The Origins of Comics Criticism

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The Warburg Institute

Woburn Square

London, United Kingdom

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A lecture organised by the Bilderfahrzeuge Project.

Roger Sabin, Professor of Popular Culture at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, will give a lecture on the way in which the new medium of comics was perceived by critics in the late 19th century, focusing on the UK (at the time the world-leading producer). The late Victorian period saw an increasingly intense discussion about ‘culture’ – what it was, and where it was heading - spurred by the growth of working class leisure pursuits, and middle class concerns about them. Mostly this meant fears about negative effects on ‘moral and political’ behaviour, which entailed commentary on comics that involved the kind of language we might associate with backlashes against them in the 20th century (‘a plague’, ‘a fungus’, etc.). But it could also encompass a celebration of comics as the ‘authentic vernacular’ – the beating heart of the country. The paper will survey the boundaries of the debate, and suggest that this was the origin of modern formulations of ‘pop culture’.

The Bilderfahrzeuge Project

The research project ‘Bilderfahrzeuge. Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology’ sets out to explore the migration of images, objects, commodities, and texts, in short: the migration of ideas in a broad historical and geographical context. It is funded by the German Ministry of Higher Education and Research, realised in cooperation with the Max Weber Stiftung, and situated at the Warburg Institute, London, as well as at the Deutsche Forum für Kunstgeschichte (Paris), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Kunsthistorische Institut (Florence), and Warburg Haus (Hamburg). Each institution is represented by one of the five Professors who also direct the research project: Andreas Beyer (Basel/Paris) who is also functioning as the reserach centre’s speaker, Horst Bredekamp (Berlin), Uwe Fleckner (Hamburg), David Freedberg (London), and Gerhard Wolf (Florence).

For more information on the Bilderfahrzeuge Projekt please visit our website at https://iconology.hypotheses.org .

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The Warburg Institute

Woburn Square

London, United Kingdom

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