Perlego

From writings that explore the textuality of images to the use of images in the illumination of texts, the signifying systems of image and word rub up against one another in various ways, making the meeting of text and image a long-standing area of scholarly fascination. The PERLEGO network seeks to explore this interface, bringing together critical perspectives on text-image studies to excavate new methodologies arising at the intersection of textual and visual analysis.

Welcoming research from across disciplines, time periods, and genres, PERLEGO seeks to consider how integrated approaches to image and text analysis can construct robust and polyphonic histories of meaning, production, and interpretation. Our upcoming digital conference, ‘PERLEGO: Critical Perspectives on Image and Text’ (October 19th-22nd 2020) brings together researchers from across the world for four days of panels, roundtables and keynotes dedicated to quarrying the rich interface between textual and visual analysis, including focused sessions on ‘The Gendered Eye’, ‘Photography and Protest’, ‘Paratextual Practices’, and ‘Errancy and Doubleness’ among others.

Beyond the conference, our platform perlegonetwork.com is an online space for collecting and sharing contemporary work in text and image studies. Our blog perlegonetwork.com/blog is a growing repository for reflections on a wide variety of themes, including our first pieces: Dr. Rhiannon Easterbrooke on the crucial role played by magazine images in rediscovering the staging of Edwardian theatrical productions; and Dr. Tommaso Durante introducing his research on the ‘global imaginary’ through images from his Visual Archive Project (2007-). 

We take our name, PERLEGO, from a quintessential crossover of textual and visual analysis in the classical world. At the start of the sixth book of his epic poem, the Aeneid, the Latin poet Virgil describes a set of doors carved with intricate reliefs. Rather than simply looking at these designs, his characters are said to ‘read them with their eyes’ (‘perlegerent oculis,’ Aen.VI.34), the root of the verb per-legere (to read thoroughly or peruse) endowing a certain textuality to the visual experience. Indeed, upon reconsideration, the description of the artwork that precedes this phrase itself strays beyond the bounds of visuality as Virgil includes unexecuted images in his overview of the design. 

What does it mean to read an image like a text? Or to visualise texts as images? Must we rely on patterning one method of analysis upon the other, or can a more integrated approach be constructed? In search of answers to these questions and more, PERLEGO has so far brought together over fifty scholars from different disciplines and institutions, hosting nine speakers from various disciplinary backgrounds, including Modern Languages, English Literature, History of Art, and Museum Studies. Rather than allowing the present health crisis to stymie research, we are developing our online platform to extend the conversation and create a repository for the findings and ideas it generates.

Head to our website perlegonetwork.com for more information on our upcoming digital conference and the kind of scholarship we have already showcased at our seminars. If you work on any aspect of text and image analysis and would like to get involved with us or share your ideas do get in touch at perlego2020@gmail.com and follow us on Twitter, @PERLEGONetwork, for updates.

Our conference is gratefully funded by the AHRC-TORCH Graduate Fund.

Rebecca Bowen, Vittoria Fallanca, Sophie Koenig, Anna Espínola Lynn

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