Dr Kathrin Yacavone: ‘Intermedial Authorship: Victor Hugo and Nineteenth-Century Authorship’ Art History Research Lecture

Please join us for the first Art History Research Lecture of Semester one.

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Dr Kathrin Yacavone of the University of Cologne) presents ‘Intermedial Authorship: Victor Hugo and Nineteenth-Century Authorship’.

In France, during the first half of the nineteenth century, both biographical ‘portraits’ of literary authors and their photographic portraits acquired a high cultural currency and were increasingly linked in inter- and transmedial ways. From the dual perspective of literary culture and the history of photography, Dr Yacavone analyses these new forms of intermedial textual and photographic representations of authorship.

More specifically, focusing on Victor Hugo’s innovative approach to the portrait as a means to co-create and project an authorial persona. She focuses on the early 1850s, during which Hugo used his exile to stage himself as a national poet and enduring writer with the help of the family-run photography studio on Jersey, creating  portraits that were strategically placed in his two-volume poetry collection Les Contemplations (1856).

This limited means of disseminating his author portrait (given the low circulation of the book) is compared and contrasted with Hugo’s later more high profile, and highly effective use, of his portraits. Discussing the different image types that photography newly provided authors, editors and readers – e.g., the daguerreotype of the 1840s, the salted-paper prints of the 1850s, the carte-de-visite portrait of the 1860s, and other mass-produced images up to the 1880s – Dr Yacavone will show Hugo to be a prime example of the mid- and late nineteenth-century interpenetration of authorship and photography, which continues in technologically updated forms to the present day.

Dr Yacavone’s paper is part of an ongoing book project Portrait of the Writer, which is being carried out at the University of Cologne as part of an Alexander von Humboldt research grant.

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