The Artists' Library: Uses of Literary Thought in Film and Visual Arts (1975-2015) 


Libraries are a key aspect of visual creation in filmic modernity. Given that filmic narrative montage was inspired by realist storytelling, books and reading have always been behind the construction of the visual. However, it was with the advent of filmic modernity that the filmmaker's library acquired an inescapable relevance. Not only do the characters in modern films read, quote and discuss novels, essays and poems, which also appear in the shot, but since the 1970s, when literary theory conflated with film theory, the filmmaker's library has become explicitly associated with the film image, almost ostentatiously so, as part of its creation and as a key instrument for its correct understanding. Such is the case with Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), the film credits of which offer a “recommended bibliography” for the viewer to bear in mind during the screening. The bibliography does not include the Marquis de Sade's book Les Cent Vingt Journées de Sodome, ou l'École du libertinage, which inspired the film's title, but rather works by Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, Philippe Sollers, Pierre Klossowski and Maurice Blanchot, amongst others, which discuss the oeuvre of the Marquis. These works pose critical questions about transgression and writing that Pasolini has taken into account during his own reading of the novel. The filmmaker's library thus becomes the matter that inspires the artist's critical gaze, and which sustains both his creation of images and his artistic vision.


Starting, then, from the paradigmatic case of Pasolini's film, this monographic issue proposes to bring together the most recent studies of those libraries that underlie, explicitly or implicitly, visual creation from 1975 (the year Pasolini’s film was released) until 2015. In particular, we aim to map research on the uses (stated, implied, of even silenced) of literary thought, critical theory and comparativism between the arts in contemporary visual creation.


Bearing in mind that the encounters, echoes and interferences between film and visual arts have become more intense in the last few decades, we would also welcome research addressing the presence of literary paradigms in any of the artistic languages that stem from the technical fixation with images.


Tentatively, we propose the following topics:

a) Uses of literary theory in film and visual arts.

b) Artists' libraries: both existing and those imaged by critics. 

c) Representation of literary debates in visual creation.

d) Traces of the text in visual arts.

e) Literary criticism and film adaptations.

f) Function and uses of literary debates in the creation of video exhibitions, video theatre and other audiovisual media.

g) The rejected library: censored, concealed or destroyed texts.


Annalisa Mirizio


FaLang translation system by Faboba


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