Spring 2022 Course Highlight | Words about Images

Professor Jennifer Nelson will teach the seminar AH 500/800 “Words about Images” in Spring 2022, Mondays, 2:30–5:00pm, Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, Room L166. From Homer and Philostratus to John Ashbery and Robin Coste Lewis, poets within the broad heritage of English-language literature have described visual art. Ekphrasis may be understood not just as poetry, however, but also as any act of rendering the visual in words. Ekphrastic tradition therefore hangs over or perhaps even contains any practice of art history or art criticism. It is also a model for all critical practice: to approach a visual object on textual terms is inevitably to be critical, to make decisions about that object. Taking ekphrasis as a paradigm for any critical process, this seminar examines the productive not merely mimetic or reproductive result of such work, its charged surplus. We will examine how different kinds of visual material and different contexts of reception have demanded different kinds of ekphrasis. We will study ekphrases produced in the contexts of the studio visit, the museum, art publications, and art historical scholarship alongside canonical poetic ekphrases drawn from multiple linguistic traditions, ancient and modern (texts will be available in both original and translation). Older texts, including authors from Homer to Diderot, complement newer texts by Anita Albus, Svetlana Alpers, John Ashbery, Roland Barthes, Anne Carson, Robin Coste Lewis, W. G. Sebald, Carmen Gim nez Smith, Susan Sontag, Miguel Tamen, and others. Though the class has a conventionally “Western” focus, students may/should consider non-“Western” encounters between word and image in their papers. Enroll here.