Pastoral Bric-a-brac: Joseph Cornell’s Artistic Responses to Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes
It has become a staple when Joseph Cornell’s art is analyzed and commented on to mention the novel Le Grand Meaulnes (1913) by Alain-Fournier. The novel is referred to many times in Cornell’s diaries and projects. It is well-known that Joseph Cornell felt a strong attachment to anything French (especially from the fin-de-siècle period), but such is too broad an explanation for his interest on that particular novel. In this article we analyze the bond between Cornell’s art and Alain-Fournier’s novel, taking them as two artistic examples of the pastoral mode. We try to explicate the connection between Alain-Fournier’s novel and many of Cornell’s most relevant assemblage boxes, such as the Palace series, the Medici Slot Machine boxes and Untitled (Bébé Marie). This relation can be traced both in the themes and the assemblage technique used by Cornell: they seem to replicate Meaulnes’s experiences during the narration in the novel, and to reproduce, with Cornell’s use of the glass panel, the narrative strategies of denouement delay that Alain-Fournier employed in Le Grand Meaulnes.
Keywords: Joseph Cornell, Alain-Fournier, pastoral, art and literature relation, assemblage art.