot's 'Flatland' to McGilChrist's 'Master of the Emissary' (split brain personalities), it is sure to captivate the mind and imagination of readers. A comic book really like no other. There are a plethora of philosophical concepts to bend and liberate the mind. However, much of it is indeed secular and must be treated with caution as a Christian in search of truth. Yet God has ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Another lazy analog describing that somehow Homo sapiens are unenlightened robots waiting to be free. Scientists have been proving again and again that we are here because of compassion and cooperation. But at least the author concluded the work with a positive vision that learning is the way to be more contributive to the society.
Ambitious and intelligent argument that we rely too much on words and not enough on pictures and other forms of perception . . . published in comic-book format. I never expected to read a comic book from Harvard University Press.

Winner of the Eisner Award for best academic or scholarly work.
Karrie Stewart
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I fee like this is the first textbook in graphic novel form. Nick has a great way explaining his ideas that even I could understand. At some point in reading this, your mind will be blown!
Edward Sullivan
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A provocative meditation on perception, perspective, and visual thinking inspired in no small part by Edwin A. Abbott’s novel Flatland.
Steven Peck
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Profound and thought provoking.
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Nick Sousanis is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Comics Studies at the University of Calgary. He received his doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2014, where he wrote and drew his dissertation entirely in comic book form. Titled Unflattening, it argues for the importance of visual thinking in teaching and learning, and it is now a book from Harvard University ...more
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“Concrete experiences serve as the primary building blocks from which we extend our capacity for thought and give rise to more abstracted concepts.

We understand the new in terms of the known.”
“We don't know who you are until you arrive, we don't know who you'll become until you've explored the possibilities.” 0 likes
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