A critical exchange between Émile Zola and Édouard Manet
Lauren S. Weingarden
This chapter explores how Émile Zola’s ekphrastic writings about Édouard Manet’s paintings functioned as a template on which the writer imposed his evolving theories of the naturalist novel. It argues that, while Zola championed Manet in his critical reviews of the artist’s works, he did so in the name of naturalism and the scientific objectivity and analysis naturalism promoted. Moreover, it seems likely that Manet would have read Zola’s 1868 preface to Thérèse Raquin, where the author first mandated his naturalist theories. The chapter asks what Manet would have thought about Zola’s subjugation of painting to writing and his refusal of meaningful content in his art. It proposes that Manet painted Zola’s portrait in 1868 as a response to the critic’s misinterpretation of the painter’s artistic method. Manet’s portrait of Zola also reveals how the artist, in turn, appropriated the writer and his writing to his own artistic agenda, the subsequent manifestations of which culminate in Manet’s final masterpiece, A Bar at the Folies Bergère (1882).
This chapter defines ekphrasis concisely as ‘the verbal representation of real or fictive configurations composed in a non-kinetic visual medium’. It rejects narrower definitions that exclude texts on non-representational visual configurations, including architecture, or restrict the discourse to literary texts representing works of art. But with its emphasis on the text, the concise definition unduly reinforces the consideration of ekphrasis as a form of ‘intermedial transposition’ in contemporary discourse on intermedial relations. An ekphrastic text should be primarily approached as the record of a viewer’s interpretive encounter with a non-kinetic visual configuration, which may not actually contain anything that has been ‘transposed’ from the image. This viewer may be the persona of a poem, a figure in a prose narrative, or an art critic. It is the reader’s task to construct these viewers in the interpretation of any ekphrastic text. But the role of the reader has not received much attention. This includes the question of the immediate mental reception of ekphrastic texts. The critical construct of ‘iconotexts’, suggesting that such verbal texts spontaneously trigger a mental visual image for the informed reader, is problematic, and even in a more general sense the term may be of limited critical use.
Jonathan Richardson’s ekphrastic ‘Dissertation’ on Poussin’s Tancred and Erminia
This chapter considers Jonathan Richardson’s critical ‘Dissertation’ on Poussin’s painting Tancred and Erminia (c. 1633) as both analysis and ekphrastic representation. It focuses on Richardson’s keen interest in the artist’s visual interpretations of, and additions to, Tasso’s great Italian epic poem, Gerusalemme liberata (1581). It becomes clear that both the French painter and the English critic know the Italian poem well; it is far less certain, however, whether the intended English readership would have shared similar first-hand knowledge of either the picture or its literary source. Richardson’s paragone of the two forms is intended to emphasize Poussin’s ability ‘to make use of the Advantages This Art has over that of his Competitor’; problematically, however, the pre-eminence of the visual medium in this specific example can only be attested to by means of a sustained verbal comparison of the painting and its poetic source, which ultimately seems to imply a more complex, symbiotic relationship in the encounter between the visual and literary arts than Richardson initially admits.
Wyndham Lewis, self-proclaimed leader of the Vorticist 'gang', attacked Futurism in 1914 for its inconsistency and superficiality and the patent absurdity of claiming that Italy was at all in the same league as Imperial Britain. Lewis stressed that Britain, or more specifically England, was the birthplace of the modern industrial world. Lewis and his fellow Vorticists were thus very much building on an existing critique of Futurism within England (specifically) which damned it on racial, imperial and nationalistic grounds. Lewis's vocabulary also anticipates the line of criticism directed at Futurism which permeates the first issue of Blast, tellingly subtitled Review of the Great English Vortex and published at the beginning of July 1914. Awareness of Futurism is evident in work exhibited in October 1913 at the 'Post-Impressionists and Futurists' exhibition organised by Frank Rutter and held at the Dore Galleries on New Bond Street, London.
Reading Futurism with Pierre Albert-Birot as witness, creative collaborator and dissenter
This chapter focuses on two examples in which the Futurist influence on Pierre Albert-Birot's thinking and artistic production is most evident. It is in the visual arts that Albert-Birot first gives form to a poetics to which he will constantly return, and at the heart of which is the relationship between text and image. The first example, La guerre was conceived at a turning point in the journey of Albert-Birot's artistic production, and was painted with the planning, drafting and execution of the early issues of SIC. The second example of clear Futurist influence and of collaboration with the Futurists is the early issues of SIC, a period that exemplifies the review as collective adventure and Albert-Birot as creative collaborator. Albert-Birot therefore comes to be a 'witness' to Futurism in the First World War from a position of total obscurity, and of confusion, even ignorance, regarding 'modernity' and the 'avant-garde'.
In 1909, the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Founding Manifesto of Futurism was published on the front page of Le Figaro. Between 1909 and 1912, the Futurists published works celebrating speed and danger, glorifying war and technology, and advocating political and artistic revolution. In Europe, this avant-garde movement was active in the field of painting and sculpture, theatre, photography and politics. This book reassesses the activities and legacies of Futurism. It looks at Futurist manifestos by linking techniques of promotion with practices in commercial advertising, and exploring the question of how Futurist manifestos address notions of genius and gender. The book also reconstructs the historical, cultural and ideological background of Marinetti's Manifesto del tattilismo. Zurich Dadaists adopted cultural stances heavily indebted to the terms of critical engagement and cultural visibility initiated within the Futurist circle. The book analyses avant-garde's examination of its internal strategies of identity and canonization, and the importance of Futurism for the Pierre Albert-Birot. It charts the details of the argument on simultaneity between Umberto Boccioni and Robert Delaunay, and analyses the critical readings of Fernand Léger's La noce. The dialogue between Occultism and Futurism is explored by discussing the theme of night in the works of the Florentine Futurists. In La cucina futurista, food is separated from its nutritional function, and the act of eating is related to notions of creativity and identity. The book presents unique examples of innovative expressivity in Italian Futurists' free-word poems, and examines poetry celebrating the triumph of modern aviation.
By reopening the fourth line of critical discourse, I have attempted to re-examine Andreev’s literary output in light of his personal and medical history. In doing this, the primary goal was to confront and, possibly refute, the Soviet biography of the author that has dominated discussions of Andreev since the 1960s. Specifically, in addressing why it might be that Andreev was so interested in the theme of madness and how this influenced his literary career, I have touched upon many of the issues that have remained unanswered by scholars. Although there will always be differing opinions, Andreev’s experience with neurasthenia (specifically depression and anxiety) offer keys to understanding his personal life (drinking binges, mood swings, romantic endeavors) and literary themes (performance, institutional spaces, illness narrative). In so doing, I have attempted to show how this might then alter our understanding of Andreev’s literary allegiances (realist or symbolist), how his literary works interacted with the popular science of the day (degeneration theory) and why this interaction may be the key to Andreev’s immense success during his lifetime. Granted, each one of these issues could warrant its own study, but the purpose of this book was to reopen the line of discourse for further discussion of Andreev and his time. In this concluding chapter, the intention is to outline new ways of interpreting Andreev’s life and works in order to encourage future scholarly investigations that go beyond the author presented by Soviet scholars to satisfy the demands of the post-/Soviet literary market and to be candid about the role that neurasthenia played in his life and works.
Leonid Andreev’s rise to literary fame reached dizzying heights in a short amount of time. There were, unquestionably, many factors that contributed to his success. Yet, this chapter mainly concentrates on the development of Andreev’s particular illness narrative and how it contributed to the author’s cultural relevancy. Stories about sexual deviance and criminal madness propelled Andreev beyond literary discussions and into larger debates about the health of the Russian nation. His works were used by scientists, journalists and scholars alike to support arguments of all colors and stripes, but the most important being that Andreev was representative of a society under duress, suffering from the rapid and disorienting pace of modernization.
This chapter shows the cult of 'expressivity' in all Futurism's diverse forms and modalities gradually took free-word experimentation, and shaped poetry in general, in a number of fresh directions and in doing so it reinvigorated the Futurist aesthetic. It looks at a series of arguably unique examples of innovative 'expressivity' in some of the Italian Futurist movement's best-known shaped free-word poems and dipinti paroliberi. Three years after publishing his Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism in 1909, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti began to set out his proposals for making Futurist poetry more 'expressive'. Marinetti's overarching concern with making Futurist language 'expressive' first surfaces in the section of his Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature concerning passeist poetry's 'fatal time-wasting which destroys the expressive value its power to amaze'. Francesco Cangiullo's Milano-Dimostrazione of 1915 brings together verbal, numerical and graphic elements for a cumulatively 'expressive' propaganda purpose.
This chapter highlights how war is represented in Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's works. It focuses on the representation of the Italian soldier, of the enemy and of battle, and finally, on the meaning he assigned to death on the front line. The chapter also focuses on the representation of the First World War. During the First World War, in the manifesto Sintesi futurista della guerra (Futurist synthesis of war) the war is represented in the first place as a conflict between Futurism and passeism. On the representational level, war thus becomes an existential battle between human beings and nature, and a cosmic battle between opposite forces, such as Good and Evil, or Futurism and passeism. The fatal conclusion according to which war was an inseparable part, or rather, 'the culminating and natural synthesis of progress', placed technological war at the core of the Futurist modernolatry.