What happens when a text gives voice to a previously mute art work? Ekphrasis – the verbal representation of visual art – continues to be a central concern of word and image studies today. The understanding of ekphrasis as an often hostile paragone (competition) between word and image exists alongside notions of a more reciprocal model involving a dialogue or "encounter" between visual and verbal cultures. The affective dimension of the relationship -- ekphrastic hope, ekphrastic fear -- has also been prominent in recent scholarship.
Drawing on literary works and theories from a range of historical periods and national traditions, the course will examine the aesthetic and ideological implications of ekphrasis. Why are certain literary genres such as the novel privileged sites for ekphrasis? How can art history inform our understanding of such encounters, and to what extent can we say that it is a discipline based in ekphrasis? What can we learn from current work on intermediality, narrative theory, and translation? Can we also talk about musical ekphrasis? Readings from Homer, Philostratus, Alberti, Lessing, Pater, Keats, Kleist, Sebald, Mitchell, Louvel, Genette, among others.