Unfixing the Concept of Illustration: Its Historiographical Ambivalence and Analytical Potential
Affiliation: Stockholm University, SE
Chapter from the book: Petersson, S et al. 2018. The Power of the In-Between: Intermediality as a Tool for Aesthetic Analysis and Critical Reflection.
Intermediality enters this study through the concept of illustration. The study’s twofold objective is to analyse the concept of illustration historiographically and operationally. The leading questions concern how the concept of illustration has been verbalized and negotiated in both textual and pictorial media, and how it can be further used as an analytical tool in studying illustrations. On the one hand, “illustration” is examined as a genre of pictures, whose characteristic trait is the combined mediality of textual and pictorial elements being both materially present in the same object. On the other hand, it is examined as a genre of pictures also bearing upon/being modelled by past and present meta concepts, such as “illustration.” The study makes two claims: one historiographical and one operational. The first is underbuilt by juxtaposing a concept of illustration derived from analysis of historiographic texts with a pictorial instance of the genre of illustration. Here, the outcome of analysis is to stress the historiographic concept of illustration as marked by the ambivalence of conflicting hierarchies and values. The second claim is conditioned by allowing the pictorial example to confront its meta concept. Here, the outcome of analysis is to demonstrate how the two functions of illustrated and illustrating are unfixed from their conventional ties to a textual source and pictorial target. Rather, the insight of study is that the functions of illustrated and illustrating are mutually reversible. The “same” object could through the serial course of an analysis occupy them both.