How to Write a Photo Novel. Ennio Jacobelli’s <i>Istruzioni pratiche per la realizzazione del fotoromanzo</i> (1956)

  • Jan Baetens University of Leuven
  • Carmen Van den Bergh University of Leuven
  • Bart Van Den Bossche University of Leuven
Keywords: photo novel, melodrama, Ennio Jacobelli, drawn novel, Neo-Realism, women's magazines, writers manual, Jan Baetens, Bart Van Den Bossche, Carmen Van den Bergh


This article offers first a brief historical overview of the photo novel, which is much more than a comics with photographs. Key to a good understanding of the genre is the close connection with the world of women's weeklies and melodrama culture. In a second part, the article addresses the issue of authorship in photo novels and the tension between collective authorship and individual creation and examines the role of the editorial voice of the magazine, which is paramount in the world of the photo novel, where individual creations were not always signed. In its third and last part, the article offers a close-reading of a rare document, a  1956 photo novel manual by Ennio Jacobelli, entitled Istruzione pratiche per la realizzazione del fotoromanzo (“practical guide for the production of a photonovel”). In our analysis, the main focus is on the gap between the actual production of the photo novel in these years and the models and advices given by the manual.

Author Biographies

Jan Baetens, University of Leuven
Jan Baetens is professor of cultural and literary studies at the University of Leuven. His main research areas are 1) contemporary French poetry and writing, 2) narratology of visual narratives, often in so-called minor genres (photo novels, comics, novelizations), 3) cultural history of photography. With colleagues of the Université de Liège and the National Library in Brussels, he runs a "Brain" project on the Belgian photo novel. His most recent book is "A voix haute. Poésie et lecture publique" (2005).
Carmen Van den Bergh, University of Leuven
Carmen Van den Bergh works as a postdoctoral researcher in Italian Literature for the Flemish Research Fund (FWO) at the University of Leuven with a project on Canon formation and Anthologies. In her PhD thesis she specialized on Italian Prose Novels around 1930. She publishes on topics on the intersection between Italian literature and European Modernism and teaches at the Universities of Leuven and Milan.


Bart Van Den Bossche, University of Leuven
Bart Van Den Bossche is professor of Italian literature at the University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven) in Belgium. His main area of interest is modern and contemporary Italian literature, in particular the relationship between myth and literature, avant-garde and modernism, realism, and macrotextuality. He is a founding member of KU Leuven’s research team MDRN ( ) studying literature in Europe in 1880-1960. He has published essays on different authors and topics (especially on Pirandello, Futurism, Quasimodo, Calvino and Tondelli). He published a monograph on Cesare Pavese («Nulla è veramente accaduto». Strategie discorsive del mito nell’opera di Cesare Pavese, Cesati, 2001) and a volume on myth in twentieth-century Italian literature (Trasformazioni ed elaborazioni. Il mito nella letteratura italiana del Novecento, Cesati, 2007). Some of the collection of essays he recently edited are Azione/reazione. Il Futurismo in Belgio e in Europa (Cesati, 2012) and La collaborazione interartistica nella letteratura italiana del Novecento (Cesati, 2014), as well as the volumes on Pirandello published in the series "Il corvo di Mìzzaro” (Franco Cesati Editore).
How to Cite
Baetens, J., Van den Bergh, C., & Van Den Bossche, B. (2017). How to Write a Photo Novel. Ennio Jacobelli’s <i>Istruzioni pratiche per la realizzazione del fotoromanzo</i&gt; (1956). Authorship, 6(1).