Portraits and Self-Portraits of Authors: Picturing Writers

deadline for submissions: 
November 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Xavier Giudicelli, Université de Reims & Caroline Marie, Université Paris 8
contact email: 


Portraits and self-portraits of authors:

picturing writers

12 & 13 October 2018

Convenors: Caroline Marie (Université Paris 8), Xavier Giudicelli (Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne)


Keynote speakers :

Patrick Chambon, artist  

Valérie Mangin, author of the Abymes trilogy



The figure of the writer is increasingly conspicuous nowadays. The “mania for portraits,” which has flourished along with the development of the art of photography, is undeniably a way of both freezing and disseminating a particular image of a writer—thereby excluding other possible representations and perceptions. That image of the writer is paradoxically often better known than his/her own works; at least, a portrait of the writer is often visible before the text itself, on the very threshold of books, on advertising posters or photographs on the back covers, for instance. Thus, the question: “ Is an author a face rather than a text?” has become legitimate in literary studies. At the same time, research in literature has recently turned to a new narrative phenomenon, namely the “becoming - character” (as Deleuze and Guattari would have called it) of the writer in contemporary literature, or “the author displaced into fiction.”

At the intersection between these two phenomena—the proliferation of images of writers and the “becoming - characters” of writers—this conference will focus on the fictionalisation of authors in and through the visual arts: painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, caricature, comics, picture story books—excluding moving images (theatre, cinema, TV series), whose theoretical stakes are arguably different. Art has certainly created many imaginary writers, but we propose to focus on the questions raised by the recreation of real writers in the visual arts, in Europe, from the early modern period to the present day.

The writer is no longer merely a face immortalized in a photographic pose, but s/he has become the object of visual representations whose multimodal dimension itself makes sense. The participants may examine this transfer from the real to the imaginary—or even the legendary—in all its diversity, from a historical, diachronic, or comparative point of view; monographic approaches (analysing the example of a particular writer or of a specific work) are also welcome. Participants may wonder how the picturing of an author in the (visual) paratext—posters, book covers, frontispices, websites—is turned into a form of narrative. They may choose to focus on the ways historical authors become book material in art books, graphic biographies, picture story books, or exhibitions in museums. The author can also picture him/herself: what happens when s/he plays his/her own role in a visual autobiofiction? Are the modalities and the stakes of the transfer of the real to the (visual) imaginary comparable when the figure of the writer holds a central place in the work, or when s/he plays a secondary role alongside other fictitious characters, in the case of biopics or imaginary adventures, for instance? What is the editorial, poetic, aesthetic, cultural or media impact of those images of authors?

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to approach the protean nature of portraits and self-portraits of writers from a poetic and aesthetic point of view, but also from the perspectives of the history of ideas, the history of publishing, art history, museum studies, and media studies.


Scientific board :

Catherine Bernard (Université Paris-Diderot)

Marie-Françoise Cachin (Université Paris-Diderot)

Emily Eells (Université Paris-Nanterre)

Alexis Lévrier (Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne)

Mireille Séguy (Université Paris 8)

Adeline Wrona (Celsa, Université Paris-Sorbonne)


The conference will be held in French and English.

 Please send proposals (300 words) and short bio-bibliographies to : xgiudicelli@yahoo.fr and caroline.marie@univ-paris8.fr no later than November 15th 2017.