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Programme 2: Standards

Caricatures and Globalisation

(Coordinator: J.-C. Gardes)


The contemporary notion of caricature originated from the conjunction of two different traditions that eventually united. These were the art of caricatura – a term created in the mid-17th century to define the exaggerated portraits painted by the Caracci, essentially for entertaining purposes – and the art of the infamous and satirical images of the leaflets that appeared during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, images that relied on pictorial symbolism rather than artistic transformation. Can be considered as constitutive elements of the caricatural genre:


1. A phenomenon of detachment with respect to the object or the person depicted. This effect is often achieved by a graphical alteration that can take various forms, but it can also be obtained by other means: a parody, quote, game, key and drawing, etc.

2. Laughter or at least a smile. The pleasure gained on the one hand by the recognition of the object or the person and, on the other, by the feeling of superiority experienced in relation to the criticised phenomena, aims to elicit the adherence of the receiver.

3. A message. Referring to political or social developments, the caricaturist seeks to deliver a message, at the risk of otherwise lapsing into the grotesque.


From this summary definition arise many questions about the notions of standards and deviations, especially within the global context in which all production of images takes place today. The tragic events that occurred at Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 serve to remind us of the extent of the problem posed by this genre at the confluence of various disciplines.


It seems necessary, in the continuity of the work undertaken previously and considering the various constituent elements of caricature, to analyse the following themes as precisely as possible:


1. The rhetorical processes inherent in caricature

What are the main processes employed by caricaturists to achieve the aforementioned detachment? It is clear that the processes used are not all universal and that the analysis of the detachment effect with respect to the canon of representation must take into account the periods of creation and the cultures in which the works are produced. In formal terms, the Chinese caricature, for example, has very little in common with the French caricature. It is therefore a matter of questioning the reasons for this difference, detrimental to understanding the message of the other. It is also essential to attempt to identify those influences that are likely to become increasingly important in the era of the Internet, to identify the networks that have emerged over recent decades, and to question whether the observed differences are likely to become less marked.


2. The specificities of laughter

Laughter is undoubtedly a cultural object that sometimes has great difficulty in crossing certain borders, even between neighbouring countries, as Baudelaire so astutely observed a century and a half ago. Using comparative studies, we will try to identify the motives behind humour and satire, and to grasp the cultural and/or psychological implications that make it possible to understand the observed differences. It is also necessary to carry out diachronic studies that highlight the evolution of laughter within given societies and complement existing studies.


3. Freedom of expression and caricature

Apart from the legislative framework specific to each country, every society is governed by a certain number of tacit laws, taboos that it is difficult to escape. It is therefore essential not only to identify differences in legislation on censorship, but also to observe the varying responses of artists to the more or less diffuse pressures exerted by society. While some claim a certain self-censorship and advocate forms of circumvention to get around taboos, others undoubtedly seek to break them. Are caricaturists primarily on the side of those who seek to combat moral or religious dictates? And in this case, do they openly speak out against such dictates, or do they resort to roundabout ways?


Taboos undoubtedly differ with the times, the countries and the cultures concerned. But are these taboos purely cultural in nature or can some be considered as universal?


The circulation of images today is extremely fast. Charlie Hebdo cartoons become immediately known in all parts of the world, including in countries stuck in political power relations that go far beyond the satirical context. To what extent do cartoonists take into account the future reception of their caricatures and their often fanatical exploitation, not in their own country, but in sometimes very different cultures on other sides of the world? There indeed seems to be a split between the supporters of an ethic of conviction and those of an ethic of responsibility (Max Weber).



Kitsch and Latitudes

(Coordinator: L. Souquet)


Up to now, the work we have carried out has focused on a definition of kitsch (first study day) and on the study of this notion through the ages (second study day on the Baroque, third on Antiquity and fourth on contemporary art). After our symposium “Kitsch and Ideologies”, scheduled for the end of 2016, we will now go on to analyse the notion of kitsch with relation to space. Our general theme for the new Plan, from 2017, will be “Kitsch and Latitudes”. This theme will be explored along two main complementary and related lines: “East and West” and “Kitsch and Objects”.


* East and West

This sub-theme aims to explore the cultural areas of the notion of kitsch, from the East, through Europe, to the Americas. One of the objectives of this approach will be the analysis of the notion of kitsch or of ‘bad taste’ in different cultures and regions around the world. Does the notion of kitsch exist in countries such as China or India, for example? Why and how did the ‘chinoiseries’ that were so much in vogue in the Europe of the 18th and 19th centuries go on to become associated with this notion of kitsch? We can also note a certain contempt on the part of the European elites for Middle Eastern taste or for North American popular culture. What do these aesthetic judgements reveal? We will try to decipher the socio-cultural mechanisms of judgement (Bourdieu, etc.) and rejection of the taste of “the Other”, often characteristic of a hegemonic or even European-centric positioning. These various and converging views will be studied from different perspectives, including art history, sociology, and literary, musical or cinematic analysis.


- One study day on “Kitsch and the East” will serve to open the cultural areas. Our colleagues Iside Costantini (an expert in relations between Great Britain and China) and Yue Yue (sinologist) wish to be involved in this project. We will question the validity of the notion of kitsch in the Middle East and in Asia, as well as the representations of the East in Western cultures (plastic arts, literature, cinema, etc.). The work on caricatures will fit in well here (J.-C. Gardes). 


- One study day on “Kitsch and the Americas”. This event could be organised in Lorient (with the help of M.-C. Michaud and in collaboration with the Institut des Amériques). The notions of carnival and carnivalisation could be at the heart of this approach.


- “Kitsch in the Brazilian Media”. Our colleague Solange Wajnman, sociologist, suggests setting up a study group – with colleagues from the University of São Paulo (Brazil) – around the repercussions of the kitsch culture of Latin America in Brazil from the 1940s and 50s, when radio, cinema and television introduced the culture of drama, nostalgia and bad taste. They propose establishing a genealogical route of this Hispanic culture in Brazil up to the present day: music, telenovelas, fashion, etc. In short, S. Wajnman and her colleagues suggest studying a point of the creation of kitsch culture in Brazil based on the genealogical study of the media.

This proposal could be worked into the “Kitsch and the Americas” study day project. It would also allow for developing links with the University of São Paulo and possibly other Brazilian and Latin American universities.


- Jaqueline Zanchetta proposes working on the links between kitsch and music genres traditional to Latin America (tango, bolero, etc.). Our colleague Emmanuelle Bousquet in Nantes, an expert in Italian opera, also wishes to work closely with us on this subject (it would be interesting to analyse the representation of the East in such operas as Madame Butterfly, for example). A study day will therefore be devoted to the relationships “Kitsch and Music, East and West”. This study day could also be organised in collaboration with the École des Beaux-Arts of Brest and the University and School of Fine Arts in La Plata, Argentina.


- Michael Rinn suggests a study day on “Kitsch and Bad Taste: The Subjectivity of Flavours”.

The notion of kitsch will be explored in the field of taste: the food preferences of other social backgrounds (Bourdieu, Hoggart, Santarsiero) and/or cultures are also the subject of value judgements (Europeans can consider Mexican food to be “too” spicy and oriental pastries “too” sweet, etc.). This theme is partially in line with that of Fátima Rodríguez on “Herbs”.


- This sub-theme could notably be based on the following works:

ARRAULT, Valérie, L’empire du kitsch, Paris, Klincksieck, 2010.

ECO, Umberto (edited by), History of Beauty (2002), Paris, Flammarion, 2004.

ECO, Umberto, On Ugliness, Paris, Flammarion, 2007.

GENIN, Christophe, Kitsch dans l’âme, Vrin, “Matière étrangère », 2010.

LEIDUAN, Alessandro, Le problème esthétique chez Umberto Eco. Pour une phénoménologie du kitsch contemporain, Doctoral thesis in Italian Language, Literature and Civilisation, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, 2005, unpublished.


* Kitsch and Objects (This second sub-theme is related to the first.)

- Myriam Marrache-Gouraud proposes the organisation of a study day on objects, and notably the question of “cult” objects (all things kitschissime). Rather than directing reflection only towards art itself, we could look at the phenomenon of collections (which does not exclude art, on the contrary, and even ultra-contemporary art: see Jeff Koons or the Boltanski series of objects). The idea would be to question the way (which varies depending on the epoch) in which an object (even commonplace at first sight, mass produced and therefore not remotely unique) becomes a “collectible” object or one that must simply be “exhibited”, whether at home or in a museum. This applies as much to art and museology as to sociology (societal phenomenon, fad, marketing), the history of collections and even science via the curiosity cabinets (with the coexistence of these objects in an environment related to natural history), to history itself (since objects cannot be the same from one period to another, varying with fashions and trends), and possibly even the cinema if we consider derivative objects (a collection of Star Wars paraphernalia can be considered kitsch). Such an approach would also allow for delimiting, in another way, what is referred to as a “curiosity”, and to know when and under what conditions this denomination meets that of “kitsch” or becomes “kitsch”. This study day could be entitled: “Kitsch Objects, From Curiosities to Cult Objects: Kitsch and Collections”.


- This sub-theme will notably be based on the following works:

BAUDRILLARD, Jean, Le Système des Objets, Éditions Gallimard, Paris, 1968.

DORFLES, Gillo, Le Kitsch, un catalogue raisonné du mauvais goût, translated from the Italian by Paul Alexandre, preface by Jean Duvignaud, Éditions Complexe, Brussels, 1978.

MARRACHE-GOURAUD, Myriam, “Le ‘magasin du monde’ en Poitou. Cabinets et curieux aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles”, in Curiosité et cabinets de curiosités, ed. D. Moncond’huy, Neuilly, Atlande, 2004, p. 93-108.

MARRACHE-GOURAUD, Myriam, “Quand l’aloès se pare des plumes du perroquet. Présentation énigmatique, rareté et curiosité”, in L’énigmatique à la Renaissance : formes, significations, esthétiques. RHR conference proceedings (Lyon, 7-10 September 2005), cumulative works of A. Tournon, D. Martin and P. Servet, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2008, p. 415-425.

MARRACHE-GOURAUD, Myriam, “L’Amérindien et le curieux : rencontre de deux mondes”, in Un continent en partage. Cinq siècles de rencontres entre Amérindiens et Français, ed. M. Augeron and G. Havard, Paris, Les Indes Savantes, 2013, p. 43-52.

MOLES, Abraham, Psychologie du Kitsch, l’art du bonheur, Maison Mame, Paris, 1971.


Our work on the notion of kitsch attracts the interest of many researchers leading to an increasing number of projects. Here are some guidelines and proposals that could possibly complete our programme:

- One study day on “Kitsch and Caricatures” (this project is proposed by Isabelle Le Corff and J.-C. Gardes).

- Hélène Machinal would be interested in a study day and/or publication on “Kitsch and Fantasy”.

- “Kitsch, Camp and Gay Subculture”. The gay genre and subculture are also very relevant themes when working on the notion of kitsch. These are promising themes that interest several UBO researchers. This theme can also be transversal with others like fantasy, caricatures, etc.



Standards and Digital Technologies in the Modern Era

(Coordinators: A. Cossic and A. Kerhervé)


This research programme would represent an extension of the current sub-field on sociability in the Age of Enlightenment. In particular, it would allow further study of the subject and presentation of the results via the digital humanities, often associated with 18th-century studies.

It would have two main objectives:


DIGITENS: Digital Encyclopaedia of Sociability in Great Britain during the Age of Enlightenment, led by Annick Cossic

The DIGITENS project aims to create a digital encyclopaedia of sociability in Great Britain during the Age of Enlightenment, from which it will be possible to access a historical anthology of textual and iconographic sources. Given its electronic and multidisciplinary nature, it is primarily aimed at the Anglophone and Francophone community of researchers. It could, however, be more widely aimed at the general public who, through its implementation and subsequent consultation and use, will be encouraged to question an essential value of the Enlightenment, expressed in various ways in the 21st century ranging from the permanence of institutional spaces of sociability to that of “sociable” commodities such as coffee or tea, as well as practices of sociability such as friendship. The intersection of approaches – sociological, philosophical, linguistic, historic and literary – will allow for establishing an innovative and evolutionary product unique to date in the world of research.  Dedicated website:


18CLW: Eighteenth-Century Letter-Writers, led by Alain Kerhervé

Establishment of an online database of 88 British epistolary manuals published between 1700 and 1800, possibly supplemented later by older manuals and other European manuals. The basic idea is to go back to the source of epistolary theory and standards in order to better understand and explain the epistolary production of the period, whether private correspondence or epistolary novels. The establishment of this database would be done in parallel to the development of an innovative interface that allows for cross-referencing the texts in an automated way. The theoretical reflection has already been carried out and applications for research in arts, literature and languages could be numerous. The first contacts have been established with Huma-Num.



Biblical Intertextuality and Representations: Standards and Divergences

(Coordinators: B. Jeanjean, I. Durand)


The research programme on Biblical intertextuality and representations undertaken within the framework of the previous contract now proposes to examine the different rewritings of Biblical figures and topoi in texts and images. While the sacred character of the Biblical text undoubtedly constitutes both a literary and doctrinal standard, it is important to grasp to what extent its rewritings and diversions from the text fall within this standard or deviate from it with apologetic, parodic, critical or purely aesthetic purposes. There are thus leading lines that run throughout Biblical intertextuality and representations, from the substratum of the Holy Scriptures to the metamorphoses made to them by the literary, iconographic or cinematic creations inspired by them.


The Biblical text in itself is already a venue for observing such leading lines through the problematic extension of the Jewish Scriptures by the Christian Scriptures. While Christians accept and adhere to the Old Testament texts, Jews deny any sacred nature inherent in the New Testament. Within the doctrinal controversies that characterise the history of Christianity up to the 21st century, recourse to Scriptural arguments constitutes an established argument, even though the latter can only be exercised within the framework of a consensus, ever contested, on the interpretation of the texts invoked.

The innumerable rewritings that Biblical texts are subject to are also organised along various leading lines, depending on whether they are part of the extension, diversion or overthrow of the original Biblical standard.


We will therefore try to measure the degree of deviation separating the claimed Biblical model from the intention motivating its re-use. In a diachronic perspective, we can also question the paradoxical relationship that, in such rewritings, can connect the artist’s apparent intention in his/her time and the unpredictable or unexpected consequences of reference to Biblical representations within the context of contemporary reception.

Two major hermeneutic approaches can thus be seen, depending on whether we consider the leading lines internal to the Biblical text and its confessional uses, or those that result in transposing the sacred standard into the sphere of the profane.


The methodology used to derive such leading lines is based on the confrontation of the approaches to the question specific to the different artistic fields or cultural contexts in which the influence of the Bible is felt. While the approach by several researchers involved in this programme is predominantly literary, other members of the team whose field of research is more concerned with caricature, painting, photography or cinema, will regularly contribute their perspectives. This is therefore an interdisciplinary project at the intersection of both disciplines (Greek, Latin, French, English-, Spanish- and German-speaking literatures, linguistics and history) and approaches (narratological, anthropological, aesthetic and political). External researchers will be solicited via calls for papers on dedicated information and dissemination websites, as well as through personal contact via national and international networks specific to each subject area.


The work will take the form of a regular bi-monthly seminar, for a period of two and a half years, on themes defined by the team and each time targeting a particular aspect of the Biblical model. The first seminar could take a look at the main women in the Bible, from Eve right up to Mary Magdalene, including Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Susanna, Judith, and so on, with the exception of the Virgin Mary who was the subject of a symposium during the 2012-2016 contract. The second seminar could examine the prophets and their relations with the political authorities. These seminars, which involve members of the team attached to the universities of Brest and Lorient, will be held alternately at the UBO and the UBS.


An international symposium on “The Bible As Seen Through Its Rewritings” could give rise to an intersection of literary, iconographic and cinematographic approaches enabling the leading lines of Biblical intertextuality and representations to be examined outside of the context of the necessarily more restrictive themes of the research seminars.