Joel Merriner


J. R. R. Tolkien once remarked in a 1949 letter to George Allen & Unwin that his friends were so impressed by Pauline Baynes’ illustrations for Farmer Giles of Ham that they labelled his text an adjunct to her drawings. This apparently light-hearted anecdote conceals an interesting truth: the relationship between text and image can be problematic and the reading of an illustration depends largely on the culturally acquired “discursive precedents” which an individual viewer brings to the act of looking. This situation may be further complicated when account is taken of any incidences of visual borrowing (motif) within the illustration. The primary purpose of this dissertation is to identify such incidences of visual borrowing and, by extension, intertextuality within nine of Sergei Iukhimov’s Soviet era illustrations for Natalya Grigor’eva and Vladimir Grushetskij’s 1993 Russian translation of The Lord of the Rings. In Chapter One I define two distinct types of visual borrowing detectable within the nine case studies: general correspondence and direct visual prototype. I then establish a context for the research by reviewing the previous scholarship in the area, followed by a short biography of Iukhimov, which is supplemented by his own words on the creative process. Chapter One concludes with an explanation of my methodological approach, describing how elements of the semiotics and iconography paradigms are synthesised to form a new theoretical model for the visual analysis of the case studies. Chapter Two provides a detailed examination of the cultural and socio-political backstory to Iukhimov’s work, tracing the history of Russian Tolkienism and translation from the early 1960s until the official publication of the G&G translation in 1993. The final chapter begins with a holistic survey of the corpus after which the case studies are divided into sub-categories according to their visual borrowing and the strength of any resulting intertextual implications. Subsequent visual analysis reveals within the case studies a diversity of borrowed biblical and historical motifs, derived from sources such as hagiographic paintings, manuscript miniatures and archaeological artefacts - many of which are entirely new to Tolkien scholarship. I also demonstrate how, in several case studies, certain borrowed motifs retain enough of their original iconography that, when combined with the new Tolkienian motif, give rise to polysemy. To conclude, I postulate that Iukhimov’s corpus functions most effectively when viewed as a visual affirmation of the plurality of images which existed outside of Soviet totalitarianism.

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