WP3 will focus on the way slides, slide series and lantern readings function with regard to their iconographic, representational and discursive modes and potential to support and transport narratives. The three subprojects analyse from the perspectives of semiotics, narratology and communication studies, respectively, the interplay between image and text as a form of rhetoric, the production of affect and emotion in narrative melodramatic series and the case of self-made slides and their sequential organization into self-composed sets. Their results will feed into several subprojects in the other three work packages.
Lantern slide pictures exist as independent semiotic entities and at the same time they are part of a sequential order. In addition, the lantern reading “anchors” the images’ meaning, which makes slides a complex semiotic object. They need to be analysed in their individual iconography and as part of a visual narrative or discourse. The subproject will study commercially produced slide series that were used by societal groups. As products for an international market, the “readability” of the images in diverse cultural contexts and for different types of communication had to be possible. This makes these series particularly interesting for semiotic as well as narratological and communicational investigations. The PhD will develop an analytical grid and will examine selected examples of slide series from extant collections, which also allows us to assess their appropriation by the lecturers.
As Peter Brooks (1976) has argued, melodrama is situated at the nexus of social and psychic change. Its mutability enabled 19th-century melodramatic practice to draw from a range of cultural forms and social arenas. One of them is the magic lantern show. Three areas of discussion emerge in relation to lantern exhibition and distribution practices: modality and genre, uses of historicization and questions of aesthetics, affect, emotion and their relationship to socio-political change. Starting from Jean-Louis Bourget's idea that melodrama is an “aesthetic of affect” and using the concept of fictional emotions (F emotions) based on empathy, and artefact emotions (A emotions) grounded in enjoying aesthetic qualities of the narrative (Tan & Frijda 1999), the PhD will analyse melodramatic aspects of magic lantern series: which narrative strategies were used to address the spectator's feelings? How did the combination of image and word, music and live performance enhance the melo-/dramatic effect on the audience? How did lantern shows on social issues such as pauperism and industrial exploitation, alcoholism and tuberculosis, loneliness and neglect of the young or the elderly question modern Belgian society?
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the photographic medium and printing techniques were associated with lantern projections. They converted the projected performances into a much more realistic and pragmatic approach to what was seen on screen. Indeed, there was a switch from hand painted Phantasmagoria to a concept of 'natural colours' during lantern projections.
This research would like to explore what such an angle of reflection can bring to the study of the artefacts (glass slides and lanterns). But also: how did colours contribute to either fictions, educational representations, documentation of archaeology or heritage, travels and explorations of new lands, or artistic views ? How does colour participate in forms and serial narratives? Add to this the way in which colours still make use of 'illusion of reality' (couleurs trompeuses) by using a commercial concept of 'natural colours'. The different projection performances through devices and elaborated systems (motion of the glass slides, additive devices, or superimpositions) contributed to create coloured representations as well, but how can they be recreated in contemporary projections?
Finally, can we speak of a legacy of colour between the projections of lantern slides and the cinema through the conversion of the colourist workshops that already existed for the glass slides, the different colour system or the constitution of genres (melodrama, documentary, education)?