CFP: Illustrating History

University of Valenciennes
4 December 2015
Stichtag: 30.06.2015

This one-day symposium at the university of Valenciennes on 4 December 2015 aims to explore the relationship between history, the visual arts and the act of illustrating. Central to this symposium will be exchanges about the status, form and function of such illustrations in a variety of media, whether early modern prints or contemporary graphic novels. Should we apprehend illustrations to Shakespeare’s history plays differently from engravings in Walter Scott’s or Charles Dickens‘ novels? What kind of history (and story) does an image hatch when the text is not fiction? The circulation and the reception of history illustration are intimately connected to the medium, that is, its format, its materiality and the selected form of reproduction. We may wonder what a focal shift and format change imply? To what extent do images whose primary goal is to convey a certain type of aesthetic effect affect our view on how to commemorate the war, for instance, and to what extent do they alter our mindscape of what such a war may actually have been like?

Questions addressing « illustrating history » may cover the following areas, thought not exclusively so :

  •  Illustrating history and series or cycles as opposed to single pieces (painting, furniture print)
  • Illustrating history when one is experiencing the historic moment, for instance, war diaries, illustrated correspondence
  • History’s most frequently illustrated key moments : riots, revolutions, battles
  • Historical figures illustrated in their biographies (form and function of such illustrations)
  • How does illustrated history convey ideological and institutional discourses through school textbooks, history books, dictionary entries, encyclopaedia ?
  • Illustrations in critical literature on history
  • Historians as artists and illustrators
  • Illustrating history and illustrating fiction : contact or clash? Symbiosis and hybridation ?
  • Material culture and the circulation of objects illustrating history
  • How does history apprehend illustration ?
  • History in graphic novels
  • Illustrating historical fiction (Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Robert Graves, etc)
  • Illustrating history as a discourse on memory and contact or clash between several periodicities

We will be happy to listen to word-and-image scholars, historians, artists, and illustrators alike. There is no preferred methodology or theoretical approach but papers that are interdisciplinary and broach the topic from an intercultural angle will be most welcome.

Deadline for submitting abstracts (300-400 words) is 30 June 2015.

Abstracts (English or French) should simultaneously be sent to all members of Illustr4tio, with a short bio-bibliography :

Brigitte Friant Kessler, and
Sophie Aymes Stokes,
Nathalie Collé,
Maxime Leroy,

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