Ekphrastic Poetry (LIT4122.01)

Camille Guthrie

In the earliest known example of ekphrasis, at a crucial moment in the Iliad, Homer interrupts the epic battle with a long description of the Shield of Achilles so powerfully cinematic that the listener or reader often forgets that the shield is a static and imagined object. This shield has become a paradigm in the history of ekphrasis—the genre of writing in response to the visual arts—establishing conventions and strategies in an ongoing aesthetic battle between the word and image. This long rivalry brings up fascinating questions about representation, authorship, and origins. It is also a gendered rivalry; for example, in 1766, the German theorist Lessing wrote that paintings were like women (passive, beautiful, silent) and poems like men (active, rigorous, noisy). We will focus our study on important ekphrastic works by Homer, Ovid, Shakespeare, Shelley, Keats, Browning, Rilke, Stein, and Loy. We will also read contemporary poets in the genre, which may include John Ashbery, Charles Simic, Anne Carson, Mary Jo Bang, Suzanne Buffam, Robin Coste Lewis, and Kevin Young. Our readings will also include critical theory by Plato, Baudelaire, Barthes, Berger, Benjamin, Mitchell, Scarry, and so on. This course would suit poetry lovers and writers, artists, and anyone invested in these aesthetic concerns.

Prerequisites: Interested students should submit a writing sample to cguthrie@bennington.edu by November 7, 2016. Class lists will be posted outside the Literature office on November 14, 2016.
Credits: 4
T 2:10pm - 4:00pm; F 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Maximum Enrollment: 17
Course Frequency:
This course is categorized as All courses, Four Credit, Literature, 4000, Camille Guthrie, and tagged , , , , , .