Monday, July 14, 2014

A Quick Word on Illustrations

This is in some ways an aside/ footnote to my last post about bibliographical studies. It was just getting too long (an odd thing for a Victorianist to be hesitant about).

As a visual minded student and teacher, thinking about how images translate, adapt, live on, and resonate is crucial to my understanding of and engagement in Adaptation Studies. How artists imagined the text is so influential... in the same way that I can't look at Ralph Fiennes and not imagine him hissing "Harrryyy Pottttter" (for better or worse. Probably for worse). Since I'm partial to the Ghost of Christmas Present, here is how he was portrayed in the two editions I talked about in my last post:


The later edition has him in color, of course. And there's probably much to be said about the minute differences... but the two illustrations are pretty similar. Here's how he looks in the graphic novel I read yesterday:

Thinking about him as a larger, more foreboding figure (the lines are deeper, he looms over Scrooge brandishing his horn like a saber) asks us as readers how we see this Ghost, how Scrooge sees this Ghost, perhaps even how Dickens wanted his audience to receive this Ghost. And this is just one small example... how we see Scrooge, the other ghosts, even Tiny Tim (who was far from Tiny in the 50s version and looked like he'd never missed a meal in his life), is both determined by our imaginations and by our experience with illustrations and adaptations. I'm excited to see how our minds and our conceptions of characters and moments will change as we continue to explore adaptations this month. 


  1. I love the looming Ghost o' CP. It makes Scrooge seem so insignificant, so vulnerable, and reinscribes a note of terror into the scene. In the original published story, the GoCP was one of four (hand) colo(u)red illustrations:

    We might profitably ask why Dickens insisted that this ghost get one of the precious colored images.

    1. That's a great question. Perhaps --like Lingerr--Dickens had some favoritism towards the Ghost of Christmas Present as a character, himself? If so, that must have stung pretty hard when the Ghost dissed CD pretty hard in Scrooge's trial! But seriously, the Ghost of Christmas Present is, literally and figuratively, the most colorful and flamboyant of the spirits, and most represents the concepts of warm and colorful human fellowship and conviviality that seem like very fundamental messages in the book. For those reasons alone, I guess it makes sense that CD would spring for a color illustration for at least that spirit and at least that scene. However, the food imagery is DRASTICALLY toned-down from how it is described in the book. Almost all the food listed in the book is represented, but those foods are all listed in plural in the book, while are often only in singles in the illustration. Where is our heaping throne that sounds like a food orgy of awesomeness, John Leech?! Step yo' GAME up!