Literature and the arts after the iconic turn

The examination of the connections between literary works and works of plastic arts has always been one of the central approaches of what we know as Comparative Literature – indeed, long before it was constituted as a relatively autonomous branch of literary studies: cf. the classical paragone trope (i.e. the theme of the rivalry between the arts). One of the moments of renewal of this approach was the so-called “iconic turn” or “imagic turn”. We can recall it: in the early 1990s, W. J. T. Mitchell spoke of a pictorial turn, Ferdinand Fellmann of an imagic turn and Gottfried Boehm of an ikonische Wendung, all of which point to an actual or supposed overcoming of the linguistic paradigm that had dominated the Western thought in the antecedent decades. With this turning point, not only the hegemony of the image at that time, but also, and above all, the problematic character of the image comes to the front stage: its conflicting, symptomatic, anachronistic (or, more exactly, heterochronic), simultaneously lacunar and excessive configuration. The history itself, in this movement, begins to be thought in the light of images – for example, through the recovery of Walter Benjamin’s notion of dialectical image by philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben and Georges Didi-Huberman. Didi-Huberman will say that “always, before an image, we are before time”. Taking this reasoning forward, we can say that, before the institutions and practices that involve images, we are always before history as a proliferation of dialectical instances that must be thought in all its complexity.

This turn – which was iconic or imagistic, but also to some extent museal and curatorial – had decisive consequences for literary studies and, more broadly, for the social life of literature in its most basic levels. Without this change, nowadays we wouldn’t have institutions such as the Museum of the Portuguese Language or the multiplication of museums dedicated to writers or even to literary movements; nor the literary scene would be dominated by the practice of curatorship, once reserved for the visual arts, in collections, festivals, prizes, etc. – in an open or implied dispute with the old figure of the editor. Nor, on a somewhat more sophisticated level, would we be faced with some notions such as “literature in an expanded field” – according to a denomination borrowed from the considerations of the art critic Rosalind E. Krauss on sculpture.

In this issue of Remate de Males, we propose to bring together articles that deal with questions derived from this new way of looking at the connections between the arts of word and the so-called visual or plastic arts, such as the relevance of the idea of a museum to think about modern and contemporary literature, the presence of literary works in exhibitions (as well as the exhibition itself as a literary procedure), the poetic-textual dimension often noticed in the contemporary art and the imagistic dimension of written works, etc.



Eduardo Sterzi (Unicamp)

Eduardo Jorge de Oliveira (Universität Zürich)

Veronica Stigger (FAAP)

Deadline for submission of articles: 15 November 2018.