Martin Heusser, Andreas Fischer, Andreas H. Jucker (eds.). Mediality/Intermediality. SPELL 21, 2008

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Table of Contents



Introduction                                                                               11


Werner Wolf (Graz)

The Relevance of Mediality and Intermediality to Academic

Studies of English Literature                                                         15


Lukas Erne (Geneva)

Romeo and Juliet on Stage and Page: The Character of the Nurse

in the First (1597) and Second (1599) Quartos                                45


Barbara Straumann (Zurich)

Medial Effects: The Singer and Her Voice in Willa Cather’s

The Song of the Lark                                                                      59


Michael Röösli (Geneva)

Photography and the Death of the Author in Julio Cortázar’s

“Blow-Up”                                                                                75


Matt Kimmich (Bern)

Disorienting Visualisations: Adapting Paul Auster’s

City of Glass                                                                                 87


Florence Widmer-Schnyder (Neuchâtel)

Does Medium Matter? Intertextualities in Dorothy Wordsworth’s

Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland                                                105


Ladina Bezzola Lambert (Basel)

The Art of Anamorphosis in New Historicist Criticism                125


Laurie A. Finke (Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio) and Martin B.

Shichtman (Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan)

Remediating Chivalry: Political Aesthetics and the Round Table     139


Notes on Contributors                                                               163


Index of Names                                                                                  167



The Relevance of Mediality and Intermediality to Academic Studies of English Literature


Werner Wolf



“Mediality” and “intermediality” have become key concepts in the study of (English) literature. The present contribution addresses problems that have arisen in the wake of the “(inter)medial” turn, including the question of whether this “turn” ought to be welcomed in the first place. The problems discussed refer to the definition of “medium” and “inter-mediality,” to increased demands on scholarly as well as student competence, and to the highly important question of whether the new agenda will overburden philological disciplines with “alien” matter. It will be argued that in spite of the fact that literary studies ought not simply turn into media studies, mediality and intermediality have become highly relevant issues for both teaching and researching literature: literature is itself a medium that has not only influenced other media but has, in turn, been influenced and also transmitted by a plurality of media, so that the study of (inter)mediality is actually the study of an essential aspect of literature as such. The final part of the contribution explores ways of integrating mediality and intermediality into literary studies. In this context, a typology of relevant intermedial forms is presented and some possibilities of integrating medial concerns into existing literary theories, notably narratology, are offered. 





Romeo and Juliet on Stage and Page: The Character of the Nurse in the First (1597) and Second
(1599) Quartos


Lukas Erne



From the very beginning, Shakespeare’s plays existed on the page and on stage, in the literate, printed text as well as the oral, staged performance, which is why they are usefully examined from the angle of mediality. A case in point is Romeo and Juliet, of which two versions were published during Shakespeare’s lifetime, the shorter, more theatrical first quarto (1597) and the longer, more literary second quarto (1599). An analysis of the character of the Nurse yields intriguing differences between the two versions, which are best understood not in terms of quality – the “good quarto” versus the “bad quarto” – but as pertaining to the twin media in which the play circulated. This article thus suggests that mediality can make an important contribution to the current revival of interest in character in Shakespeare studies.





Medial Effects: The Singer and Her Voice in

Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark


Barbara Straumann



How does narrative literature as a medium map the representational elusiveness of the voice? What are the typical narratives revolving around the singer? Does her performance of scores and libretti turn her into the medium of voices other than her own? Or does she transform the operatic stage into a vehicle of self-expression? My discussion of The Song of the Lark focuses on the ways in which Willa Cather’s Künstlerroman uses the voice as a trope of self-discovery. The singing of its exceptional protagonist, Thea Kronborg, appears to emanate from her unique self, her distinct “voice.” While the novel thus emphasizes, and in fact valorizes, her self-sufficiency, it can simultaneously be seen to foreground the notion that the voice always mediates between the individual and the collective. Thea Kronborg emerges not only as the textual effect of a multiplicity of “voices,” namely the myriad descriptions offered both by the narrator and other focalizing figures, her voice also absorbs American landscapes and dreams so as to expand into a song that has both individual and universal resonances.





Photography and the Death of the Author

in Julio Cortázar’s “Blow-Up”


Michael Röösli



For over a century, photography was torn between conflicting discourses that strove to inscribe the medium into the realm of representation – either that of an outside world or of the artistic vision of the photographer. The 1960s witnessed the beginnings of a renegotiation of authority and the agencies involved in the reading process in various fields, including literature and photography. My paper approaches this major change through Jonathan Crary’s attempt to historicize the notion of the beholder in Techniques of the Observer (1990) and through the framework of the “death of the author,”, which finds its most emphatic voices in Roland Barthes’ essay of the same name (1968) and Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author?” (1969). These theoretical works will be read against Julio Cortázar’s short story “Blow-Up” (1959) which declared the death of the author almost a decade before Barthes’ provocative manifesto was published. I will show that “Blow-Up” exploits the ambiguous status of the photographic medium and uses it as a catalyst in the destabilization of its own literary authority. By proposing a new aesthetic that accommodates both the literary and pictorial text, it furthermore levels the path for photography towards a potentially artistic medium.





Disorienting Visualisations: Adapting

Paul Auster’s City of Glass

Matt Kimmich



The universe of Paul Auster’s City of Glass, a metafictional detective story, is primarily textual in nature; nevertheless, this novel was chosen to be translated into comic book form by David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik. In his introduction to the graphic novel, Art Spiegelman writes: “City of Glass is a surprisingly nonvisual work at its core, a complex web of words and abstract ideas in playfully shifting narrative styles.” Translating a verbal narrative into a visual narrative is always a challenging task, and too often visual adaptations – whether films or comic books – end up as little more than simplified retellings of plots. Critics agreed, however, that Mazzucchelli and Karasik succeeded in crafting a translation that captures the crystalline quality of Auster’s narrative, yet also adds new resonances to a story concerned with the limits of language in representing adequately an individual’s reality and identity. This paper examines the visual techniques used to translate and elaborate on Auster’s textual universe.




Does Medium Matter? Intertextualities in

Dorothy Wordsworth’s Recollections

of a Tour Made in Scotland


Florence Widmer-Schnyder




Following the Enlightenment’s Grand Tour that popularized travel as a means of gaining knowledge through experience, Britain’s Romantics journeyed through Scotland, Wales and the Lake District in search of picturesque scenes and (mythical roots of) national identity. Amongst their travel narratives, Dorothy Wordsworth’s Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland (1803/1874) stands out as a prime example of the contemporary endeavor to reproduce images of nature, the Self and the Other not only for pleasure but also for (poetic and political) inspiration.

A close reading of the Recollections traces the political-didactic subtexts of this female-authored narrative, while at the same time revealing the (proto-feminist) strategies Dorothy embraced to renegotiate the era’s dominant aesthetic discourse. In a second step, a comparative analysis of scenes traces the textual ramifications between Dorothy’s non-fictional travel narrative, William Wordsworth’s fictional poetry, and S.T. Coleridge’s notes to determine if, and to what extent, medium – or genre – influences content.




The Art of Anamorphosis in New

Historicist Criticism



Ladina Bezzola Lambert



What is it about new historicist rhetoric, and particularly about the interplay of anecdotes and familiar literary texts that – irrespective of argumentative content – is so convincing? This essay revisits this old question by focusing on the structural characteristics of the formula so successfully used by Stephen Greenblatt and his imitators. I argue that the formula owes its persuasive power to its close structural relation to Hans Holbein’s painting “The Ambassadors” with its anamorphic image of a skull. The shift in position required from the viewer of the painting to adjust the skull to a recognizable form directly corresponds to the shift in position required from the reader of a typical new historicist essay to naturalize the strange introductory anecdote in the relation to the familiar literary text, with the consequence that the connection between the two elements becomes irrevocable. The way the different elements in “The Ambassadors” relate to and condition each other thus offers an allegorical representation of a new historicist argument in its macrostructure.





Remediating Chivalry: Political Aesthetics

and the Round Table



Laurie A. Finke and Martin B. Shichtman



Moving between Edwin Austin Abbey’s 1901 series of murals “The Quest of the Holy Grail” and images of the Round Table from other media, including a late fourteenth-century copy of Wirnt von Gravenberg’s Arthurian romance Wigalois (Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, ms. Ltk. 537) and John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur, this essay considers representations of the Round Table as a means of charting the ascendancy of the visual over the discursive in political representation during the twentieth century.  The images we examine a painting, a manuscript illumination, and a film shot register, in a single glance at the Round Table, ideologies of hierarchy, power, and submission to authority that by the middle of the European twentieth century turn particularly dark, reaching their apotheosis in the Nazi state.





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