Prof. Dr. Hans Rudolf Velten (Universität Siegen) et Prof. Dr. Joseph Imorde (Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin) organisent du 13 au 15 mars 2023 un colloque à Berlin sur l’esthétique de fantasy de 1880 à 2020: “Myth and Middle Ages: Paradigms of Pictorial Fantasy Aesthetics (1880-2020)“.
Date limite d’envoi des propositions: 30 août 2022.
Today, fantasy is one of the most popular intermedia entertainment genres worldwide. Its growing attention in recent decades is not only reflected in charts and rankings, but also in the form of popular cultural events such as Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or the highly successful HBO series Game of Thrones, based on the novel series by George R.R. Martin.
Among the many reasons contributing to this popularity, the visualization of heroic and villainous characters, relevant spaces and locations, battles and fights in the visual media of fantasy (like book covers and illustrations, maps, posters and display material, films and serials, images on websites etc.) is highly significant. However, this visualization has hardly been seen by scholars of the genre so far, and it has also been studied only selectively (exceptions are the works of Tolkien, cf. Hammond/Scull 2018, Alexander 2016). Yet it is not only the intratextual heroes, settings, and motifs of individual novels that exhibit iconic quality; it is also mythic archetypes of characters, things, buildings, and landscapes that together constitute the imagery of fantasy.
This visual aesthetic, we assume, has iconographic antecedents in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is part of the much larger and comprehensive fantastic art, which has been an important current in European iconography since Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel (Holländer 1980). In this regard, fantasy imagery refers to literary motifs, materials, and sources from the mythologies of the Middle Ages and antiquity: the songs of the Old Norse Edda, the Celtic tales about King Arthur and his Round Table, the Germanic heroic epics, the Finnish Kalevala (Hammond/Scull 2018). Here we find patterns and models that have entered the genre (which, in sensu strictu, only begins with Tolkien) via various routes to their aesthetic absorption in Romanticism and 19th-century historicism: Dragons and monsters, dwarves and elves, wizards, demons and witches, fairies and mermaids, kings and princesses, chivalrously armed heroes and their dark antagonists, animate, also mysterious, often pseudo-religious objects and weapons, talking animals, giants, trolls, and other monstra (Kowalski 2020). They, together with neo-mediaeval spaces (steep cathedral walls, high towers, moats and city walls, ruins of castles, temples and monasteries, dark forests and battle panoramas), often garishly lit and featuring bold color combinations, form a large part of the reservoir of fantasy iconography. This strangeness of nature and environment, based on the invalidity of natural laws and a historical and cultural distance that makes the manifestations of images, figures, and spaces components of “other worlds,” can be seen as the basis for this iconography. Together with its topographical localization on maps, it is part of the “fantastic neomedievalism” that Eco had already described in 1986. Tolkien’s maps, for example, which were designed analogously to medieval maps of places and ways, show a complete mythopoetic fantasy world able to stimulate pictures and illustrations (Klinger 2011; Bunting/Currie 2020). In general, “significant elements of Tolkien’s mythology” appeared simultaneously with the texts also in pictorial form, as recent studies of his illustrations have revealed (Hammond/Scull 2018).
The aim of the conference is to expand and differentiate these observations, to relate them to the iconographic tradition of the fantastic, and thus to better explore and understand the visual aesthetics of fantasy. Hence, in turn, their part in the popularity of the genre – for example, through commercial strategies of image staging – should become more visible, as well as their influence on the respective text should be examined more closely. The conference is designed to be interdisciplinary in order to initiate exchange between approaches in literary studies, art history, and book studies. The subject of the conference will consist of the production of visualizations of global fantasy in its diverse media manifestations: Book illustrations and covers (novel and graphic novel), image design in comics, visual figurations in film and television series, the various visualizations in role-playing, video and computer games of fantasy.
Proposals for papers may be submitted on the following topics:
1. Images of fantasy literature: cover design, illustrations, book decorations and maps in fantasy novels and series of different epochs and authors. Tolkien himself had illustrated his novels and decorated them with “kaleidoscopic patterns”. The global reception of The Lord of the Rings called for renowned illustrators who worked out numerous editions: John Howe, Alan Lee, Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo are only some of the most important among them (Auger 2008, Alexander 2016). Proposals for contributions are invited on individual book editions and series as well as on illustrators and single elements such as maps or cover design.
2. Fantastic iconography in the 19th and early 20th centuries: Victorian painting, for example, of the Pre-Raphaelites with their decidedly medieval references, the medieval book art of someone like William Morris, the works of the Arts & Crafts movement, the Ars Fantastica of Surrealism (cf. Lottes 1984, Biemer 2011, Goodwin 2015). Here, the focus is primarily on the archetypes of medieval reception in nineteenth-century medievalism, but also on other patterns of fantastic iconography (e.g., in W.R. Lethaby) constructing the visual aesthetics of fantasy. Contributions may demonstrate adaptations of such iconographic patterns in material design, coloration, and decoration in fantasy (such as the effect of Kelmscott Press medieval book decoration in fantasy). Similarly, the inclusion of medieval archetypes in pulp magazines and dime novels of the early 20th century, such as the illustrations in magazines like Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s Bazaar, McClure’s, Argosy, Eerie, Prince Valiant, etc. (Earle 2009, Kowalski 2020) can be examined.
3. Fantasy imagery in graphic novels, movies, series, and games. Since the release of the major fantasy films and television series after 2000, which once again popularize Tolkien’s or Martin’s popular novels, fantasy iconography is inevitably changing as a result of the shift to the visual medium. The question what changes this intermedial expansion entails may be clarified on the basis of individual analyses of graphic novels, films, series, and games (such as Dungeons & Dragons) (see Dolle-Weinkauff 2010, Harvey 2013, and Bärtle 2017).
Please send a paper title and short exposé by August 30th, 2022 to: Prof. Dr. Hans Rudolf Velten: velten [at] germanistik.uni-siegen.de
Une version de l’appel en allemand est également disponible sur ce site.
A German version of the call for paper is available on this website.