Dear Members of the Romantic Illustration Network (RIN):
Greetings! You are invited to submit a paper proposal for the 28th Annual Conference of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR). The NASSR conference, which will take place at the University of Toronto, Ontario on August 6-9, 2020, will bring together 300-400 scholars to discuss literature, philosophy, politics, art, and culture c. 1770-1840.
WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES OF WOUNDS AND INJURIES
Pity and Pride: Picturing the War Wounded in the Work of Charles Bell
Dr Michael Brown of Roehampton University considers the emotional content of the famous war paintings of the surgeon Charles Bell.
I recently had an article accepted for publication by the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies which explores the relationship of the Scottish surgical siblings John Bell (1763-1820) and Charles Bell (1774-1842) to war, especially their imaginative and professional investment in military surgery and their complex emotional reactions to the experience of treating the wounded. Drawing on Yuval Noah Harari’s argument that the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw war configured as an increasingly transcendent emotional event, it considers the difficulties of translating both professional identities and emotional experiences across a widening civil-military divide.
In this regard, what is particularly interesting about both John and Charles Bell is that neither man was a military surgeon. While Charles wrote in 1807 that ‘of all things I should like to be kept and sent to the armies as a surgeon’ and while John agitated for a role in the training of military surgeons, neither had served in the army or navy and neither had any direct experience of battle. And yet, in their work, both men imagined themselves as battlefield surgeons, harnessing the emotional and cultural capital of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars to shape their identities as surgeons.
While John Bell’s engagement with the war wounded is not especially well known outside of specialist circles, his younger brother’s experiences are far more widely discussed. This derives, in part, from the emotionally expressive letters that he sent back to England from Brussels in the aftermath of Waterloo. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) said that reading one of Charles’ letters to his brother George (1770-1843) ‘set me on fire’ and it served as inspiration both for his own trip to the Continent as well as his semi-fictional account of Waterloo, Paul’s Letters to his Kinsfolk (1816). But even more than his letters, it is Charles’ paintings of the war wounded that have excited academic attention, and it is revealing that, outside of medical history, interest in Charles Bell has largely come from art historians such as Anthea Callan, Aris Sarafianos and, most notably of all, Philip Shaw.
There is much more to be said about Charles’ experiences of the effects of war and how his emotional self-reflection fits within the wider affective cultures of what I call ‘Romantic surgery’. This aspect, which is frequently overlooked by those who view him predominantly as an artist, rather than a surgeon, is what my article seeks to do. But even in terms of his art, which has been subject to far greater critical scrutiny, there is still more to be said. In the main, scholars have been attracted to his images of the wounded of Waterloo and have emphasised his representation of pain and suffering, as well as his evocation of sublime pathos. By contrast, they have said rather less about his earlier paintings of the wounded from the Battle of Corunna (1809), men whom he encountered during his trip to Halsar Hospital in Gosport and, later, at York Hospital in Chelsea.
These paintings exhibit certain similarities to his later sketches from Brussels, particularly in their visceral quality. This is certainly true of his images of gunshot wounds to the skull, thigh and testicles (Figs 1, 2 and 3).
But, in other respects, they differ. For one thing, they are more obviously painterly, since they are finished in oils. For another, they are just as enamoured of male beauty as they are concerned with bodily disfigurement. Take, for example, his three images of chest and abdominal wounds (Figs 4, 5 and 6).
In Fig. 4, in particular, the pose, though no doubt calculated to display the wound, resonates with the poses of other male models, especially boxers, who were regular subjects of the anatomical and artistic gaze. Meanwhile, in other instances, the men’s display of their wounds evokes the traditions of Christian iconography, notably the stigmata (Fig. 7) and religious ecstasy (Fig. 8), as well as contemporary neoclassical subjects such as Jacques Louis David’s Death of Marat (1793) (Fig. 9).
That Charles should have conceived of his sitters in this way is hardly surprising. He was well schooled in art theory, having published a book on the expression of emotion in painting (1806) and competed (unsuccessfully) for the chair of Anatomy at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1807. Moreover, his interest in the male form and its representation is well documented in his letters. In 1808, for example, he wrote to George that he ‘had been grumbling for some days that comparisons of the modern athletes and the antique had been making, and exhibitions of Jackson, the boxer, etc. without my presence [sic]’. However, ‘On Saturday when I came home I found that Lord Elgin had called, and written a note requesting me to come and see an exhibition of the principal sparrers naked in his museum. I went, and was much pleased’. Furthermore, when writing to his bother about the ‘his gun-shot men’, he told him how he sought to learn from the ‘best old masters’ how to convey a ‘faithful’ representation that is ‘full of character’, as opposed to the ‘modern’ style in which the individual was ‘shaded off and indistinct’.
At the same time, the ambivalence of Charles’ Corunna paintings, torn as they are between beauty and horror, pride and pity, can be ascribed to Charles’s complex affective response to Haslar. As he wrote to George, concerning his experiences with the wounded, ‘I have muttered bitter curses and lamentations, have been delighted with the heroism and prowess of my countrymen, and shed tears of pity in the course of a few minutes’. In this way, Charles’ paintings can be seen to exemplify a range of emotional responses that were utterly in keeping with contemporary cultural norms, namely the religious (‘bitter curses and lamentations’), the patriotic (‘heroism and prowess of my countrymen’) and the sentimental (‘tears of pity’).
Charles’ images of the Waterloo wounded share certain qualities with his earlier paintings. The faces of the men, in particular, speak to his interest in the representation of intense emotion, approaching on occasion to what Sarafianos and Shaw have identified as sublime pain. But, in other respects, they are more ragged, less obviously aestheticized and perhaps more shocking. No doubt, this owes something to the medium: watercolours after pencil sketches done at the bedside. It also owes something to the severity of the wounds themselves, which in a number of cases are particularly extreme (Figs 10 and 11). But, as with his Corunna images, they also reflect Charles’ emotional experiences in Brussels.
Much of Charles’s surgical work was with the French wounded, who had been ‘brought from the field after lying many days in the ground, many dying, many in the agony, many miserably racked with pain and spasms’. While at Haslar his emotional equipoise had been tested, but in Brussels it was almost overwhelmed, as he was confronted by the ‘most shocking sights of woe’. In this regard it is interesting that, where one might expect his French patients, or even those members of the King’s German Legion whom he treated, to be ‘othered’, his sketches largely preserve the names of his Waterloo subjects, whereas those of his British subjects from Corunna remain anonymous. Despite referring to the French troops as a fierce, cruel and bloodthirsty ‘race of banditti’, he was deeply moved by their ‘plaintive cries and declarations of suffering’. It is almost as if he wished to preserve, in their names, a testament to the humanity of those whose suffering he witnessed and sought to relieve (Fig. 12).
Indeed, Charles’ graphic images from Waterloo might even be regarded as a kind of emotional catharsis, an expression of sensations that were so intense as to defy language. After his return to London he wrote a letter to his friend, the Whig MP Francis Horner (1778-1817); following a lengthy description of his experiences, he apologised for ‘falling into the mistake of attempting to convey to you the feelings which took possession of me, amidst the miseries of Brussels’. Acknowledging the ineffability of what he had seen, he concluded by suggesting that ‘I must show you my notebooks, for as I took my notes of cases generally by sketching the object our remarks, it may convey an excuse for the excess of sentiment’.
 Yuval Noah Harari, The Ultimate Experience: Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture, 1450-2000 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
 Letters of Charles Bell (London: 1870) Charles to George Bell, 21st May 1807, p. 96.
 John Gibson Lockhart, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: 1837), p. 347-50. See
 Anthea Callen, Looking at Men: Art, Anatomy and the Modern Male Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018); Aris Sarafianos, ‘Wounding realities and “painful excitements”: real sympathy, the imitation of suffering and the visual arts after Burke’s sublime’, in Thomas Macsotay, Corneils van der Haven and Karel Vanhaesebrouck (eds), The Hurt(ful) Body: Performing and Beholding Pain, 1600-1800 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017), 170-201; Philip Shaw, Suffering and Sentiment in Romantic Military Art (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013). Shaw is not an art historian in the conventional sense, but his book is largely concerned with visual representation.
 Letters, Charles to George Bell, 26th July 1808, pp. 125-6.
 Ibid., Charles to George Bell, 23rd May 1809, pp. 147-8.
 Ibid., Charles to George Bell, 3rd February 1809, p. 139.
 Ibid., Charles to George Bell, 1st July 1815, p. 241.
 Ibid., Charles to Francis Horner, July 1815, p. 248.
 Ibid., Charles to George Bell, 1st July 1815, pp. 242-3.
 Ibid., Charles to Francis Horner, July 1815, p. 248.
CFP: ‘Poetry & Painting: Conversations’ – An Interdisciplinary Conference;
Faculty of English, University of Oxford, 23 March 2020.
You know how
I feel about painters. I sometimes think poetry
Frank O’Hara, ‘John Button Birthday’ (1957)
The supposed similarity between poetry and painting was famously characterized in Horace’s ‘Ars Poetica’ by the dictum ‘ut pictura poesis’ (‘as is painting, so is poetry’). Yet in 1766, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing influentially argued for the limits that condition these different art forms — how could a visual scream ever be rendered linguistically?
The intense and ambivalent relationship between the so-called “sister arts” of poetry and painting has long been a subject of critical enquiry. The multiple tensions and affinities shared by these expressive forms are fruitful topics of a discussion that is currently enjoying a revival both within and beyond academia.
Co-organisers Drs Jasmine Jagger and Jack Parlett invite you to share your thoughts on this relationship for a one-day conference in Oxford. This symposium seeks to ignite and develop critical and trans-historical conversations about the interplay between the sister arts. Contributors may consider, but need not be limited to:
Ekphrasis and ekphrastic writing
Illustration and other “composite” modes
Co- and inter-disciplinarity
Narrative, time and temporality
Tone, texture, and style
Questions of form
Issues of historicity
Interrelations between poetry, painting and other forms (e.g. photography and film)
Theories of the visual and the gaze
Interpretation and revisionism
Colour, mood, affect, and play
Proposals are invited for twenty-minute papers, to be delivered as part of panels of three. Individual proposals (of 250 words), and panel proposals (of up to 700 words), for three papers that interact under a common theme, are warmly accepted. Creative responses are also welcome.
The conference’s plenary speakers have been confirmed as Professor T. J. Clark and Dr Kathryn Murphy. Please send proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The deadline for submissions is 30 November 2019. The one-day conference will take place on 23 March 2020 at the Faculty of English, Oxford. For more information, please visit www.poetryandpainting.co.uk. We welcome you to disseminate this CFP widely. This conference is organised in association with the Faculty of English, Oxford.
About a million years ago, when I was an MA student, I wrote a comparative thesis on the poetry of John Keats and Percy Shelley. Some years later, as a prof, and after a PhD on ShelIey and William Wordsworth, I was able to write Shelley out of my system. I later managed to do the same with Wordsworth.
But Keats—not so much.
Yet, from the start, he was the dead, white, English, male poet who intrigued me most, and thoughts about him continued to plague and attract me. The old question lurked: How did little Johnny (all five-foot-two-inches of him) become so damn good so darn quickly? How did he move so fast, and so dramatically, from writing mainly bad, random, I-wannabe-a-poet poetry to composing some of the best verse in the language? When, in October 1818, Keats confidently (though privately) declared he would be an enduring poet after his death, he hadn’t written much to earn that claim. But he was about to. And almost all of it within a year. After that, circumstances and the slow death sentence of consumption wasted him away. He died in Rome in February 1821, aged twenty-five.
About eight years or so ago, I began a book on Keats, with the working title of Keats’s Progress. It was a subject—Keats’s development and his poetical character—taken up by some of the most esteemed literary critics of the modern era, the likes of Walter Jackson Bate, Helen Vendler, Christopher Ricks, and Susan Wolfson. There was no shortage of brilliant yet sensible Keats’s criticism and biography, but I figured there was still something more to say.
Well, after making some kind of scattered start on the book while sitting in the library at Harvard (with most of Keats’s manuscripts stored somewhere in the building), I also had one eye on the digital humanities. Though seemingly unrelated, I was also thinking about how research was increasingly driven by Google’s insidiously energetic algorithms, and that users were eager to click on and on and on. It was a practice quite unlike working through the material object of a book.
Then some kind of thought came to me. Tainted by blind ambition, I figured I could do so much more in exploring the complex story of Keats’s development if I designed a website that, at the same time, represented an implicit challenge to the traditional scholarly book, and by working with the googleized compulsion to click on and on.
Luckily, Dr. Arnie Keller, a retired colleague here at the University of Victoria, and an expert on web design, told me anything could be done. Just describe exactly how you want it to look, how you want it structured, and how you want it to function. After some growing pains while I almost got used to how to do work within the site he was building, and while he almost got used to my fussy ways when it came to things like layout, a decent version of the site came into being. As a labor of friendship and as a challenge relative to my capabilities, Arnie had worked some virtual magic—it was indeed up and running!
Soon after Arnie withdrew from helping out with site (who could blame him—he was retired!), for technical support, I connected with the Humanities Computing and Media Centre here at UVic. It had a long, strong track record with supporting and developing some big and complex DH projects. Martin Holmes of HCMC generously took sight of the site, performed some significant and ingenious under-the-hood cleaning up, mainly by enhancing functionality (a few more details here) that would also ensure site longevity. Martin immediately directed me to a better way to work with the site: Oxygen XML Editor. Better indeed. (Hope they pay for this endorsement.) Martin continues to make sure the engine runs smoothly—and better.
As for the site’s structure: it was designed so that users should be able to jump into any of the chapters (each one a web page) and, because of the what’s on that page, not be lost in terms of MKP’s greater critical narrative. All poems mentioned in each chapter are available via the page; all people mentioned have popup personographies; often there are links to other related chapters; and a detailed chronology for the whole year is beside every chapter. Importantly, and key, most chapters contain discursive signals that often look both forwards and backwards along the narrative line. (I somewhat pretentiously called this structure progressive reduplication.)
And then there are the images. Feedback suggests that some users simply like to cruise through the pages, just to look at stuff. I understand. Who doesn’t take some pleasure in thumbing through magazines just for the pictures? The site does have the largest online gathering of representations of Keats in the Gallery, some of them lifted from fairly obscure regions of the Internet. There are also plenty of facsimiles, portraits, paintings, photographs, the odd word cloud, some Keats-related material never seen before, and every chapter has a map that points to a Keats-related place. Like I said, a traditional book can’t do all of these things. Further, most books can’t say, “Go ahead, start anywhere.”
But when all the cool digital stuff is torn away, a monograph on Keats is still in there, complete with arguments, critical observations, and opinions to go along with purely factual and visual material. The hope: that the information and ideas and images work together to create—well, whatever MKP is.
Is the site done? No. Will it ever be done? No. There’s always another thought about Keats and his poetry, another interesting image to put up—and, of course, another typo to correct. The worst one so far: “pubic” for “public.” Arg.
If you find more, do drop a line. We’ll call it collaboration.
Two hundred years ago this Friday, John Keats witnessed a remarkable event. Ian Haywood (University of Roehampton, London), tells us more…
On 13 September 2019, John Keats witnessed a remarkable political spectacle. Taking a short break from a prolonged residence in the provincial city of Winchester, Keats’s brief return to London coincided with the huge triumphal procession of the leading radical orator Henry Hunt. It was the botched arrest of Hunt at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester on 16 August that produced the Peterloo ‘massacre’, an event which sent shockwaves through the country and mobilised thousands of ordinary people to take to the streets in protest. Although he was on bail pending a trial that would lead to over two years in prison, Hunt returned to London like a conquering hero. In Keats’s words, writing to his brother George and his wife:
You will hear by the papers of the proceedings at Manchester and Hunt’s triumphal entry into London – It would take me a whole day and a quire of paper to give you any thing like detail – I will merely mention that it is calculated that 30,000 people were in the streets waiting for him – The whole distance from the Angel Islington to the Crown and Anchor was lined with Multitudes.[i]
Far from warranting a ‘mere mention’ in Keats’s life, this experience is now regarded by scholars as having had a major impact on Keats’s imagination. In John Keats and the Culture of Dissent (1998), Nicholas Roe argues that Hunt’s ‘triumphal entry’ gave a political tinge to Keats’s last great poem ‘To Autumn’, drafted just 6 days later.[ii] Using a New Historicist approach, Roe interprets the word ‘conspiring’ in the poem’s third line as a potent allusion to radical accusations that the violence at Peterloo was premeditated. Ostensibly a homage to the pastoral tradition and his rural seclusion in Winchester, ‘To Autumn’ can now be read as a political allegory about repressive government, enclosure acts, rural labour and surveillance. If further evidence is needed about Keats’s agitated and combative frame of mind, adjacent sections of the same letter discuss the historical progress of democracy and the trial of the radical publisher Richard Carlile.
However circumstantial or speculative these conclusions may be,[iii] they add an exciting new dimension to Keats’s account of his London peregrination on 13 September. If, as Roe states, ‘Keats’s private affairs overlapped with public events’[iv] at this supercharged political moment, this encourages us to look for further identifications between Keats’s own frustrations and the wider canvas of social and political struggle. It is at this juncture that Romantic illustration enters (pun intended) into the picture. The very next sentence after the description of Hunt’s procession cited above records a seemingly inconsequential visual encounter:
As I pass’d Colnaghi’s window I saw a profile portrait of Sands the destroyer of Kotzebue. His very look must interest every one in his favour – I suppose they have represented him in his college dress – He seems to me like a young Abelard – A fine mouth, cheek bones (and this is no joke) full of sentiment: a fine unvulgar nose and plump temples.[v]
This may appear to be a random and disconnected incident, but it ‘overlaps’ in numerous significant ways with ‘the afternoon’s deeper dramaturgy of suspicion’, in Richard Marggraf Turley’s phrase.[vi] It is surely no coincidence that Keats stopped to admire an engraving of a celebrated revolutionary assassin, Karl Ludwig Sand (see above). On 23 March 1819, this liberal-nationalist German student had murdered the dramatist August von Kotzebue as an enemy of the people. Kotzebue is probably known to most Romanticists today as the author of Lovers Vows, the scandalous home entertainment of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, but in Keats’s day he was a prime example of a political ‘apostate’ or turncoat, a former supporter of reform who had become an apologist for authoritarian government. Keats would have followed this sensational story in Leigh Hunt’s Examiner, and it is unlikely he would have disagreed with Hunt’s conclusion that Sand was a martyr to the democratic spirit of the age: his action was morally repugnant but politically sanctioned; put another way, Kotzebue paid the price of reaction and Legitimacy. At the end of the Napoleonic wars, the Congress of Vienna had betrayed the promise of national liberty for formerly occupied countries and returned much of Europe to the rule of the Holy Alliance. Kotzebue’s crime was that of trahison des clercs, liberal ‘men of letters’ who became ‘scribes and servants to despotism’ (Examiner, 11 April 1819) and used their cultural authority to scoff at reformers. By 1817 German students were publicly burning Kotzebue’s works and he was a locus of radical hatred. The Examiner condemned the assassination as a ‘feverish mistake’ which ‘never can supply the want of proper elementary reform’, but sympathy for Sand’s victim was strictly limited: ‘The fate of Kotzebue is pitiable, we allow, although he was a renegade and a spy; but so is that of the victim of his tergiversation and of the broken promises of kings’ (ibid). This partisanship was legion, and by the summer of 1819 Sand had become a national hero. The portrait which Keats saw is almost certainly the one that appeared in A Memoir of Charles Louis Sand, published just a few days before Peterloo (Figure 1).[vii] According to the unnamed Editor, Germany was full of ‘involuntary sympathy’ for Sand, and his portrait was frequently ‘exhibited in frames containing those of the most distinguished German patriots’ (vii).
Figure 1. Frontispiece, Memoir of Charles Louis Sand (London: G. & W. B. Whittaker, 1819) Creative Commons. No artist or engraver is credited. The quotation is from King Lear 3. 4. 12-13 : ‘The tempest of my mind,/Doth from my senses take all feeling else,/Save what beats there’.
Like the Examiner, the Editor gives short shrift to the fate of Kotzebue, a ‘perverter of literature’ and ‘miserable pensioned penman’ who resisted the ‘universal cry for amelioration and reform’ being heard ‘from the rock of Gibraltar to Bergen; from Venice to Hebrides!’ (xxxi-iv). The Examiner’s dire warnings of a reactionary backlash were also repeated, and this prediction that the authorities would use the assassination as an excuse for a crackdown proved to be grimly reliable. It is ironic that just one week after Keats admired Sand’s portrait, the German Confederation passed the Carlsbad Decrees, a highly repressive set of laws restricting press freedom, purging the universities of liberals, and installing surveillance into the public sphere (see Figure 2). If ‘To Autumn’ exudes a ‘suspicion’ of the forthcoming Six Acts, the British government’s response to Peterloo, it also allegorizes the ‘wailful’ consequences of Sand’s Romantic, or Byronic, heroism, the ‘last oozings hours by hours’ of intellectual freedom in Germany.[I]
Figure 2 Der Denker Club (The Thinkers Club) 1819. Wilhelm Busch Museum. The prints shows muzzled university professors. The central plaque above the table asks, ‘How long will thinking be allowed to us?’ The other notice states that the main club rule is silence.
As much as Hunt’s procession, and partly because of it, Sand’s portrait is a locus of powerful and resonant ‘overlaps’ between Keats’s private life and public events. The parallel between Kotzebue and the ‘Cockney’ view of first-generation Romantic apostasy is striking, and it is tempting to speculate that Sand occupied for Keats a fantasy role of righteous, Oedipal vengeance. Indeed, an early report in the Examiner (4 April) noted that the assassination was like an event ‘we read of in novels and mysterious histories, as written by the societies of Illuminati’. As a foreign patriot, Sand was an ideal figure for displaced identification, admiration, and even glamour: ‘His very look must interest every one in his favour’. Any resemblance to Keats himself, as movie credits might say today, was entirely coincidental, but the allusion to ‘young Abelard’ takes us deep into Keats’s private and professional life: both his struggle with romantic love and his quest for ‘unvulgar’ fame intensified in 1819. If Keats needed masculine role models, Sand the veteran of Waterloo and Hunt the veteran of Peterloo were at hand. In Freudian terms, we can certainly detect a ‘joke’ of sentimental affiliation in the portrait, despite Keats’s disavowal. With hindsight, Sand’s ‘plump temples’ are a poignant contrast to Keats’s imminent demise, so it is unsurprising to see a verbal echo in the eroticized, ‘plumped’ hazel shells of ‘To Autumn’, the bearers of the ‘sweet kernel’ of fruition, meaning and hope, but also, perhaps, conspired against by the ‘clammy cells’ of constitutional decomposition.
[i] Sand was executed by beheading on 20 May, 1820.
[i]Letters of John Keats, ed. Robert Gittings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 313. The distance from Islington in north London to the Crown and Anchor tavern, a well-known venue for radical politics in the Strand in central London, was several miles.
[ii] Nicholas Roe, John Keats and the Culture of Dissent (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 256.
[iii] Roe has noted that some of his students even make an ingenious association between the cider press in ‘To Autumn’ and the carnage of pressed bodies at Peterloo. See ‘John Keats at Winchester’, in Richard Margraff Turley, ed. Keats’s Places (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 225-44, 241.
[iv] Roe, ibid, 253. See also Roe’s John Keats: A New Life (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), 344.
[v] The print seller Colnaghi was located at 23 Cockspur Street, near Trafalgar Square, which was not on the route of Hunt’s procession.
[vi] Richard Marggraf Turley, ‘Objects of Suspicion: Keats, ‘To Autumn’ and the Psychology of Romantic Surveillance’, in Nicholas Roe, ed. John Keats and the Medical Imagination (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 173-206, 184.
[vii]Memoir of Charles Louis Sand (London: G. & W. B. Whittaker, 1819). Further page references in parentheses. The Editor’s Introduction is dated 10 August 1819.
The RIN book, Romanticism and Illustration ed. Haywood, Matthews and Shannon is out!
Thank you to our wonderful contributors, and to CUP for producing such an elegant tome.
To celebrate, we are inviting everyone to the Book Launch: this will take place at the Wine Reception at the end of the inaugural event of the GWM Reynolds Society. Please come along and have a drink with us to celebrate both the launch of Romanticism and Illustration, and the launch of this new literary society!
Date: Tuesday July 23rd, 2019
Time: 6pm onwards
Location: City of Westminster Archives Centre, 10 St. Anne’s Street, London
Illustration Studies: New Approaches, New Directions
The Sixth ILLUSTR4TIO Conference
22-24 April 2020
Luisa Calè (Birkbeck, University of London)
Julia Thomas (Cardiff University)
Co-organisers: Christina Ionescu (Mount Allison University, Canada) and Ann Lewis (Birkbeck, University of London)
Illustration Studies has, in recent years, emerged as a new and vibrant discipline with its own journals, book series, conferences, websites, and research networks. The renewed interest and dynamic research in this field of study follows a period of long neglect by scholars, resulting from the uncertain cross-medial status of illustration and its position between disciplines. Indeed, the frontiers of this discipline remain nebulous and its terminology, key issues, and critical methods are in need of re-evaluation. By its very nature, illustration opens up a number of fundamental questions regarding the relation between text and image, the illustrated book and visual culture, artistry and reproduction.
Is illustration by definition text-inspired and connected to a material book? Can its images also be considered within a uniquely visual field of reference and how does this affect its signifying potential? Should one consider illustration as a form of adaptation? Do theorists, scholars, practitioners, and educators share the same view of illustration? Does the art of illustration deserve more scholarly recognition across disciplines than its utilitarian and commercial products (and how has this changed over time)? Embedded in a context of production and connected to a text to a variable degree, illustration is a medium with its own conventions, traditions, and signifying practices that currently requires in-depth and interdisciplinary reconsideration as an object of study. A re-evaluation of illustration as a medium and of Illustration Studies as a discipline must also take into account new directions in the training that illustrators-to-be receive. All of these questions can be understood historically – so the idea of ‘New Directions’ can be addressed in respect of the contemporary state of Illustration Studies – but also in terms of significant shifts in the way that illustration has been understood and approached in other periods.
Papers that propose a reassessment of illustration across different fields of research, that theorise interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches, or that chart new directions in Illustration Studies, are of particular interest to the conference organisers. Avenues for reflection include, but are not limited to, fresh perspectives on:
key concepts in the theory and practice of illustration (including its changing relation to notions of intermediality, intervisual paradigms, and adaptation);
the evolving place of illustration (in the history of the book, in the history of art, in the study of visual culture, in literary studies, and/or in the digital humanities);
the question of illustration in different genres and media;
the changing relation of text and image in illustration: issues of hierarchy, fidelity, intertextuality and intericonicity;
the impact of new technologies (contemporary and in the past) on the practice and reception of different forms of illustration;
practical applications: e.g. illustration as a means of branding and consumer studies, pedagogical uses of illustration, or the professional training of the illustrator today;
illustration in the global context, in different national cultures, or as a cross-cultural force.
In keeping with Illustr4tio’s aim to animate a dialogue between practitioners and critics, proposals are invited from illustrators, authors, printmakers, publishers, curators, collectors, and researchers. Papers can be presented in English or French. Proposals (500 words), accompanied by a bio-bibliographical note (100-150 words), should be sent to Christina Ionescu (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ann Lewis (email@example.com) by March 15, 2019. (An early decision can be made upon request to support applications for conference travel.) The publication of a selection of revised papers is envisaged.
Sophie Aymes (Université de Bourgogne)
Nathalie Collé (Université de Lorraine)
Brigitte Friant-Kessler (Université de Valenciennes)
RIN members familiar with Jahn Holljen Thon and his works will be saddened by the news of his passing. The following obituary was written by David Skilton.
Jahn Holljen Thon
We are sad to announce the recent death of Jahn Holljen Thon, who held a chair at Agder University in Kristiansand, Norway, and was Norway’s most innovative researcher in the field of illustrated literature. He was earlier the main cultural critic for left-wing newspaper, and it may be the fact that he did not fit neatly into the inherited academic disciplines that enabled him to pay attention to previously undervalued cultural phenomena such as Scandinavian verbal-visual works. He came to Illustration Studies via an interest in Norwegian works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and, like many of us, found that general pronouncements on how illustration functions were simply not adequate in relation to his challenging material. He made contact with the group at Cardiff University responsible for the Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration, when it was running a series of workshops in conjunction with the Victoria and Albert Museum under the title of LICAU, Literary Illustration: Conservation, Access, Use. He generously provided funding for the workshops to continue at Lampeter and Kristiansand for a few more years. Meanwhile he encouraged colleagues to research illustration in many fields, from Saami poetry from the far North of Norway, to verbal-visual poetry combining English and Scandinavian “text”. His weightiest contribution to Illustration Studies is a book entitled Talende Linje or “Speaking Lines”, in which he examines three early Norwegian printed books – early, that is, in terms of the development of Norwegian publishing – and he attempts to steer scholars towards what he elsewhere calls “a third way”, overriding modes of analysis which make the visual secondary to the verbal or vice versa. He also wrote persuasively on two of Norway’s greatest writers, Ludvig Holberg and Henrik Wergeland, and was for many years the prime mover in the Wergeland Society. His book Wergeland for Framtiden (“Wergeland for the Future”) was published in 2018. He delivered his last manuscript to his publisher only days before his death. We should remember him for his contribution in the previously neglected field of Norwegian Illustration Studies.
RIN’s Mary Shannon will present her new work on 19th-century Newman Street in a special Nineteenth Century Studies Seminar on November 2nd.
In the early-nineteenth century and into the 1840s, London’s Newman Street (just off Oxford Street) was popularly known as ‘Artists’ Street’ because of its intense concentration of artistic residents. Many significant names of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century art world had addresses there: Thomas Stothard, Benjamin West, and James Heath, and other members and associate members of the Royal Academy. Alongside them were the homes and studios of less well-known artists who worked in many different media: sculptors, engravers, portrait painters and animal painters. Of the artists of Newman Street, a significant proportion worked on book illustration or literary subjects, or had close connections to famous nineteenth-century literary figures. They collaborated with, socialised with, and employed one another. They also dealt with other businesses on Newman Street, including the printers McQueen and Co., and the Hering family bookbinders. This talk will focus on the networks of ‘Artists’ Street’ and the surrounding parish of Marylebone, and use methodologies from cultural geography to show how interactions between art and literature played out on the ground in the print culture and visual culture of the early nineteenth-century.
Also presenting at the seminar are Professor Julia Thomas (Cardiff), Dr Luisa Calè (Birkbeck), and Dr Bethan Stevens (Sussex).