ELCS6012 - Words for Pictures
Value: 0.5 course units
Tutor: Dr Federica Mazzara
Assessment: 2 assessed essays of 2000 words each.
The relationship between literature and visual art (also known as the word and image relationship) has been a central interest to different disciplines, scholars and artists. Since Horace’s statement ‘as is painting, so is poetry’ (ut pictura poesis), if not before, artists and theorists of every epoch have contributed to the debate concerning differences and similarities between the two arts.
In this module we will examine the close relation between literature and visual art in the European traditions of the nineteenth and twentieth Century. Especially through the study of a particular form of word and image relationship - the verbal representation of visual representation - the module will investigate the impact that visual images have on literary imagery, and how verbal texts rely on those images to mould their own descriptions of visual objects.
After an introduction to the history, theory and applications of the relationship between literature and the visual arts (essentially 'ekphrasis' and art criticism), we will work on case studies that, through the use of different literary genres, revolve around different forms of relation between word and image: Rossetti’s paintings, Frenhofer’s unfinished canvas in Balzac’s short story 'The Unknown Masterpiece', Vermeer’s painting in Chevalier’s 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' and the tarot cards in Calvino’s 'The Castle of Crossed Destinies'.
Preparatory Reading and Set Texts:
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ‘Sonnets for Pictures’ (1850)
- Honoré de Balzac, 'The Unknown Masterpiece' [Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu (1831)]
- Italo Calvino, 'The Castle of Crossed Destinies' [Il castello dei destini incrociati (1973)]
- Tracy Chevalier, 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' (1999)
Initial Secondary Bibliography:
- Stephen Cheeke, 'Writing for Art' (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2008)
- James Heffernan, 'Museum of Words: the Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery' (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004)
- Franco Ricci, 'Painting with Words, Writing with Pictures: Word and Image Relations in the Work of Italo Calvino', (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001).