Events > Senses of Print: Interactions of Literary, Visual and Musical Print Cultures

A one-day workshop

Date: Friday, November 9, 2007
Place: McGill University, Arts 160

About the Workshop

The aim of this one-day workshop is to explore how the broader saturation of print media in the eighteenth century transpired through an appeal not only to the literary practices of reading and writing, but also the visual and aural aspects of corporeal experience as well.

Through a range of papers that cover capacious international terrain, this workshop will examine a variety of print objects (book illustrations, broadsides, sheet music, song books, lottery tickets, artistic prints, and editions of classical texts) and the social places that they were put to use (the museum, theatre, courthouse, academy, and bourgeois salon).

In creating a greater understanding of how print appealed to the eyes and ears of eighteenth-century readers - to the senses of the reading, seeing and listening body - we hope to engender new ideas about the way in which printed texts were appropriated and incorporated into social experience.


Gillen Wood
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

"Virtue and Virtuosity: Music Publishing and the Professionalization of Women in Jane Austen"

This paper examines Jane Austen and her fiction in the context of the boom in music publishing in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Music in Austen is typically viewed through the prism of the anti-accomplishment rhetoric of the 1890s (Hannah More and Mary Wollstonecraft, etc.). Their critique of musical accomplishment has been echoed in current criticism, to the extent that music has been seriously considered at all. Austen was in fact an avid collector and transcriber of music literature, and a committed amateur pianist. That is, she was a keen participant in the cultural revolution brought about by the growth in music publishing, and by the large-scale introduction of the piano, and female musicianship, into the bourgeois domestic sphere after 1770. Austen's taste in music, like her contemporary, Beethoven, was formed in the 1790s, and her 1500-page music collection is dominated by examples of Viennese piano music, largely written in sonata form. The book chapter from which this paper is drawn makes the argument that Austen's experiments in free indirect discourse in Emma, through hidden figures of Beethoven in its text, can be suggestively linked to Beethoven's radical temporalization of sonata form, and the "articulation of subjectivity" historically associated with his middle-period style. From her earliest years at the piano, and as an avid subscriber to and borrower of music publications, Austen was exposed to the new musical language of sonata form and its narrative of bourgeois self-realization. Austen's fiction, like Beethoven's heroic-period music-which appeared simultaneously on the British cultural scene in the 1810s-"mad[e] the inner life intelligible to itself" through the aesthetic naturalization of a union between self and world. This naturalization was indispensable to Austen's implicit vision of the professionalized female bourgeois subject, which she embodies, in Emma, in the virtuoso pianist, Jane Fairfax.

Catriona MacLeod
University of Pennsylvania

"Tournez s'il vous plaît: Tableau Vivant Between Stage and Page"

The tableau vivant - that is, the embodiment of a precursor artwork - offered readers, viewers and performers at the end of the eighteenth century the sensual delights of impersonation and corporeal displays, as well as what Martin Meisel has called the pleasure of "realization," that is, the recognition of circulating paintings and sculptures. This paper investigates the connections between print culture, materiality and reproductive art through a reading of Goethe's 1809 novel Elective Affinities, which, it is said, triggered a fashionable craze for tableau vivant performances throughout Europe. I will attempt to reconstrue this top-down view of influence from literary text to stage performance, arguing, instead, two main points: 1) that the many stage performances ensuing from the novel's publication serve as a form of distinctly literary aide mémoire and 2) that the novel critically stages, via its tableaux vivants, contemporary debates about media hybrids, serially reproduced images, and narrativity.

Richard Taws
McGill University

"Made of Money: Sickness and Speculation in French Revolutionary Print Culture"

This paper focuses on several anonymous prints issued in 1791 by the counter-revolutionary publisher Michel Wébert. These caricatural images attempted to undermine the authority of the revolutionary body politic via a combination of allegory and direct personal attack. The prints are notable for the self-referential way in which they inscribe the revolutionary body by clothing it in fragments of printed text and pieces of paper, from newspapers to documents to gaming boards. The most recurrent motif in this regard was, however, the assignat, a government bond based on the value of 'reclaimed' clerical property, which later became a revolutionary paper currency. The conceptual indeterminacy which plagued the introduction of the assignat, the perceived instability of the paper note in comparison to 'hard' coinage, is exploited in these images, which invert the rhetoric of virtue associated with political and material transparency, making it instead a symptom of the Revolution's economic and ideological instability.

This is achieved by reference to a corporeal language of consumption and reproduction. Bodies are shown to be made of disintegrating money, or made sick by it, as in the print L'expirante Targinette, which depicts an allegorical image of France, figured as the daughter of the legislator Target, who has improbably given birth to her, dying of consumption on a bed of paper notes. Other revolutionary figures crowd around, attempting to treat her. These images draw on a range of references, particularly contemporary responses to the detrimental effect of gambling on mind and body. Speculation, described by Louis-Sébastien Mercier as the 'systole' and 'diastole' of the nation, is figured as intrinsic to the revolutionary state. These images, produced at a critical point before the assignat had depreciated fatally, situate the printed paper fragment as a 'body' to be looked through, dismantled, and cured, a site of struggle central to the formation of both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary political identities.

Sean Gurd
Concordia University

"Casting against Type: Paleographical Illustration and Maurist Rationalism in the 17th Century"

Among the most important developments in the textual editing in the 18th Century was an increased emphasis on the material substance of classical and medieval texts. Beginning with Jean Mabillon's De Re Diplomatica (1681-1704), and culminating in the massive and complex editions of the Herculaneum papyri (1793-1914), the authentication and dating of items from Europe's textual heritage became increasingly concerned with styles of handwriting and the nature of materials on which they were written. This represented a qualitative change in the manner in which texts were assessed, presented, and read: a strictly linguistic and stylistic editorial orientation was supplemented with an orientation, in large part influenced by new empiricist epistemologies, concerned with the capacities of the non-linguistic eye. Accompanying this change was a corresponding alteration in the means of textual reproduction: movable type was supplemented by copper-plate engraving as a way of reproducing the concrete aspects of paleography and epigraphy that abstract type neglected as irrelevant. This paper tracks the parallel development of empiricism and the use of reproductive technologies other than that of movable type in order to show how, by the beginning of the 19th Century, textual editing had become as much about the production of a certain kind of vision as it was about cultural performance.

Peggy Davis
Université du Québec à Montréal

"Representing America in the French Prints: Connections between Image and Text in the Illustrations of American Narratives"

The printed image plays an essential role in spreading new knowledge at the turn of the Enlightenment. Because of its increasing accessibility and its enlarged audience whether scholarly, bourgeois or popular, the printed image also interacts with other areas of culture, such as performing arts and decorative arts. Visual representations of America through print, a privileged medium for the encounter between Europe and America, hence reside in a wide-ranging set of cultural and intermedial practices.

In this presentation, I intend to focus on images of America inspired by fiction literature, namely Marmontel's Incas (1777) and Chateaubriand's Atala (1801). Investigating iconography derived from these American narratives, I will explore potential connections between image and text. An examination of the images' typology reveals gradual image autonomy from the text, while an intertextual and intericonic approach of a topos emphasizes image subordination to the text. Other research orientations will be proposed for further inquiry into this body of work, namely the material history of images and illustrated books, as well as a sociological approach to print production, circulation and reception circles.

James Heffernan
Emeritus, Dartmouth College

"Hockney Rewrites Hogarth: A Gay Rake Progresses to America"

At first glance, David Hockney seems to share with William Hogarth little more than his English nationality, his profession as an artist, and the first two letters of his surname. London born and London bred, Hogarth limns the rabidly political and feverishly heterosexual life of London in the early eighteenth century. Hockney does something else. Though also trained in London--at the Royal College of Art--he depicts a late twentieth century life that is typically apolitical, langorously homosexual, and often exotic, played out in sites ranging from Cairo to Los Angeles, where he has lived for most of the past thirty years. And Hockney's style is just as un-Hogarthian as his subject matter. What can Hogarth's overfurnished, densely populated, dark-walled interiors have to do with the cool, typically open spaces of Hockney's paintings and prints: with the swimming pools of Southern California, with single figures or single objects poised in minimally delineated space? And what links Hogarth's three-dimensional perspective--with its strong separation of foreground and background, its closets and alcoves and back rooms--to the resolute flatness of Hockney's cubism, which puts everything before the viewer on the picture plane?

We can begin to answer these questions with a simple statement of fact. Hockney forged his own link to Hogarth when he conceived and produced in the early nineteen-sixties a set of sixteen etchings called A Rake's Progress. Based on his first trip to America, chiefly New York, in 1961, the sequence was begun that year and finished in 1963, when Editions Alecto published 50 sets. "My original intention," Hockney wrote some years later, "was to do eight etchings, to take Hogarth's titles and somehow play with them and set it in New York in modern times. What I liked was telling a story visually. Hogarth's original story has no words, it's a graphic tale. You have to interpret it all. So I thought, this is what I will do. . . ."

Essentially, what he did was to rewrite the story of Hogarth's rake as the graphic autobiography of a young gay artist soaking up New York and Washington, DC in the early sixties. Taking his inspiration not only from Hogarth but also from Whitman, Ghandi, and a succession of visual artists leading up to Picasso, he depicts a figure made of paradoxes. Embodying both industry and idleness, he is nobody and somebody, onlooker and protagonist, gazer and object of our gaze, wastrel and ambitious young journeyman steadily progressing to mastery of his art. Thus Hockney's radical revision of Hogarth's Rake's Progress gives new American life to an old English tale.

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