Not only does the writer’s hand hold the pen, it manipulates pictures as well. Writers touch, hoard, cut, copy, pin and paste various kinds of pictures and these actions integrate literature in visual culture in many ways that have never been tackled as a whole before.

Some writers spent their life surrounded by pictures taken from magazines, creating an inspirational environment; yet others nurtured their imagination with touristic leaflets and visual advertisements; others created fictional characters based on collected portraits. What do writers do with pictures? How does literature stage the pictures handled? From very concrete and banal uses of pictures will emerge a new vision of literature as intermediality in action.

This investigation applies the tool set of visual anthropology and visual studies to writers for a deeper understanding of visual ecosystems. Covering a large period, from the beginning of mass reproduction in the 1880s and the digital practices of today, HANDLING focuses on the French and French-speaking field and stands as a laboratory to refashion a broader model for relationships between image and text. Its main challenge is to get to the root of contemporary iconographic practices.

HANDLING is unconventional because literary studies usually focus on the text: contrary to the norm, it sets the image at the very centre of the literary act. This approach might yield promising results for the visibility of literature in the future, especially in exhibitions. Making these practices visible will make literature itself more visible.

As an internationally recognized specialist of text-image relationships with an in-depth knowledge of French/Belgian literature and photography, I will build a team and lead this 5-year ambitious project. Grounded in interdisciplinarity, it will show the significant and unexpected role of literature in material visual culture.


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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the grant agreement number 804259.