"Troubled Resemblances. Portrait and Poetics in late 18th century prose fiction"
My project discusses the role of the portrait in German and English literature between 1760 and 1830, i.e. in the heyday of the cultural use of portraiture. In these texts, the portrait figures not only as a requisite, but as a main mover of the plot. The most prevalent narrative goes as follows: a young man finds a miniature painting, falls in love with and goes on a quest for the depicted woman, is in the best case united with her or in the worst case goes mad in a layrinth of revenants and doppelganger. Just as common are genealogical varriations of this narrative, in which the portrait draws the observer / pursuer into the abysses of his unknown family history. The main thesis of my project is, that the portrait in these texts can be understood as a figure of poetological reflexion. By way of the portrait and its narrative the texts discuss important aesthetical and poetical concerns of their time: 1. the detachment from established models of mimesis and the problematization of the concept of "original image"; 2. the aesthetic paradigms of the gothic and of a (new) marvelous; 3. models of literary animacy / animation and the supremacy of literature over painting.
Response: Anja Lemke (Köln)