Arnaud Schmitt: The modus operandi of hybridity / How text and images work together in photographer’s memoirs.
All are welcome to Aesthetic Seminar
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Kasernen, Langelandsgade 139, 8000 Aarhus C. Building 1584, Door A, Room 112
The last section of Timothy Dow Adams’s seminal Light Writing & Life Writing – Photography in Autobiography focuses on autobiographers who are also photographers. My presentation will move from Dow Adams’s historical approach to a semantic one, studying how the text/image relationship builds but also disrupts the autobiographical narrative. In terms of theoretical approach regarding the visual analysis, and more precisely “visual narratology,” I will draw from obvious sources such as W.J.T. Mitchell’s Picture Theory but also from less obvious ones whose primary subject is graphic narratives, such as Scott McCloud’s Making Comics or Thierry Groensteen’s Bande dessinée et narration. Système de la bande dessinée 2.
Beyond the usual references such as Roland Barthes’s Camera Obscura and Susan Sontag’s On Photography, the use of photography in autobiography has been amply explored, though rarely from a semantic point of view, even in landmark texts such as François Brunet’s Photography and Literature, Marianne Hirsh’s Family Frames or Linda Haverty Rugg’s Picturing Ourselves … Photographers obviously have a much more complex approach when it comes to the use of pictures in their autobiographical accounts as, in their case, words are the ‘extraneous element’. Their primary mode of expression is visual, but writing a memoir complicates the way they relate to their art and they have to make do with a form that is not familiar.
Arnaud Schmitt is a Full Professor at the University of Bordeaux, France. He has published several books and multiple articles on autofiction and autobiography, more recently The Photographer as Autobiographer (Palgrave 2022).