New interdisciplinary essays on literature and the visual arts

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.

Ekphrastic encounters in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy
Richard Meek

2 ‘Fabulously counterfeit’: ekphrastic encounters in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy Richard Meek One of the more explicit references to the paragone in Renaissance literature appears in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 16. Like several of the poems in the sequence, Sonnet 16 self-consciously reflects upon the speaker’s attempts to represent the friend in verse, or what the poet playfully refers to as his ‘barren rhyme’.1 But this particular sonnet also sets up a further comparison between poetry and the visual arts. The speaker proposes that the friend’s living offspring will

in Ekphrastic encounters
Jonathan Richardson’s ekphrastic ‘Dissertation’ on Poussin’s Tancred and Erminia
Jason Lawrence

need to consider the marked impact of recent European works on the nascent development of art criticism in England.1 Du Fresnoy’s poem opens with an acknowledgement of the classical paragone between the sibling arts of painting and poetry by alluding to Horace’s famous dictum directly: UT PICTURA POESIS ERIT; similisque Poesi Sit Pictura, refert par æmula quæq; sororem, Alternantque vices & nomina; muta Poesis Dicitur hæc, Pictura loquens solet illa vocari. (Painting and Poesy are two Sisters, which are so like in all things, that they mutually lend to each other

in Ekphrastic encounters
Hélène Ibata

of sense, and seeking the same intellectual recognition as poetry, Burke was denigrating the literalness of painting; he was claiming that painters’ ‘clear and determinate’ images, far from providing the evocative power that was necessary for the sublime, diminished it. Through such claims, his aesthetic theory was revisiting the old comparison, or paragone, between painting and poetry, giving a clear advantage to poetry, and consequently calling on painting to prove its worth once again. Eighteenth-​century theories and the possibility of a pictorial sublime The

in The challenge of the sublime
Open Access (free)
Speaking pictures?
Chloe Porter

recognition of painting as the supreme model of mimetic representation. 20 In early modern Europe, circulating alongside the notion of ut pictura poesis were the paragone (‘comparison’) debates, which revolved around the struggle for superiority amongst modes of representation. 21 The paragone were known to English playwrights in this period and shape a number of dramatic treatments of

in Making and unmaking in early modern English drama
From Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry to British Romantic art
Author: Hélène Ibata

The challenge of the sublime argues that the unprecedented visual inventiveness of the Romantic period in Britain could be seen as a response to theories of the sublime, more specifically to Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). While it is widely accepted that the Enquiry contributed to shaping the thematics of terror that became fashionable in British art from the 1770s, this book contends that its influence was of even greater consequence, paradoxically because of Burke’s conviction that the visual arts were incapable of conveying the sublime. His argument that the sublime was beyond the reach of painting, because of the mimetic nature of visual representation, directly or indirectly incited visual artists to explore not just new themes, but also new compositional strategies and even new or undeveloped pictorial and graphic media, such as the panorama, book illustrations and capricci. More significantly, it began to call into question mimetic representational models, causing artists to reflect about the presentation of the unpresentable and the inadequacy of their endeavours, and thus drawing attention to the process of artistic production itself, rather than the finished artwork. By revisiting the links between eighteenth-century aesthetic theory and visual practices, The challenge of the sublime establishes new interdisciplinary connections which address researchers in the fields of art history, cultural studies and aesthetics.

Ekphrasis and mortality in Andrew Marvell
Keith McDonald

overlooked in lieu of works by more celebrated authors such as Shakespeare, Spenser, and Donne.6 Katherine Acheson’s welcome new volume on the visual and spatial tropes employed by mid-seventeenth-century authors dedicates two chapters to Marvell: one examining the aesthetic of the militarized gardens at Nun Appleton in the early 1650s; the other focused on The Last Instructions to a Painter, one of Marvell’s most ostensibly ekphrastic poems from the late 1660s.7 Continuing James Heffernan’s emphasis on the paragone, Acheson states that Marvell’s verse ‘makes the claim

in Ekphrastic encounters
Ekphrasis and Laocoön digressions in the novel
Catriona MacLeod

paragone. It goes so far as to restate approvingly the demarcations and the distinctions between the arts set out by Lessing’s precursor text.20 Renaissance artist Ardinghello’s conversation partner, the older Demetri, acts as a mouthpiece for Lessing’s theories that would patrol the boundaries between the so-called sister arts and hail the superiority of the verbal in what amounts to direct citation from Lessing: ‘Ein Dichter muß dem Maler immer in Schilderung körperlicher Gegenstände unterliegen: und geradeso geht’s dem Maler im Gegenteil mit Handlungen

in Ekphrastic encounters
Ekphrasis, readers, ‘iconotexts’
Claus Clüver

’s phrase, reinforced in the same year by W. J. T. Mitchell, reflected the traditional restriction of the objects of ekphrastic representation to visual representations of the phenomenal world in paintings, graphic works, or sculptures.5 The discourse was supported by the misconstrued Horatian phrase ut pictura poesis and the idea of the ‘sister arts’, buoyed by the ancient saying attributed to Simonides of Ceos that painting is silent poetry and poems, speaking pictures. Krieger had emphasized the contrasting view based on Leonardo da Vinci’s sense of a paragone among

in Ekphrastic encounters
Ekphrasis and historical materiality in Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece
Rachel Eisendrath

Lucrece, Catherine Belsey explores how visual and verbal motifs come together in a common ‘longing’ for presence.8 What is at stake in Shakespeare’s ekphrasis, she argues, is not just the verbal versus the visual, as in traditional accounts of the paragone, but the ultimate inability of representation itself to achieve full presence. My contribution will be to explore how such a longing for presence reflects changing ideas about history in the Renaissance. Instead of focusing on a static comparison between the arts, I will examine how the ekphrastic form provides an

in Ekphrastic encounters