Rockwell Center Society of Fellows 2020
Serious Thinking About Popular Pictures
Problems in the History and Criticism of Printed Images
Cultural engagement with the history of popular images has accelerated in the 21st century. There is a growing awareness that illustration and comics have mattered more in the cultural history of the modern period than has been properly recognized, and museum curators and academics have begun to work with popular materials to a greater degree than before. Institutional developments have paralleled rising interest in these topics.
And yet, despite increased engagement, the critical focus of most work has tended to be local, biographical and analytically underdeveloped. The Rockwell Center, in consultation with other institutional and critical participants in these somewhat inchoate fields, recognizes a methodological vacuum at the heart of popular image studies. Ideological biases and a lack of critical material continues to compromise our understanding of visual culture in a social context, which results in an incomplete view of our shared cultural history.
To address this critical lacuna, the Rockwell Center envisions a two-year project designed to bring leading thinkers and fresh perspectives to the study of published images, with the goal of producing a series of foundational statements of the emerging field, delivered via a broadcast symposia and published and digital volumes. The group will be convened twice a year, engaged in discussion and debate, and charged to pose and answer key questions for what may be an emerging discipline.
Fellows will consider the following topics and problems:
Illustration as Social Text
Despite their seeming invisibility to serious commentators, popular images and the social texts in which they were embedded (e.g., The Ladies’ Home Journal, the Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated) contributed to their audiences’ sense of the culture in which they lived. How can such sources add to our understanding of the modern period?
Hierarchies and Exclusions
Aesthetic judgments have had an enormous impact on definitions of culture. They have insulated high culture from certain forms of scrutiny, but more importantly they have retarded serious cultural thinking about popular forms. In which ways do hierarchical distinctions offer valuable distinctions of persisting value? How may the democratic values of popular culture be rehabilitated for another era?
Due to the highly local, disparate and atomized character of much writing on popular images, we lack shared taxonomy and vocabulary for description and analysis. How might this problem be solved? Should it be, during an era of intellectual history that tends to prize the fluid and suspect the fixed?
Anonymity and Authorship
The lionization of authorship and cult of singular artistry has caused work of obvious cultural relevance to be shunted aside, or to be discussed as if no particular person or community of production created it. How can we overcome the cult of the creator while simultaneously respecting and interrogating communities of production in the absence of clear credits?
Canonical and Historiographical Questions
We are in need of reflection on whether and how to settle on sets of indispensably important practitioners. How do we speak of significance? Is there such a thing as the history of American illustration, or put another way, can there be a historiography of American illustration? How do the related fields of comics, cartooning and animated film participate in such narratives?
Languages of Formation & Visual Analysis
Humanists often engage popular images without proper visual training. Close looking is essential for successful encounters with images and objects, especially popular sources “hidden in plain sight.” Why and how might familiarity with production methods matter? What approaches to training scholars in close looking might be imported from art and design training and/or art historical study?
Call For Participation
The Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies seeks to engage a group of scholars and critics to explore, debate and write on key problems in the history and criticism of the popular printed image in the United States between 1850 and the present. The Center launches this effort to catalyze the creation of founding documents in the study of illustration and illustrated materials, an underdeveloped field.
Fellows will be expected to: meet twice annually; write one targeted paper per year; engage in dialogue with other Fellows; participate in a symposia or program; contribute to a privately maintained blog; and permit the Rockwell Center to publish designated works in order to disseminate the results of the seminar.
Application/Statement of Interest
The Center seeks to attract candidates for the seminar program with substantial experience and demonstrated interest in the study of and/or engagement with modern cultural production. Scholars, critics, curators and practitioners with at least five years of experience in their field are invited to apply. Demonstrated ability to engage with others in productive dialogue and exchange is required.
Fellows will receive a stipend of $5,000 per calendar year as well as travel expenses.
Interested parties should submit a statement of interest which responds to the Topics and Problems outlined above. Which areas are of interest to the candidate, and why? The Statement of Interest should not exceed 1000 words. In addition to the Statement of Interest, the application should include a cover letter, a current CV, a writing sample, and a list of three referees.
Senior Fellow/Project Leader
Douglas B. Dowd
Professor of Art and American Culture Studies
Sam Fox School of Design and Dowd Modern Graphic History Library, Washington University in St. Louis
April 3, 2019 Applications Due
May 15, 2019 Fellows Announced
Summer 2019 Society of Fellows First Convening
Rockwell Scholars Fellowship Program
The Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies awards annual fellowships promoting the scholarly study of American illustration art to advance understanding of the role of published images in shaping and reflecting culture. Rockwell Center Fellowships are open to senior scholars, advanced graduate students, and museum professionals choosing to pursue research or projects in or relating to the subject field of illustration art from diverse academic perspectives, including but not limited to Art History, American Studies, Visual Culture Studies, and History.
Rockwell Center Fellowships are awarded on an annual basis to four recipients
This fellowship may be used during the year/twelve month period for which it is awarded. The term of these grants may be carried out in residence at the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Fellow’s home institution, or at another appropriate site.
Fellows will receive a stipend of $1,500 in support of their work.
Rockwell Center Senior Fellowships are intended for scholars with a distinguished publication record who hold a doctoral degree, or who possess an equivalent record of professional accomplishment at the time of application.
Rockwell Center Dissertation Fellowships are open to doctoral candidates who are currently working on dissertation research or writing in or relating to the field of American illustration art and visual studies.
Rockwell Center Fellow Application Requirements
Senior Fellow and Dissertation Fellow Applicants Should:
Offer a proposal for scholarly research focused on or relating to a topic about American illustration art or referencing published images. Although the topic may be historically and/or theoretically grounded, attention to the art object and/or image should be foremost. Projects must be object and/or culturally oriented, employing art historical or visual studies approaches.
Applications should include:
- Completed application form (available at www.rcavs.org)
- Research proposal (up to five pages, double spaced)
- Research bibliography
- Selected images
- Curriculum vitae
- Two letters of reference
April 3, 2019 Applications Due
May 15, 2019 Fellows Announced
May 31, 2019 to May 31, 2019 Research Period