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Sketched by themselves. Society tested by “panoramic” literature
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Interférences littéraires - Literaire Interferenties (Open Access Journal)
email@example.com , V.Stienon@ulg.ac.be, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sketched by themselves
Special issue of the open acces journal 'Interferences littéraires - Literaire interferenties' (number 8, May 2012)
In the first half of the 19th century, numerous books were published throughout Europe that combined the satirical depiction of manners with the form of the self-portrait. These books, usually organised in edited collections, offered a textual and iconic representation of different “types” associated with social groups or professions: the doctor, the grisset, the urchin, the seamstress, the door-keeper, the reporter, the poet. Following Walter Benjamin, this literature has retrospectively been called “panoramique” [Benjamin 1989] after the panoramas and dioramas that offer a large vista to the public.
The development of this literature is characterised by the mutual influence of French, English, German, Austrian, Spanish and Belgian sketches, such as England and the English (London, Bentley, 1833), Paris ou le Livre des Cent-et-un (Paris, Ladvocat, 1831-1834), Les Français peints par eux-mêmes (Paris, Curmer, 1842), La Grande Ville (Paris, Bureau Central des Publications nouvelles, 1842-1843), Le Diable à Paris (Paris, Hetzel, 1845-1846), Les Belges peints par eux-mêmes (Bruxelles, Raabé, 1839), Berlin und die Berliner (Berlin, Klemann, 1840-1841), Wien und die Wiener (Pesth, Heckenast, 1844, serialised since 1841) and Los Españoles pintados por sí mismos (Madrid, Ignacio Boix, 1843). The French Physiologies [Preiss 1999], the Spanish costumbrismo [Montesinos 1960], the German and Austrian generational portrait 1980] and the English sketch [Sha 1998] are all sub-genres of this literature which engages with the cultural climate of the 19th century and brings it towards modernity, eager to establish its originality and specificity.
These sociographical sketches stage the modes and manners of a European society at the time of the emergence of romanticism and national identity. To that extent they often function as the focal point of reflections on nation and nationality. Since the period also witnessed the first large social and demographic surveys [Leclerc 1979], the birth of the human sciences and the accelerated development of journalism and the press, we find in these texts a nexus of political and ideological interests. The collections of national “types” composed by self-portraits of a people in terms of national identity thus offer a fount of historical and sociological knowledge of the period.
In terms of the literary system, this period is also characterised by an increasing specialisation of discourses and knowledge. The development of the natural sciences and the subsequent appearance of the human and social sciences lead to a redefinition of literature and literary practices. In this context, panoramic literature seeks to define itself in relation to and in opposition with scientific models [Carlino & Wenger 2007]. A number of texts indeed borrow terms and cognitive models from the medical sciences (“Physiologies” in France ; “Anatomy” in
This project aims to bring together and, hence, make more visible the research that is internationally conducted in this domain. For, despite some recent studies [Preiss 1999 ; Diaz 2004 ; Lauster 2007] and contemporary bibliographical overviews [Lacombe 1887], research into this panoramic literature remains scattered and largely unacknowledged. The sociology of literature may offer an important tool for investigating these texts’ embeddedness within society. In addition, recent studies of the relation between literature and journalism [Chollet 1983 ; Thérenty & Vaillant 2005] or the relation between literature and science [e.g. the “épistémocritique” of Pierssens 1990] may offer interesting frameworks for analysis.
In order to realise this interdisciplinary aim and to avoid a juxtaposition of isolated case studies, we propose a transversal approach which studies not just the way the “other” is constituted as “other” in each national literature, but also highlights the way in which models and types circulate across national borders, effectively moving from one text to the next.
Proposals of about 350 words may be sent to email@example.com ; V.Stienon@ulg.ac.be, firstname.lastname@example.org before the 20th of September 2011. Authors can expect a decision from the 20th of October. The deadline for the full articles is the 31st of January 2012.
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