This book offers a comprehensive reassessment of ekphrasis: the verbal representation of visual art. In the past twenty-five years numerous books and articles have appeared covering different aspects of ekphrasis, with scholars arguing that it is a fundamental means by which literary artists have explored the nature of aesthetic experience. However, many critics continue to rely upon the traditional conception of ekphrasis as a form of paragone (competition) between word and image. This interdisciplinary collection seeks to complicate this critical paradigm, and proposes a more reciprocal model of ekphrasis that involves an encounter or exchange between visual and textual cultures. This critical and theoretical shift demands a new form of ekphrastic poetics, which is less concerned with representational and institutional struggles, and more concerned with ideas of ethics, affect, and intersubjectivity. The book brings together leading scholars working in the fields of literary studies, art history, modern languages, and comparative literature, and offers a fresh exploration of ekphrastic texts from the Renaissance to the present day. The chapters in the book are critically and methodologically wide-ranging; yet they share an interest in challenging the paragonal model of ekphrasis that has been prevalent since the early 1990s, and establishing a new set of theoretical frameworks for exploring the ekphrastic encounter.
On gazers’ encounters with visual art:
ekphrasis, readers, ‘iconotexts’1
Some twenty years ago, responding to the recent books on ekphrasis by Murray
Krieger and James Heffernan, I presented a long conference paper entitled
‘Ekphrasis Reconsidered: On Verbal Representations of Non-Verbal Texts’ in
which I proposed a rather radical revision of the concept of ‘ekphrasis’ underlying those earlier studies.2 Although reducing a concept to a single phrase
without further commentary and explanation is always likely to lead to misunderstandings, it is
A critical exchange between Émile Zola and Édouard Manet
Lauren S. Weingarden
exchange between Zola and Manet145
functions as a dynamic transformative process wherein the original text is
quoted or indirectly alluded to in incrementally numerous secondary texts,
whether verbal or pictorial.
Liliane Louvel’s model of the iconotext provides a method for more precisely
describing the productive interaction between text and image, wherein each
medium exceeds its own signification as well as the ekphrastic paradigm. Louvel
defines iconotext as ‘the attempt to merge text and image in a pluriform fusion’.
‘The word “iconotext”’, she adds, ‘conveys the
across the cardboard backdrop and interrupted
intermittently by other dissonant voices and the central pictural element.8 The
fractions, moreover, do not constitute segmentation as they do not seem to
follow pre-existing lines of division or construction of a building. How can one
then talk of iconotexts or even ekphrasis?
In Poetics of the Iconotext, Liliane Louvel distinguishes a number of features
that contribute to determining the pictorial qualities of a text.9 Louvel uses
these features to understand how verbal texts construct images or architectural
Murray Krieger’s argument in Ekphrasis: The
Illusion of the Natural Sign (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
See also Liliane Louvel, Poetics of the Iconotext, ed. Karen Jacobs, trans. Laurence Petit
(Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).
3 See Chapters 9 (above) and 12 (below).
4 See for example Richard Wollheim, ‘What the Spectator Sees’, in Norman Bryson,
Michael Ann Holly and Keith Moxey (eds), Visual Theory: Painting and Interpretation
(Cambridge: Polity, 1991), pp. 101–50.
5 Peter Wagner, ‘Introduction: Ekphrasis, Iconotexts and Intermediality – the
text both from the place where that illustration appears and from
textual and cultural knowledge further afield. For discussion of
this term, and the related concept of ‘iconotext’, see Peter Wagner,
Reading Iconotexts: From Swift to the French Revolution (London:
Reaktion, 1995), pp. 11–13.
3 Blanch and Wasserman, From Pearl to Gawain, pp. 65–110. This
chapter is an extremely rich study of the iconographical and gestural
position of the work of the treatment of hands both in the Gawainpoet’s works and in wider manuscript illustration.
4 For instance, he dries