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Image, Memory, and Reconstruction: Alastair’s Illustrated Editions for Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx and The Birthday of the Infanta as Memory Palaces

Abstract : This essay focuses on the illustrations by German-born, polyglot artist Alastair (the nom de plume of Hans Henning Otto, Baron von Voigt [1887-1969]) for two editions of Wilde’s texts published in the 1920s: a 1920 version of the poem The Sphinx published by John Lane (a frontispiece, decorations, and nine full-page illustrations) and a 1928 version of the tale The Birthday of the Infanta published in Paris by The Black Sun Press/Éditions Narcisse (eight plates and a frontispiece). Alastair’s illustrated versions of Wilde’s texts testify to the enduring legacy of the Anglo-Irish author’s works in the twentieth century. What I first wish to show is that Alastair’s creations also hold up a mirror to Wilde’s texts themselves, which are imaginary reconstructions of worlds—the ancient world (The Sphinx) or the Spanish Golden Age (The Birthday of the Infanta)—and are based on a dialogue between visual and verbal images. The second part of this essay offers an analysis of the interpictorial networks upon which Alastair’s illustrations for The Sphinx and The Birthday of the Infanta are based: Alastair’s images are memory palaces which bear the traces of the influence of such fin-de-siècle graphic artists—and illustrators of Wilde—as Aubrey Beardsley and Charles Ricketts. A further focus is on how Alastair stages Wilde’s texts in his images, how he turns the illustrated book into a theatrical space and fosters an aesthetic of incongruity, hybridity and in-betweenness: a kitsch or camp aesthetic, characterised by a non-linear, “queer” temporality.
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https://hal.univ-reims.fr/hal-02519273
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 8:28:54 PM
Last modification on : Friday, June 19, 2020 - 6:27:49 PM

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Xavier Giudicelli. Image, Memory, and Reconstruction: Alastair’s Illustrated Editions for Oscar Wilde’s The Sphinx and The Birthday of the Infanta as Memory Palaces. Polysèmes, Société des amis d'inter-textes (SAIT), 2019, (Re)constructions, https://doi.org/10.4000/polysemes.4722. ⟨10.4000/polysemes.4722⟩. ⟨hal-02519273⟩

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