chapter  1
Defining Illustration Studies: Towards a New Academic Discipline
ByPaul Goldman
Pages 20

This chapter responds to critical occlusion by situating Pre-Raphaelite art within contemporary scientific discourses about time and matter, geology and anatomy. It argues that the decomposing corpses figured in Christina Rossetti's poetic images and Ford Madox Brown's and Frederick Sandys's graphic images convey Victorian fears that the human body's after life might share the fate of mice and other vertebrates, ultimately consisting in nothing more than fossilized remains described vividly in Robert Chambers's Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Vestiges of attraction are evident in Pre-Raphaelite poems and pictures from inception of the movement in late 1840's. While scholars have generally attributed the ubiquity of death themes to Pre-Raphaelite romanticism and medievalism, the gothic horror of images may derive as much from prevalent discourses of nineteenth-century popular science as from artistic traditions of representation. As Elizabeth Prettejohn points out, scientific contexts have been relatively neglected by critics, despite the Pre-Raphaelite's empirical practice of acute observation and drawing from nature.