GENESIS 2022

Creative Revision

Exercises in Comparative Genetic Criticism


The third GENESIS conference will take place at the University of Oxford (Jesus College), 15-17 March 2022.

Revising, reworking or revamping is a crucial element of any artistic process. In a narrow sense, this revision can be the late phase in the genesis shortly before the work of art is made public. In a broader sense, it may also include other forms of re-vision, of looking again.

For instance, a recent exhibition of Rubens’ ‘intertextual’ appropriations in Frankfurt (Städel museum) showed how the artist gradually processed his own impression and sketch of a sculpture of a Centaur and then used it to give shape to a painting of a religious theme, Pilate presenting Christ to the crowd (‘Ecce Homo’). From this ‘intertextual’ perspective the painting acquires several layers of complexity. Not only does it show Christ with a Centaur’s torso, but the whole transformation of a Greek mythological theme into a Christian topic is a complex process, in which the artist’s drafts or sketches play a crucial intermediary role. Similarly, in literary studies, a writer’s notebooks and drafts play a pivotal role in the analysis of intertextual relations.

In this context, Michael Baxandall’s criticism of the term ‘influence’ (and implicitly of the term ‘source’) is still relevant, to all types of artistic research, from architecture to musicology, from art history to literary studies. ‘Influence’, he writes, is ‘a curse of art criticism primarily because of its wrong-headed grammatical prejudice about who is the agent and who the patient’ (58).

Another ‘agent’ in this transformation is the audience – listeners, spectators, readers – adding ‘a dimension of experienced meaning’, to borrow Paul Eggert’s phrase. The work of art is as much a process as it is a product and the audience is a crucial participant in this process. Researchers interested in the genesis of art works, or genetic critics, are ‘readers’ in their own right. So are composers who listen to music, filmmakers who watch movies, writers who read books.

Genetic criticism is therefore not limited to a focus on the production process, but also involves a work’s reception. The GENESIS – OXFORD 2022 conference invited scholars from various disciplines (art history, architecture, musicology, literature, …) to reflect on the dictum ‘ex nihilo nihil fit’ (nothing comes from nothing) and explicitly welcomes papers that compare forms of artistic metamorphosis across various art forms, as exercises in comparative genetic criticism.

  • How do different forms of artistic research and literary studies deal with ‘negative intertextuality’ (the phenomenon that an external source acts upon the genesis of a work of art, but remains out of sight in the published version)?
  • How can the digital medium contribute to the visualisation of creative revision?
  • How controversial are the terms ‘influence’, ‘source’ or ‘source of inspiration’ invarious disciplines?
  • To what extent is ‘comparative genetic criticism’ possible?
  • To what extent is it helpful for an audience to be ‘genetically informed’? Or to whatextent is it rather an obstacle to the aesthetic experience?
  • How do comparative approaches to historical periods, areal traditions, genres ofliterature, arts and music, or scholarly traditions widen the scope of genetic criticism?

This conference is co-organised by the University of Oxford (Jesus College) and the University of Antwerp (Centre for Manuscript Genetics).

Academic Committee: Mateusz Antoniuk, Olga Beloborodova, Nicholas Cronk, Paolo D’Iorio, Sakari Katajamäki, Seamus Perry, Adam Smyth, Kathryn Sutherland, Dirk Van Hulle, Wim Van Mierlo, Daniel Wakelin.

Organising Committee: Mateusz Antoniuk, Olga Beloborodova, Sakari Katajamäki, Dirk Van Hulle

The conference will be followed by the ESTS OXFORD 2022 conference (European Society for Textual Scholarship), 17-19 March 2022, and preceded by a pre-conference colloquium on authors’ libraries, 15 March 2022.