Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ekphrasis through the Ages

Introduction: Eight Ways of Looking at Ekphrasis

by Shadi Bartsch and Jaś Elsner

Words about an image, itself often embedded in a larger text: ekphrasis today has become such an important element of scholarly approaches to the novel, to epic, to the Romantics, and even to genres beyond the literary, that it may be difficult to remember its relative obscurity of a quarter-century ago. Once skimmed over as superfluous, or derided as rhetorical showmanship, ekphrasis now seems to present countless opportunities for the discovery of meaning: it has been variously treated as a mirror of the text, a mirror in the text, a mode of specular inversion, a further voice that disrupts or extends the message of the narrative, a prefiguration for that narrative (whether false or true) in its suggestions.