The first session began with Mikey Goodman’s paper ‘Shadow-Play: Shakespeare Illustration and the Digital Archive’, which considered the politics of remediation and the cultural significance of the digital image archive and included a demonstration of the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive (currently under construction). Julia Thomas and Nicky Lloyd (Cardiff University) gave an overview of the Lost Visions project and discussed some of the challenges associated with working with big data, considering computational methods for refining metadata and the politics of using crowdsourcing for the categorisation of digital images.
Simon Grennan (University of Chester) considered the question of what differentiates sequential illustration and the narrative comic strip. In his paper ‘Plot, Picture and Practice: Comics, Picture Books and Illustrated Literary Fiction’, he emphasised the literary and cultural value of the comic strip and the tension between visual and linguistic narratology. David Skilton (Cardiff University) spoke on ‘What one discovers about illustration when working in more than one national/linguistic tradition’, discussing the complexities that emerge within the field of illustration studies in an international context and the interplay between the aesthetic and economic value of illustration.
Sjoerd Levelt (University of Exeter) discussed the prose commentary ‘illustrations’ of the Poly-Olbion in his paper ‘The Ordinatio and Mise-en-page of the Poly-Olbion of Michael Drayton, John Selden and William Hole’ and provided an overview of the Poly-Olbion project, based at the University of Exeter, which is producing a new scholarly edition of the text. Jahn H. Thon (University of Agder) considered the images of the Sami people in the work of Knud Leem in his paper, ‘Knud Leem’s Illustrations of the Unfamiliar (A Description of the Sami People in Finmark, 1750)’, arguing that the discourse of combined word and image in which Leem took part constituted a new way of describing the exotic which differed significantly from other contemporary topographical writers. The final paper of the day, ‘Seeing is Believing: The Ducal House of Lorraine and the Projection of Royal Status in Heraldry, Coinage and Other Forms of Visual Display’, was from Jonathan Spangler (Manchester Metropolitan University). Spangler argued that visual representations of the Duchy of Lorraine frequently featured images of coinage and heraldry in order to assert and consolidate wealth and royal status, testifying to the immense power of iconography within court culture.
The final session of the conference included a presentation from David Skilton and Simon Grennan: ‘Novel and Comic Book: How to Create the Visual Equivalent of a Narrative Voice.’ Skilton and Grennan offered an introduction to their new graphic adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s 1879 novel John Caldigate (Dispossession, Leuven University Press, 2015), arguing that the practical challenges of the project enable a deeper theoretical understanding of both the politics of adaptation and of the original text itself.
Brian Maidment (Liverpool John Moores University) considered the neglected area of comic images in his paper ‘Comic Illustration in the Marketplace 1820-1840’. Using a series of comic caricatures and illustrations, he argued that comic productions of the period were not, as has often been assumed, a post-Georgian or pre-Victorian interlude in the tradition of British comic illustration but were in fact part of dynamic, complex and engaging movement which has fascinating implications in terms of commerce, artistic production and innovation.
Anthony Mandal, Julia Thomas, Nicky Lloyd and Mikey Goodman from Cardiff University’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research (CEIR) presented on Digital Humanities and Nineteenth-Century Illustration in the final session. With reference to the Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration, the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive and the Lost Visions project, these papers considered both the practical and theoretical implications of creating digital image archives, arguing that the digitisation of illustration is not just an issue of accessibility but is a scholarly activity capable of reshaping the wider field of illustration studies in its own right.
Both conferences offered fascinating insights from both eminent and emerging scholars of illustration studies, provoking meaningful discussions not only about illustrations from a vast range of periods and genres but of the process of adapting and remediating illustration in the digital age.