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Reviewed by:
  • Hogarth in Context: Ten Essays and a Bibliography, and: Reading Iconotexts: From Swift to the French Revolution
  • Bernd Krysmanski
Joachim Möller, ed., Hogarth in Context: Ten Essays and a Bibliography (Marburg: Jonas Verlag, 1996). Pp. 168. DM 68.00.
Peter Wagner, Reading Iconotexts: From Swift to the French Revolution (London: Reaktion Books, 1995). Pp. 211. £19.95.

Both of these books deal with the text-image relationship, but in different ways. Joachim Möller, a specialist in English book illustration, sets William Hogarth, more traditionally, in the borderland between the sister arts. He presents ten separate essays by literary and art historians who each analyze Hogarth’s works and manifold sources from their own distinct points of view. Their divergent conclusions naturally include some unavoidable overlaps. The second book, by Peter Wagner, the German expert on eighteenth-century erotic engravings and Hogarth’s graphic works, elaborates in one cohesive argument the opinion of a single author. From an intertextual, poststructuralist, and deconstructive point of view, influenced by current French theory, he enthusiastically attacks the widespread intentionalist interpretation of prints and promotes new strategies for reading them.

The first of the “Ten Essays” in Möller’s book is Werner Busch’s “Lektüreprobleme bei Hogarth: Zur Mehrdeutigkeit realistischer Kunst” (17–35). In a sound recapitulation of the author’s twenty-year research on Hogarth, Busch encourages multilayered, subjective readings of Hogarth’s pictures in the context of the eighteenth-century’s questioning of the rigid classical figurative vocabulary and canons of sign and meaning. Pictorial allusions in Cruelty in Perfection (which imitates a Capture of Christ) or the eighth scene of the Rake series (recalling a Lamentation) show Hogarth appropriating high-art conventions for profane scenes, but only because he found the structural vocabulary still effective. Its content he dismissed in favor of a contemporary realism. Ronald Paulson’s essay “The Harlot’s Progress and the Origins of the Novel” (36–45) argues that Samuel Richardson’s Pamela rewrites Hogarth’s Harlot series and that John Cleland recovers the Harlot as an aesthetics in Fanny Hill. This argument predates Paulson’s somewhat revised, but equally plausible, opinion in his own standard three-volume Hogarth (1991–93). (Möller’s collection of essays was rather long in gestation.) In “Hogarth, Dualistic Thinking, and the Open Culture” (48–60), Stephen C. Behrendt sees in Hogarth the Zeitgeist of the eighteenth century with its tendency toward variety. Hogarth’s “open,” dualistic, complex, and ambiguous pictures alluding to art, literature, politics, or religion, with their complexity and inconsistent representation of human experiences, can only be understood if the viewer takes an active part in decoding the multiple meanings. The next two essays deal with Hogarth and the theater. Robert L. S. Cowley’s “William Hogarth’s Indian Emperor and John Dryden’s Defence of ‘An Essay of Dramatic Poesie’: Portraiture as Response to Literary Debate” (61–71) reads Hogarth’s representation of an amateur performance of Dryden’s The Emperor of India as a comment on Dryden and Sir Robert Howard’s dispute on the validity of the classical unities of place and time. According to Cowley, Hogarth’s picture, as “a visual essay on the nature of theatrical [End Page 139] illusion,” would second Dryden: one place can represent two simultaneously, both stage and auditorium. In her essay, “Dramatic Analogues in William Hogarth’s Marriage A-la-Mode” (72–86), Mary Klinger Lindberg, the world’s authority on Hogarth and the London theater, studies parallels between contemporary dramas, particularly comedies by Colley Cibber and Richard Steele, and the six scenes of Marriage A-la-Mode. She examines how Hogarth adopts “stage themes and conventions” and “how specific analogues from the plays work in the visual sequence.” In “Satires on Seats of Power in the Age of Hogarth and Gillray” (87–105), Vincent Caretta resumes his discussion of English satire in George III and the Satirists from Hogarth to Byron (1990). He traces to Hogarth’s The Punishment Inflicted on Lemuel Gulliver and some other prints the familiar British tradition, embodied in James Gillray’s political caricatures, of satirizing abuses of royal power in scatological images. Focusing on the same engraving...

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pp. 139-141
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