"The Victorian Photographic Imaginary"
Special Session: MLA 2014
Chicago, January 9-12
“Here is Queen Victoria photographed in 1863 by George W. Wilson; she is on horseback, her skirt suitably draping the entire animal (this is the historical interest, the studium); but beside her, attracting my eyes, a kilted groom holds the horse’s bridle: this is the punctum; for even if I do not know just what the social status of this Scotsman may be (servant? equerry?), I can see his function clearly: to supervise the horse’s behavior: what if the horse suddenly began to rear? What would happen to the queen’s skirt, i.e., to her majesty? The punctum fantastically ‘brings out’ the Victorian nature (what else can one call it?) of the photograph, it endows this photograph with a blind field.”
-Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
What else can one call it? Please consider submitting an abstract for this special session if your work touches on any aspect of the relationship between Victorian literature and photography. Topics may include realism, poetry, theatricality, intermediality, proto-photography, spiritualism, mourning, identity, or empire. Numerous scholars have shown the importance of literary form for thinking about Victorian photography. Given this growing body of work, our panel will look forward to new directions for the study of Victorian visual culture and appraise how this work relates to the much broader context of the history of photography.
Submit 300-word abstract and CV by March 15, 2013 to Jesse Hoffman, Rutgers University (firstname.lastname@example.org).