Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > A New "Look" at the Canon: De-familiarizing the Works of Thackeray, Dickens, Collins, and Gaskell through a Recovery of their Illustrations

This project examines the role of illustration in the serialized fiction of William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Gaskell during the period of 1847-1868, when illustrated fiction reached its height in Victorian England. Illustrations featured in much of 19th-century British fiction, but these images, at one time paramount in the reading and marketing of such literature, rarely receive close attention in literary criticism and the literature classroom. Not only does this absence of such a vital textual element compromise the experience of these works, but it prevents the modern reader from engaging with and understanding the complex relationship between reading and seeing. Interweaving literary theory regarding the physical and conceptual space of the book and literary analysis of the complex relationship between image and word, I situate a canonical text by each author in its historical period and the Victorian reading marketplace as I explore the influence of illustration on the reception of the written text for today's readers. Examining these illustrations demonstrates the complex illuminative effects of Thackeray's working as both author and illustrator in Vanity Fair; the reflection of Dickens's textual content and mixed narrative style in Our Mutual Friend; the translation of an English novel in an American journal and the presence of a visual meta-narrative in The Moonstone; and the visual manipulation, or revision, of key elements in Gaskell's Wives and Daughters. In analyzing specific illustrations and the ways in which they mediate, revise, and alternately support or resist the text to moderate reader understanding and interpretation, I consider the variety and expression of authorial control and the act of interpretation as implicitly emphasized and challenged through the relationship between image and text in each work. In reclaiming these visual elements I assert the importance of interdisciplinarity in literary studies as well as the pedagogical significance of expanding traditional critical approaches to account for a variety of media.