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Doctoral Thesis Abstract: click [ here ] to read an extract.

Intermedialità ed Ekphrasis nel Preraffaellitismo: il caso Rossetti (Intermediality and Ekphrasis in Pre-Raphaelitism: The Case of Rossetti) (University of Naples 2007)

My PhD dissertation is aimed at investigating the particular case of the English poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti through the theoretical and methodological tools offered by inter-arts studies. The central corpus of Rossetti’s works, analysed in my dissertation, is mostly constituted by his “double works”. All Rossetti’s art is, in fact, strongly marked by his desire for placing poetry and painting, word and image, in a close relationship. Throughout his career, he never ceased experimenting with combining the two arts, as if he could not find alternative ways of artistic expression. He was an avid writer of “sonnets for pictures” occasionally placed on the frames of his paintings as a particular kind of critical apparatus. But Rossetti was also an obsessive describer of his images in prose and poetry and an illustrator of literary texts. My dissertation investigates various types of combinations of the two arts proposing that they could be considered as “translations” of each other.

The dissertation is divided into three parts: The first part, titled “the interartistic dynamics between word and image”, is dedicated to an analysis of the general theoretical issues of interartisticity and of ekphrasis. This part meticulously discusses the contemporary Anglo-American debate concerning ekphrasis including the theoretical works of Mitchell, Krieger, Heffernan and Wagner.

The second part, titled “Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s writing on images”, is devoted to a brief analysis of Victorian visual culture with reference to John Ruskin and Walter Pater’s aesthetic theories. These are developed to form the historical framework in which Rossetti worked. The second part is finally dedicated to the exploration of the discursive strategies and rhetoric Rossetti employed in describing his pictures, including a specific analysis of his variant ekphrastic strategies as found in both his letters and his sonnets.

The third and last part, titled “Rossetti’s ‘Double Works’”, centres on the investigation of what I define as his “iconotextual works”. These include the aesthetic merging of words and images in works where Rossetti has placed accompanying sonnets on the frames or canvases of paintings. A chapter of this last part is dedicated to the example of William Blake whom Rossetti considered his “master”. The concluding chapter employs the range of issues discussed in the previous parts in an analysis of a famous double work by Rossetti, Proserpine. For this painting, Rossetti wrote two sonnets: one in Italian – a language that he knew intimately due to his bilingual ancestry – and one in English. The analysis of Proserpine is of particular importance to this dissertation since it includes the entire network of issues revolving around Rossetti’s complex aesthetic expressions and his multi-faceted artist figure.

This page last modified 26 September, 2012 by [UCL Mellon Admin]

Book cover: Muamma

Book cover: Unpacking the collection

imag: book cover, Federica  Mazzara

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