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Posts from the ‘Wright Morris’ Category

Two Very Different Americas: Wright Morris & Franz Kafka

Home Place Source Photographic Review has put up the latest in their series of short films on the theme of photography and literature.  In the first video, Mick Gidley (emeritus professor of American literature at the University of Leeds) talks about Wright Morris’ groundbreaking 1948 novel The Home Place, which had alternating pages of photographs and text.

Here is what Source says about the film.

Like the flying car, the photographically illustrated novel has always seemed like an idea on the cusp of realisation. Combining the reality of photographs and the fictionality of novels was surely inevitable. There were a number of forerunners to establishment of this new form (Bruges-la-Morte, Nadja) but The Home Place looked like being the perfect marriage of these two ways of representing the world. If anyone was going to make the photographically illustrated novel a success it was Wright Morris. He was unusual in being a skilled photographer as well as an accomplished writer. He had clearly thought hard about how photographs and text could co-exist in a work of fiction. More surprising still he had the backing of a mainstream publisher even though it was going to cost them more to reproduce photographs well. The critics liked it but for some reason The Home Place (and his previous novel The Inhabitants)  never quite captured the public’s imagination. Although it has remained in print it is not a widely known book. It may be that now – when there are more novels with photographs in them around – is the perfect time to reassess The Home Place. Or it may be that Wright Morris’s Modernist precision and dedication to the local and specific is too remote for us now. See what Mick Gidley has to say about the book and decide for yourself, the flying car, maybe its time has come?

In the second video, Carolin Duttlinger (lecturer in German, Wadham College) talks about the role that photographs played in the writing of Franz Kafka’s Amerika.

As Carolin Duttlinger explains, Kafka preferred photographs to films as a source of inspiration because of their potentially uncanny quality and the ease with which they could be studied in detail. The photographs that Kafka looked at become a kind of score for the book. Seen through Kafka’s eyes they attain new meaning, seen on their own they are a little lifeless.


Photography and Literature Film Series

Source Photography Literature Cover

In conjunction with their forthcoming issue # 75 on  “Photography and Literature,” Source Photographic Review is putting up seven related films on their website – one every Friday from August 9 through September 20.  More details on the issue and the films can be seen here.

Friday August 9
Bruges-la-Mort (16 minutes)
A Symbolist book about a man obsessed with his dead wife, and fascinated by a dancer who resembles her. Thought to be the first photographically illustrated novel (1892). Film includes interviews with Clive Scott, French professor and Will Stone, a poet / translator who illustrated the most recent translation of the book with his own photographs.

Friday August 16
Austerlitz (30 minutes)
WG Sebald’s last novel, like its predecessors, is illustrated with mysterious photographs. Sebald scholar Jonathan Long visits locations featured in the book and explores how the photographs correspond to (or conceal) reality. Clive Scott, Sebald’s former colleague, recalls conversations with the author about the book. Michael Brandon-Jones, the technician who prepared Sebald’s manuscripts for publication, talks about how the books were arranged and the different sources of the visual material they contain.

Friday August 23
Roma Tearne: Using Photos to Write Novels (12 minutes)
Roma Tearne has an extensive collection of found photographs and, although her novels do not include illustrations, as the author (and artist) explains, they played a key role in their composition.

Friday August 30
The Home Place (12 minutes)
Unusually among those who have produced photographically illustrated books, Wright Morris was as skilled a photographer as he was a writer. Mick Gidley, who writes about American literature and photography, introduces the themes of the book and its inspirations.

Kafka Amerika Film

Friday September 6
Amerika (10 minutes)
Kafka had never visited America but used photographs from travel books as inspiration for his novel. Carolin Duttlinger explains how Kafka’s very approach to writing was formed by his experience of photography.

Friday September 13
Photography & Literature 1 (20 minutes)
Part 1 of an essay film with contributors discussing the underlying relationship between photography and literature. Participants include Lindsay Smith (Victorian photography and Literature), Colin Graham (Modernism: Ulysses, Proust, Wilde), Matthias Uecker (photography and documentary literature, Weimar period Germany), Andrew Stafford (post-war French literature and the phototext), James Casbere (an American photographer inspired by William Faulkner), Rut Blees Luxemburg (inspired by Holderlin), Patrick Hogan (learnt from Chekhov how to edit his photographs).

Friday September 20
Photography & Literature 2 (20 minutes)
Part 2 of an essay film with contributors discussing the underlying relationship between photography and literature.