CFA: Picturing the Eighteenth-Century Novel Through Time: Illustration, Intermediality and Adaptation

Title:   Picturing the Eighteenth-Century Novel Through Time: Illustration, Intermediality and Adaptation

Call for Articles

Christina Ionescu <cionescu@MTA.CA>

Deadline for abstracts: 1 August 2014

‘Have you noticed that no book ever gets well illustrated once it becomes a classic?’, asked in passing Aubrey Beardsley when faced with the challenge of illustrating Les Liaisons Dangereuses in the Art Nouveau era. Yet visually intriguing and conceptually intricate illustrations of eighteenth-century classics are abundantly present at key moments in the history of the book (Romanticism, the fin-de-siècle, the interwar period, amongst others). Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Voltaire’s Candide, Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Héloïse, Goethe’s Werther and Bernardin’s Paul et Virginie are just some examples of canonical texts that have inspired artists not only through time but also across national boundaries and different media. Such texts have produced visual corpora that are as vast as they are diverse. The timeless fascination with Paul et Virginie, for example, has resulted not only in illustrative series that steadily accompanied the text in its various incarnations as a book, but also in drawings, prints, sculptures, caricatures, tapestries, ceramics, clocks, etc., which circulated and were displayed independently of the text. Artistic transpositions and intermedial engagements with eighteenth-century bestsellers range from these visually static, yet geographically mobile forms of expression, to dynamic, performative adaptations such as films, operas and plays.

In spite of the increasing availability of digital images, critical approaches still tend to privilege the authorially sanctioned series (such as Gravelot’s engravings for Rousseau’s bestselling novel, commissioned and designed with the writer’s direct involvement), or ‘intervisual paradigms’ (patterns of iconographic representation considered independently of their text of origin). Moreover, theatrical or cinematic adaptations of eighteenth-century novels are seldom considered in relation to other forms of visual crossover, such as book illustration and decorative objects, though they all a priori rely on similar processes of visualising and adapting the text. The comparative analysis of different series of illustrations and of other forms of artistic representation of the same novel through time and space, however, allows us to explore the complexity of adaptation, to understand the visual representation inspired by text as an intermedial product and cultural phenomenon, and perhaps to grasp the fascination that the eighteenth century continues to exert upon us.

We invite submissions of papers that address any of the following questions through interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches:
•       How does the illustration of an eighteenth-century novel through time respond to new techniques and to changing views of the function of illustration itself?
•       How do successive generations of artists shape the reception of an eighteenth-century novel at different moments in time?
•       How do illustrated translations of eighteenth-century classics reflect the geographical, linguistic and cultural displacement of the original text?
•       How does the gradual shift from the poorly paid artisan to the internationally known artist affect the illustration of an eighteenth-century classic?
•       How do publishers operating from lucrative centres of book production (Amsterdam, Brussels, The Hague, London, Paris, etc.) respond to the specific expectations of their subscribers or readerships in regard to illustration?
•       How do artists, publishers and/or stage directors facilitate or negotiate verbal/visual crossover? What is their respective involvement in this process?
•       How do individual artists re-view an eighteenth-century text when they illustrate it again for a different publisher or edition?
•       How does the phenomenon of extra-illustration exemplify a unique rapport of visual closeness between the collector and text? How is the reading process impacted by the insertion within a single volume of parallel illustrations of the same scenes, which were executed at different moments in time?
•       How do objects inspired by eighteenth-century novels become cultural artefacts and exist independently of the text? How are they integrated in home décor, private collections or museum space? And what impact do they have as things commissioned, inherited, or collected?
•       How is visual representation transposed from one medium to another (for example, from book illustration to film adaptation)? What are the similarities and differences in the ways in which the text is visually adapted for each medium of expression?

Please send an abstract of 500 words to and by 1 August 2014. The deadline for submission of completed articles will be June 2015 (approximately 8000 words).  Articles may be in French or English. As is usual for peer-reviewed journals, all final decisions concerning the acceptance of articles for this special issue will be made by the JECS editorial board. We also intend to host a workshop around the collection at the BSECS annual conference in January 2016.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s