Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




James King


The thesis is an interdisciplinary study of first edition illustrated books produced in England at the fin de siècle, and offers new approaches both to illustration theory and to critical interpretation of late Victorian representations. The focus on first editions ensures that the illustrator is the first reader of the text, and that the artist and writer produce their work within a common context. I examine the ways in which the artist as first reader of the author's words provides a critical text for the verbal, and also the ways in which the reader of this bi-textual product is affected by, and participates in, this dialogue between texts. Taking as my premise that all art is discourse-specific, I examine the image/text/reader dialogue as it engages in the larger cultural conversation in which it is embedded. My examination of the bi-textual relationship of the female-coded image and the male-coded word offers a new point of entry into the fin de siècle. Working with a Bakhtinian dialogic model, I develop a rhetoric of illustration for five different image/text relations: Quotation, impression, parody, answering, and cross-dressing.

Three prevailing discourses which motivated the production of the nineties' illustrated book, and the ideologies underlying each, are examined for their contribution to the image/text dialogue: the languages of journalism, aestheticism, and socialism. Each language is found to have a model for the illustrated book, a model underwritten by social relationships and expressed in specific artistic forms and literary styles. The "quotational" model for the illustrated book, as represented by The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, is ideologically-driven by the discourse of journalism, and expressed in the interart forms of the representational picture and the realistic adventure story. The "impression" and "parody" models for illustrated books, as represented by The Sphinx and Salone, are produced by the individualistic discourse of aestheticism, and their dialogic relationship is constituted by the interaction of art-nouveau decorations and poetry or poetic drama. The "answering" model, as represented by The Well at the World's End, is produced by the communal aesthetic of socialism, and its interart form is expressed in the medieval-inspired arts-and-crafts design as it interacts with the folkart revival of the romance, the legend and the ballad. "Cross-dressing" constitutes a unique category in which image and text are produced by the same poet/artist, as represented by All-Fellows: Seven Legends of Lower Redemption; its underlying desire for "organic wholeness" illuminates the fin-de-siècle crisis of gender identity, social relations, and authority.

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