Rodolphe Töpffer and Romanticism

This essay seeks to outline Rodolphe Töpffer’s relationship with Romanticism in light of the discourse surrounding his introduction to France’s literary scene. While Töpffer’s prose fiction lived in delicate symbiosis with Romanticism, his graphic novels playfully deconstructed it and his æsthetic discourse unequivocally combated defining aspects of it. Hence, sponsored successively by Xavier de Maistre, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Töpffer subsequently brought upon himself Théophile Gautier’s scorn. As such object of polemics, Töpffer’s work provides a useful lens for seeing the passage from one Romanticism to another. His situation within nineteenth-century culture is paradoxical: simultaneously part of the rearguard at a key juncture of a cultural paradigm shift and at the vanguard of a narrative revolution that would open the way for one of the next century’s most freewheeling forms of storytelling. (PW)

Willems, Philippe.
Volume 2009 Spring-Summer; 37(3-4): 227-46.