CFP: Spectacular Devices: Visual, Literary and Material Cultures of Wonder in the Long 19th Century (Univ. of Lausanne, 1-2 Dec 2022)

This conference aims at investigating, through the prism of interdisciplinarity, values, criteria and modalities governing the representations of wonder, astonishment, and spectacular approaches in the visual culture of the long 19th century. Particular attention will be paid to how the notions of wonder and spectacular are depicted and perceived, disseminated and questioned, remade and modified.

Deadline: 18 Sep 2022

The increasing importance of individualities linked to the Romantic period and the growing demand for images nourished, among others, the representations of wonder and spectacular, intended as the stunning, the impressive, the sensational, the extra-ordinary. Industrialisation, as well as new technologies, assuredly helped to develop new forms of visual and cultural expression. This materiality results in multiple supports, media and practices punctually relying on and relating to each other. Paintings, prints, photographs, portable screens, all types of image boxes and literary texts, to name but a few, contribute to these synergies and dialogues between facets of materiality. Within this context, the depictions of wonder and spectacular enable the connection between different spheres, such as emotional and pragmatic, fantastic and realistic, spiritual and tangible.

Two aspects are relevant to this symposium: the values of wonder and spectacular and the capacity of projection and generating images that they embed. In the first instance, the values of wonder and spectacular enable a multiple analysis of how these notions are expressed, the media involved in this process of materialisation and what codes and rules they rely on. The discourse’s interdisciplinarity is crucial to the study of interactions, exchanges and correspondence between different contexts. Secondly, the representations of wonder and spectacular approaches contribute to creating a series of images and imaginary spaces that deserve a closer discussion. These dimensions communicate with each other, facilitating the rise of new forms of representation and expression of wonder, leading to new visual and literary realities, devices and topics. 

The scope of this conference is to bring these multiple dimensions together and consider their different forms of expression.

Possible topics are:

Spectacular approaches and the notion of spectacular
– Representations of the notion of spectacular in visual arts, literature, theatre and music 
– Narratives of the spectacular, including sequential images, moving images and entertainment
– Disseminating the spectacular
– Materialities of the spectacular

Wonder and astonishment as individual experiences
– Perception, worship and emulation 
– Staging spectacular visual culture

Wonder and imagination
– Impact, power and repercussions of spectacular visual and literary cultures
– Imaginary spaces
– Practices, devices, and special effects

Proposals (maximum 300 words), have to be sent, together with a short bio-bibliography (maximum 500 words) to Camilla Murgia at the following address:, by September 18, 2022. Accepted papers will be notified by the end of September 2022. 
Papers are expected to be published in an edited volume.

There is no registration fee for the conference.