Center for Visual Studies Interview with W.J.T Mitchell, November 2006
Ekphrasis is a literary mode that spans the entire breadth of literature, from Achilles’s shield to Auden’s ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’. Defined by James Heffernan as “the verbal representation of graphic representation,” the referential scope of ekphrasis has expanded and contracted according to critical taste. In the light of the increasingly complex way contemporary scholars have come to view visual literacy and culture, ekphrasis once again demands reconsideration. The “visual turn” in criticism, alongside the upsurge of interest in digital and material cultures, has enlarged the boundaries of what representation entails, and has questioned its stability. In an age of interdisciplinarity, could ekphrasis provide a model for comparison that moves beyond binary encounters between discrete categories, such as national literature, art history, and the classics? Rather than sublating image to word, might we resituate ekphrasis as a multi-media negotiation of meaning and form?
In this conference, we are interested in questioning not only the nature of ekphrasis, but also the supposedly essential nature of representation. What dualisms, such as literature/visual arts, subject/authority, are implicit in traditional modes of ekphrasis, and how might other creative forms, like music, subvert this? What kinds of power structures or hierarchies are embedded in ekphrasis, and how might we negotiate these, especially in the light of post-colonial and transnational theory? What type of gaze does ekphrasis entail, and is this related to anxieties about the form? What other art forms might be included in ekphrastic poetics that would contribute to interdisciplinary modes of thinking, such as architecture, performance art, or digital media? How far can ekphrasis provide a self-reflexive model for comparison?
Potential topics for papers might include, but are not limited to:
– Literature as a translation of the visual
– Ekphrasis and the Modern Languages
– Ekphrastic hierarchies: word/image, dominant/submissive, etc.
– Taste and aesthetics
– Relations of space and time in ekphrasis
– Stasis and movement
– The reverse: art depicting literature
– Anxieties of ekphrasis
– Ekphrasis in the digital age reproduction
– Music and ekphrasis
– New media and ekphrasis
– Icononology and iconoclasm
– Architecture and ekphrasis
We invite proposals for 20 minute papers exploring any aspect of ekphrasis as an inherently comparative mode. Please send abstracts of 300 words plus a short biography to firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for abstracts is 31st July 2012. We will inform participants of acceptance by 15th August 2012.