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David Skilton

Abstract

Simon Grennan’s ambitious project to remediate Anthony Trollope’s novel, John Caldigate, in comic-book form poses the question of how much we know and how much we merely assumed that we knew about visualisation in the novels of the period, and Trollope’s in particular. John Caldigate itself was not illustrated either in its serial form (1878–79) or its three-volume book edition (1879), but a number of his other novels were. This essay examines the interaction between Trollope’s text and the images created by his best illustrator, John Everett Millais, in the broader context of the illustrated novel of the period.

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Dina Aleshina

Abstract

This essay is devoted to the “riddle of forms” posed by British abstract painting after the Second World War, when science and nature combined to evoke images of existential experiences. The influence of D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form is investigated in the art of the St. Ives School, not only in works by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912–2004), but also John Wells (1907–2000), Patrick Heron (1920–99) and Bryan Wynter (1915–75). Comparison with Russian abstract paintings of the same epoch opens up illuminating new vistas in understanding a peculiarity of British abstraction.

Series:

Étienne Février

Abstract

In much of his literary production, the American writer Steven Millhauser has been exploring the importance of the visual arts—from photography and painting to drawing, cinema, or architecture—as a means to probe the specificity of his own medium, the written text. This essay focuses on the fictional treatment of the animation of images in two historical mock-biographies, “A Precursor of the Cinema” (Dangerous Laughter, 2008) and “The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne” (Little Kingdoms, 1993).

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Kristen Nassif

Abstract

David Hockney with Friend (1975) depicts a candid scene of two men in bed. However, analysis of its place in Michals’s career reveals complexities in such apparently simple images. By staging, manipulating, and writing on photographs, Michals forces viewers to question the nature of scenes portrayed and extend their inquiry to issues involving time, death, desire, and the unknown. Consequently, Michals also examines the roles of artist, subject, and model, the interplay between word and image, and photography’s ephemeral yet permanent qualities. By identifying inherent limitations to capturing a “true” reality, the viewer begins to understand Michals’s paradoxical claim that to “photograph reality is to photograph nothing.”

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Philippe Kaenel

Abstract

Early twentieth-century photographers experimented with new means to apprehend the forms of natural world without relegating their art to the mere “mechanical” reproduction of reality. Still-life photography attracted some major personalities such as Edward Steichen (1879–1983) who confessed his fascination for the golden ratio, and for Cook’s The Curves of Life (1914). Paul Strand (1890–1976) expressed the same fascination for the beauty of essential “natural” geometry. Edward Weston (1886–1958) tried to combine formalism with a new kind of “objectivism” and—to some extent—“mysticism.” All of them were fascinated by the riddle of spirals and shells.

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Márcia Arbex and Philippe Enrico

Abstract

This essay seeks to demonstrate Marcel Duchamp’s use of spirals in his optical, cinetic, and linguistic experimentations. These artistic practices tie in with Duchamp’s interest in playful physics, stereoscopy, and anaglyphs, as well as literary games and poetic displacements. We will also examine how semantic and plastic reversal—enacted by a variety of means, such as rotation, the flexing of hinges as well as the mediation of spirals—is underscored by an aesthetics of ambivalence originating in a literary and artistic context that we will sketch out.

Series:

Catherine Lanone

Abstract

In 2009 and 2010, Tracy Chevalier and Joan Thomas both wrote a novel exploring the life of Mary Anning. Anning belongs to the margins of scientific history; both bio-fictions expose gendered discourse and make a case for her crucial importance in terms of scientific discovery, in spite of social constraints. The novels’ narrative choices differ, yet both engage with the wonder of form, showing how the riddle of shapes like ammonites triggered an epistemological and ontological crisis, and contributed to the radical transformation of scientific and religious narratives about the creation of the natural world. In both novels, spirals also become structural motifs. Revisiting romance, both novels thus propose a revision of the history of science itself.

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Barry Sullivan

Abstract

Robert Duncan Milne wrote scientific fiction in San Francisco as Eadweard Muybridge pioneered experiments in motion studies which record phenomena with precision beyond the temporal apprehension of the naked eye. This essay investigates probable influence from Muybridge’s studies on Milne, offering a new perspective on writing long dismissed as that of “an ideas man.” Milne, hailed by literary historian Sam Moskowitz as a founding father of American science fiction, was in fact brought up near Dundee, Scotland. His stories are remarkably prescient in relation to the emergence of “cinematic time,” speculating about new technologies seeing backwards into the past and reanimating it in moving images decades before the cinematograph.