Sandra Martina Schwab

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Talks & Papers

"Richard Doyle's Sequential Art in Punch." Anglistentag. Potsdam. 19 - 21 September 2012. (proposal accepted)

In The Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture Randy Duncan and Matthew J. Smith rightly point out that "the British [...] pioneered the modern cartoon format in the pages of the humor magazine Punch beginning in 1841 [...]". But Punch artists also experimented with sequential art and produced what can be regarded as forerunners of the modern comic strip. In my proposed paper I will explore some of the works of one of the innovators in this field, Richard Doyle, with a particular focus on the Brown, Jones and Robinson series.

"Richard Doyle's Historical Caricatures." History and Humour. Freiburg. 6 - 7 July 2011. (proposal accepted)
In my paper I am going to explore a selection of Doyle’s historical caricatures, ranging from his juvenile work like the Comic English Histories (published posthumously in 1885 and 1886) to his Punch illustrations as well as to his later fairy paintings.

"Mocking Nostalgia: W.M. Thackeray, Richard Doyle, and The Newcomes." Thackeray in Time. Leeds. 1 October 2011.
Thackeray first met "Dicky" Doyle when the young man was invited to join the staff of Punch in 1843, at age nineteen. Doyle's illustrations quickly gained popularity with the readership of the magazine, and thus, after only a few months, he was entrusted with the design of a new cover for Punch, which first appeared in January 1844 and, with a few alterations, remained in use for over 100 years. Among his colleagues he became known as the "Professor of Mediæval Design" due to his many parodies of medieval knights and ladies. A love for romance and chivalry, and a satirical view of their modern expressions, connected Doyle and Thackeray. Both were deeply suspicious of an overindulgence of nostalgia and other forms of idealising the past, as becomes apparent from their collaboration on Thackeray's novel The Newcomes, for which Doyle provided the illustrations.

In my paper I explored the relation of text and image in The Newcomes and showed how Thackeray and Doyle expose and mock the pretensions and nostalgic yearnings of the characters in the novel.

"Shooting Birds and Country Squires: Country Sports in Punch." Work and Leisure: RSVP Annual Conference. Canterbury. 21 - 23 July 2011.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, fox-hunting and the shooting of birds had come to be regarded as "typically British". These manly blood-sports were exercised by the nobility and the gentry and were thus indicative of social status and wealth. In the course of the century, however, country sports underwent profound changes as a result of both the changes in agriculture and the expansion of the railway network. The latter made the country easily accessible for the urban middle class, who not only started to flock to the seaside during the summer but also began to take an active part in country sports during the autumn.

As more and more so-called "cockney hunters" invaded the realm of country gentlemen, they also started to appear on the pages of Punch. Indeed, the fact that Punch artists and writers produced extensive material on shooting, hunting and fishing for the magazine, in itself is evidence for the growing importance of country sports for an increasingly larger part of the population. To highlight the changes these rural pastimes underwent in the course of the Victorian age I compared references to country sports in Punch in the 1840s to those in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

"Noble Knights and Heroic Deeds: From Scott to the Eglinton Tournament." Scotland-Scottland. Castle Schönburg. 26 - 29 May 2011.

Though the medieval revival did not begin with Sir Walter Scott, his fiction filled the imagination of his readers with vivid images of noble knights and heroic deeds, and thus sparked the frenzy for all things medieval which emerged in the nineteenth century. In his "Essay on Chivalry" for the supplement of the 1818 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Scott presented his audience with a highly romanticised version of the past as he explored the nature of chivalry: "[I]t was peculiar to the institution of Chivalry to blend military valour with the strongest passions with actuate the human mind, the feelings of devotion and those of love. [...] Generosity, gallantry, and an unblemished reputation, were no less necessary ingredients in the character of a perfect knight." The hopeful young heroes of his ballads and novels typically embody this ideal of chivalry: like young Lochinvar from the ballad in Marmion, they are gallant, bold and cheerful in the face of adversity. As Mark Girouard has pointed out, Scott thus "created a type of character which not only was to imitated in inumerable later novels, but was to become a model for young men in real life."
In my paper I traced the development of the gothic revival from Scott to that most lavish (and most costly!) staging of nineteenth-century medievalism: the Eglinton Tournament of 1839, when a group of gentlemen decided to don suits of armour in order to joust like gallant knights and make the tournament described in the pages of Scott's Ivanhoe a reality.

"'The Professor of Mediæval Design': Richard Doyle's Illustrations for Punch." The Material Culture of Periodicals: RSVP Annual Conference. Yale University. 10 – 12 September 2010.
Richard Doyle was one of the leading illustrators of the Victorian Age, but is now chiefly remembered for designing the famous Punch cover – Mr. Punch and his dog Toby, with fairies whirling around them – that lasted from 1849 until 1956. Doyle joined the staff of Punch in 1843, at age nineteen, and his designs quickly gained popularity with the readership of the magazine.
Among his colleagues Doyle was known as the "Professor of Mediæval Design", for many of his illustrations were chivalric caricatures or imitations of initials in medieval manuscripts. From an early age, Doyle had loved tales of knights and times past, and later enjoyed the stories of Ainsworth and Scott. Yet despite this interest in antiquary pieces and in historical subjects in art, it is also obvious that Doyle was amused by the lengths to which some of his contemporaries took their medieval fancy: his first publication, The Tournament (1840), consisted of a series of caricatures of the famous Eglinton Tournament, that had taken place the year before, and small sketches of the tournament depicting fat knights with spindly legs also appear in Doyle's journal.
The tension between realistic presentation and caricature of Victorian medievalism or of history came to characterise much of Doyle's later work and is also apparent in his illustrations for Punch. Here, he often used chivalric caricatures to comment on and satirise issues of the day: e.g., the initial for "The Late Fight between the Premier and Young Ben", an article dealing with a series of parliamentary rows between Peel and Disraeli in 1845, shows two knights tilting, and in a series of articles called "The Civil War in the City" knights are used to illustrate the dispute between the Watermen's Company and the Thames Navigation Committee over the former's right to land at Blackfriars pier in 1846.
In my paper I presented a selection of Doyle's work for Punch and showed how these illustrations not only parody Victorian medievalism, but also add to the satirical thrust of the articles they accompany.

"There Be Dragons: Romance and the History of Stories." Popular Romance Studies: Theory, Text, and Practice. Brussels, Belgium. 5 – 7 August 2010.
Romance novels, like any other literary texts, are cultural products, and as such they are part of a web of not only intertextual, but also intermedial relations and interdependences. Therefore, comparative analyses are useful, firstly, to reveal in what way narrative elements of romance are connected to other cultural "texts", and, secondly, to show how romance conventions shape existing narrative patterns.
One such pattern is the story of the dragonslayer: a hero kills a horrible dragon or giant snake, thus proving his worth and often saving a virgin maiden. Dragons have inspired the human imagination for centuries, and the wide distribution of dragon stories has led Calvert Watkins to comment, "One or more myths about a god or hero killing a dragon or other reptilian adversary [...] is found in a vast number of cultures around the world; it may be quasi-universal." The motif of the dragonslayer has enjoyed a vast popularity in Western literature and culture, from the epics of the Middle Ages to present day computer games.
Of all these cultural texts, romance, especially historical romance, has used the motif of the dragonslayer in perhaps the most unique way, namely by combining it with the folktale motif of the animal bridegroom. In this context, the alpha hero himself represents the dragon, and this connection can be made apparent in several different ways, for example, through similes and metaphors, through first and family names or titles, through nicknames, codenames and warrior's names, and through external signifiers such as tattoos. Just as in fairy tales and legends the dragon presents the utmost challenge for the hero, so does the dragon as animal bridegroom for the heroine in romance. It is her task to defeat the beast, not by slaying the dragon, but by healing the hero.
In my paper I show how romance authors evoke dragon imagery, how they revise the traditional narrative pattern of the dragonslayer narrative, and how their stories are connected to and refer to older texts.

"'It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly': The Loss of Sight in Teresa Medeiros's The Bride and the Beast and Yours Until Dawn." Present Difference: The Cultural Production of Disability. Manchester Metropolitan University. 6 - 8 January 2010.
The ability to see clearly and the loss of sight play an important role in the historical romances The Bride and the Beast (2001) and Yours Until Dawn (2004) by the American author Teresa Medeiros. While Yours Until Dawn features a blind hero, large parts of The Bride and the Beast are set during the night, and the darkness makes the heroine unable to see the face of the male protagonist. In both books the physical inability to see clearly is not only connected to a lack of recognition, but is also indicative of a lack of psychological insight. In Medeiros's two novels blindness thus functions as a symbol for internal problems the characters have to overcome in the course of the stories, namely their inability and unwillingness to face the truth about oneself and others. This psychological blindness also hinders the development of the love relationships. Therefore in both books the happy ending is dependant on the protagonists learning the same lesson the Fox teaches Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince: "It is only with one's heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

"The Seventh Heaven of Bachelorhood: Albany in Piccadilly." Beau Monde Conference. Dallas, TX. 10 July 2007.

“Peeping out on Piccadilly through a courtyard as old as itself is a dignified Mansion whose red-brick and stone front is as much a landmark as the Circus close by. Albany is its name, and it might be Arcady for all that countless thousands who daily pass it a few yards distant know,” wrote Harry Furniss in Paradise in Piccadilly. Albany was one of the first appartment houses in London, a luxurious haven for bachelors and only a stone-throw away from the clubs on St. James's Street. Moreover, for a time, the courtyard buildings housed the fencing academy of Henry Angelo, who probably shared his rooms with Gentleman Jackson in 1807.
The workshop explores the early history of Albany, how it was built as a townhouse for the first Lord Melbourne in 1771-74, how he swapped houses with the Duke of York and Albany, how the Duke in turn was forced to sell the mansion due his horrendous debts, and how it was eventually transformed into a fashionable residence for men of position and wealth.

"Revised Damsels in Distress: The Heroine of Modern Historical Romance." 20th Annual Feminist and Women's Studies (UK & Ireland) Association Conference: Feminism and Popular Culture. University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 29 June – 1 July 2007.

In the past, feminist critics accused popular romance not only of being a conservator of traditional genderroles (Radway), but also of preventing female readers from rebelling against the yoke of patriachy (Dubino). In his 1972 publication Writing Popular Fiction, Dean R. Koontz issued even harsher criticism: to an emancipated woman the heroines of romance must seem "foolish, dependent, and even pathetic", for they are, by definition, "somewhat timid, delicate, emotional and yet decidedly coltish about their sexuality . . . [they] cry and tremble and like to be kissed and cuddled . . . by their menfolk" (123-24). Given this context, it can come as no surprise to find romance heroines striking similar poses as the hapless damsels-in-distresses of late Victorian art: their soft, delicate bodies are contrasted with the hard, muscled bodies of the heroes, whose strength and superiority are further emphasized by stone and metal similes. Thus it would appear as if romance does indeed uphold traditional genderroles.
Yet a closer reading of romance novels, especially of those published in recent years, calls this interpretation into question. Romance heroines might have soft, delicate bodies, but unlike traditional damsels-in-distresses, they do not stand around waiting to be rescued by a knight in shining armour. (Indeed, it is often the other way around.) Instead of remaining passive, they take charge of their own fates, and the relationships they forge with the male protagonists are described as partnerships between equals. My paper shows how historical romances in particular, even though they are set in times which favoured traditional genderroles and demanded the submission of woman under the rule of man, revise the motif of the damsel-in-distress and depict modern, progressive genderroles within the love story.  

"The English on the Rhine." Beau Monde Conference. Atlanta, GA. 25 July 2006.

A workshop about British tourists on the Rhine and the invention of the so-called "Romantic Rhine" at the turn of the 19th century.

"Holland House." Beau Monde Conference. Reno, NV. 27 July 2005.

The workshop explores the history of Holland House and of its "queen", the notorious 3rd Lady Holland. Lady Holland was one of the great Whig hostesses of the early nineteenth century. She was born Elizabeth Vassal, the daughter of a rich  merchant family, and barely fifteen, she was forced to marry Sir Godfrey Webster, who was more than 20 years her senior. She was deeply unhappy in her marriage, especially when Sir Godfrey became increasingly violent. It is no wonder then that Elizabeth  tried to avoid the company of her husband as much as possible and travelled alone around the continent. In Italy she met Henry Richard Fox, 3rd Lord Holland, and fell in love with him. Soon, she was pregnant with his child and her husband started divorce  proceedings. The marriage was annulled in 1797, eight months after she had given birth to a son, Charles Fox Vassall - and perhaps this was the revenge of Sir Godfrey: he went to parliament for an annulment so late that this child was born illegitimate  and could not inherit Lord Holland's title. Two days after the annulment, Elizabeth married her Lord Holland.

The divorce was the scandal of the year, and Lady Holland would never quite overcome the resulting damage to her reputation. Yet she did not pay any heed to the gossipmongers and instead managed to make Holland House in Kensington a glittering social,  political and cultural centre. Regular guests to Holland House included Sir Walter Scott, Byron; John Kemble, the famous actor; Henry Luttrell, one of the most famous wits of the Regency and a protegee of the Duchess of Devonshire; Palmerston, the ladies'  man, who was known as "Cupid" at Almack's, but more importantly was Secretary at War for nearly 20 years (1809-1830), Foreign Secretary for another twenty, and later Prime Minister under Queen Victoria; the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo and the Spanish-Irish  poet José Maria Blanco White, who acted as tutor for Lord Holland's heir Henry for a while.


"The Romantic Wilderness: Scotland in American Popular Romance since the 1990s." Scotland's Cultural Standing and Identity. Scottish Studies Conference. Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germersheim. 25 - 27 February 2005.

In 2002 romance fiction comprised one third of all popular fiction sold in the U.S.A. Furthermore, a reader survey showed that more than half of the romance readers in America were interested in novels set in Scotland. This interest is reflected by the high number of Scottish romances which have been published since the early 1990s, and can be regarded as a result of the success of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander-series (1991ff). Yet while in the early 1990s readers favoured historicals set during the Jacobite Risings, the trend has now shifted towards paranormals (e.g., Karen Marie Moning's The Immortal Highlander, 2004) and funny contemporaries with a Scottish setting (e.g., Katie MacAlister's Men in Kilts, 2003). Still, most Scottish romance novels share similarities in the depiction of the country and its people. On the basis of three aspects of Scottish romance – history, setting, and male protagonist –, my paper will explore how these novels use a specific form of landscape and specific features of Scottish culture (e.g., the kilt) in order to construct Scotland as a romantic wilderness, and how this wildness of place and man in turn enhances important aspects of the typical romance novel.

"Taming the Big, Bad Wolf: The Return of the Alpha Hero in Modern Popular Romance." Maskulinität. 5. Mainzer Workshop Frauen- und Genderforschung. Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. 22 January 2005.
The term “alpha hero” was coined by the British romance publisher Alan Boon in the 1930s and refers to what Boon called a “law of nature”, namely, “that the female of the species will be most intensely attracted to the strongest male of the species, or the Alpha” (Joseph McAleer 150). While the term  has come up only at the beginning of the 20th century, the concept itself is much older, as can be seen, e.g., by the description of Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
For many decades, the alpha man – tall, dark and dangerous, both dominant and domineering – was the standard hero in popular romance and was one reason why feminist critics despised the genre so much. The enduring popularity of the alpha hero with readers and writers was only broken in the 1980s, when a new form of male protagonist emerged: the tender softie, the understanding New Age man. Even though this form of hero tied in with real-life ideals of masculinity, readers soon grew tired of it – and as a result the alpha man saw a triumphant return from the 1990s onward.
This paper explores the role and the appeal of the alpha hero and how current ideals of masculinity are incoporated in the construction of maleness in popular romance.

"Death, Mourning, and Femininity in 19th-Century Britain." RWA National Conference. Dallas, TX. July 2004.
The workshop gives an overview of the rituals of death and dying in nineteenth-century Britain.

"Die Suche nach Männlichkeit in Matthew Bournes Swan Lake." Gender und Intermedialität. 4. Mainzer Workshop Frauen- und Genderforschung. Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. 24 January 2004.
Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake is one of the most popular ballets; indeed, it has become a synonym for classical ballet as such. Classical ballet as we know it today, and especially the gender roles in classical ballet, go back to the early nineteenth century. According to Sally Barnes in Dancing Women, "The era of the Romantic ballet marks the beginning of women's ascendancy on the dance stage. Themes of the supernatural, exotic folklore, and the quest for the ideal were skillfully realized in the union of scenic effects, diaphanous costumes, shadowy gas lighting, and above all, the expressive use of dance technique, in particular the pointework and lightness of the female dancer [...]" (12). Thus, the ballerina who glides seemingly weightlessly across the stage came to embody the bourgeois ideal of the weak, ethereal woman, but also the dangerous femme fatale, as the character of Odette / Odile, the Black Swan and White Swan in Swan Lake, makes apparent.

If Swan Lake is the embodiment of classical ballet, then it also embodies the many problems connected to classical ballet, especially for male dancers. On the one hand, they are often confronted with (homophobic) prejudices, on the other, they have to deal with the frustrations classical ballet engenders: "In nineteenth century roles," William Trevitt, a former dancer of the Royal Ballet, said in an interview, "you spend fifty percent of your time on stage matching lines or standing behind the ballerina. You are essentially an appendage to her. That's how Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are."

Now imagine the shock of the London audience when Matthew Bourne's version of Swan Lake, which became known as the "all-male Swan Lake" or "gay Swan Lake", premiered in 1995: not only did he get rid of the traditional fairy tale plot and put the focus on the psychological unravelling of the Prince, but perhaps even more importantly, the swans were all danced by men.Their naked, white-powdered torsi in combination with white feather trousers lend them an animalic wildness and strength - a decided contrast to the female gracefulness of the original. Moreover, the pairing of Prince and male Swan results in rather strong homoerotic overtones, especially in Act III, when the White Swan becomes the black-leathered Stranger, who crashes the royal ball and triggers the Prince's final descent into madness.

My paper explores the psychological crisis of the Prince that is at the core of Bourne's Swan Lake, and his search for masculinity.

"Of Dragons, Knights, and Virgin Maidens: Dragonslaying through Three Centuries." International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Ft Lauderdale, FL. March 2002.


Other Presentations and Workshops

"Doktorhut und Federboa." Presentation at the end-of-term celebration of the Fachbereich 05 Philosophie & Philologie. Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz. 12 February 2010.
How to be a romance writer and an academic.

"Historical Romance." Guest lecture in the undergraduate seminar "Introduction to the Historical Novel", held by Vera Ruttmann. Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz. Summer term 2009.

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