Sketched by themselves. Society tested by “panoramic” literature

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Interférences littéraires - Literaire Interferenties (Open Access Journal)
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Sketched by themselves
Society tested by “panoramic” literature

Special issue of the open acces journal 'Interferences littéraires - Literaire interferenties' (number 8, May 2012)
edited by Nathalie Preiss (Université de Reims) & Valérie Stiénon (F.N.R.S - Université de Liège )

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 ISSN : 2031 - 2790
Interférences littéraires/Literaire interferenties 2011
England, after the 1621 Anatomy of Melancholy which knew numerous editions between 1800 and 1830; or “Pathology” which was a common title for short monographic sketches).

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.
Given the particular nature of the literature studied, we propose different methodological approaches. A poetical and linguistic approach will enable a study of the various literary forms and genres that may constitute the self-portait: journalistic chronicle, micro-narrative, sketch, essay, “anatomy”, “pathology”, satire or parody, etc. An critical or epistemological approach may enable us to uncover the links between these texts and the emerging scientific discourses such as ethnography, sociology, economics, anatomy and medical hygiene. A comparative approach may trace the influences and transfers between the different European literatures in this respect, for instance by studying the mediating role of editorial practices and adaptations (e.g. as evident in the transfer from Français peints par eux-mêmes to Los Españoles pintados por sí mismos).

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.
The journal Interférences littéraires – Literaire interferenties aims to study literary discourse from both a theoretical and a historical perspective with a focus on its interactions with other types of discourse and other paradigms of thought. The editorial board of the journal both reflects and warrants the plurilinguistic and transnational make-up of the journal in that it is made up of scholars specialising in the different literatures.

Proposals of about 350 words may be sent to ;, 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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Selected bibliography
Adburgham Alison (1983), Silver Fork Society. Fashionable Life and Literature from 1814 to 1840, London, Constable.
Anselmini Julie (2009), « Physiologies : le journaliste et la grande ville », dans Durand Pascal & Mombert Sarah (dir.), Entre presse et littérature. Le Mousquetaire, Journal de M. Alexandre Dumas (1853-1857), Genève, Droz, pp. 155-177.
Benjamin Walter (1989), Paris, capitale du xixe siècle : le livre des passages, traduction de Jean Lacoste, Paris, Éditions du Cerf.
Carlino Andrea & Wenger Alexandre (dir.) (2007), Littérature et médecine. Approches et perspectives (xvie-xixe siècles), Genève, Droz, coll. « Recherches et rencontres », vol. 24.
Interférences littéraires/Literaire interferenties 2011
Chollet Roland (1983), Balzac journaliste. Le tournant de 1830, Paris, Klincksieck.
Cohen Margaret (1995), « Panoramic Literature and the Invention of Everyday Genres », dans Charney Leo et Schwawartz Vanessa R. (dir.), Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, Berkeley, Los Angeles et Londres, University of California Press, pp. 227-252.
Comment Bernard (1993), Le xixe siècle des panoramas, Paris, Adam Biro.
Diaz José-Luis (dir.) (2004), Les Français peints par eux-mêmes, séminaire de recherches sur la littérature panoramique de l’équipe « Littérature et civilisation du XIXe siècle » de l’université Paris 7-Denis Diderot (31 janvier 2004), Paris, Maison de Balzac [actes non publiés].
Lacacombe Paul (1887), Bibliographie parisienne. Tableaux de moeurs (1600-1880), Paris, Rouquette.
Lauster Martina (2007), Sketches of the Nineteenth Century. European Journalism and Its Physiologies, 1830-1850, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
Le Men Ségolène (2010), « Le panorama de la grande ville : la silhouette réinventée » dans Pour rire ! Daumier, Gavarni, Rops. L’invention de la silhouette, catalogue de l’exposition au Musée Félicien Rops de Namur (24 septembre 2010 – 9 janvier 2011) et au Musée d’Art et d’Histoire Louis-Senlecq de L’Isle-Adam (9 avril – 18 septembre 2011), Paris, Somogy éditions d’art, pp. 21-156.
Leclerc Gérard (1979), L’Observation de l’homme. Une histoire des enquêtes sociales, Paris, Seuil.
Lefay Sophie (dir.) (2009), Lectures du panorama, Revue des Sciences Humaines, n° 294, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Presses universitaires du Septentrion.
Montesinos José (1960), Costumbrismo y novela. Ensayo sobre el redescubrimiento de la realidad española, Berkeley, University of California Press.
Oettermann Stephan (1980), Das Panorama. Die Geschichte eines Massenmediums, Francfort, Syndikat.
Pierssens Michel (1990), Savoirs à l’oeuvre. Essais d’épistémocritique, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Presses Universitaires de Lille.
Preiss Nathalie (1999), Les Physiologies en France au xixe siècle. Étude historique, littéraire et stylistique, Mont-de-Marsan, Éditions InterUniversitaires.
Sha Richard (1998), The Visual and Verbal Sketch in British Romanticism, Philadelphia, University of Philadelphia Press.
Thérenty Marie-Ève & Vaillant Alain (2005), Presse & Plumes. Journalisme et littérature au XIXe siècle, Paris, Nouveau Monde.
Thérenty Marie-Ève (2009), « Pour une poétique historique du support », Romantisme, n° 143, pp. 109-115.

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modernist studies