EN3246 Literature and the Other Arts: Poetry and Painting

2008/09, Semester 2

A/P Rajeev S. Patke



Module Description

This module approaches the relation between the visual and the verbal arts as a set of creative interactions which involve the use of different media for the purposes of representation and self-expression. Within this general perspective the module offers an opportunity to study how poetry reacts to the visual arts, specifically painting (with room to include some examples of photography), and how the visual arts react to specific instances of language, specifically poetry.


Module Aims

To develop and implement methods of analysis and interpretation that treat relations between the verbal and the visual arts (when each performs under the influence of the sister art) in terms of goals, techniques and cultural significance.

 (i) Examples of the verbal arts will be drawn exclusively from poetry (although the inferences of analysis and interpretation extend to all language use) and examples of the visual arts will be drawn primarily from painting (and secondarily from photography).

 (ii) A general introduction to ‘reading’ visual images;

 (iii) Brief case studies of representative poems written in response to specific paintings, and specific painters whose creativity is influenced by specific examples of poetry.

 (iv) Digital images of the relevant paintings will be studied.


Primary Texts (items 1-4 for purchase; item 5 selections will be circulated by lecturer]

 1.  Benton, Michael & Peter   Painting with Words (Hodder Arnold, 1995) ISBN: 0340618736
 2.  Ashbery, John    Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (Penguin, 1992) ISBN: 0140586687  Parmigianino: Link 1
 Parmigianino: Link 2
 3.  Dabydeen, David   Turner (Peepal Tree Press,  2002) ISBN: 1900715686  Turner
 4.   Williams, William Carlos   Pictures from Brueghel & Other Poems (New Directions, 1967) ISBN: 0811202348  Brueghel: Link 1
 Brueghel: Link 2
    VOLUME OF POEMS INFLUENCED BY PHOTOGRAPHY (out of print: digitized selections will be circulated by lecturer)

Pat Adams (ed.)

 With a poet's eye : a Tate Gallery anthology  PN6110 Art.W    RBR
     Gunn, Tom & Ander   Positives (Faber, 1973) ISBN: 057110391X                                                                                                          RBR copy PR6013 G976P


Recommended Reading (RBR)

 1.  Acton, Mary   Learning to Look at Pictures (Routledge, 1997) [PN56 Ekp.He 2004]                                                 [RBR]
 2.  Heffernan, James A.W.  Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery  Univ. of Chicago Press, 1993)   [RBR]
 3.  Hollander, John  The Gazer's Spirit: Poems Speaking to Silent Works of Art (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1995)                 [RBR]
 4.  Gunn, Tom & Ander   Positives (Faber, 1973) [PR6013 G976P]                                                                                           [RBR]


Assignments & Continuous assessment



1 independently-researched project on a poet-painter pair outside the syllabus             30%
Mid-term class test                                                                             20%
Others: Class presentation                                                                      10%
Final Examination:                                                                   Open Book 40%

       Each project should focus on either

       (a) a specific poet influenced by a specific painter or school of painting, or

       (b) a specific poet influenced by other visual media

       The project is meant to give students an opportunity to explore issues beyond the syllabus.

       Length: Maximum 3,000 words. Due: Week 12.




 Lectures: Tuesdays 2-3.50pm, AS01-0203

Tutorial slots: Wednesdays 10-11am, 11am-12noon, AS5/0202





Lecture Topic

 Tutorial No./Date

Student Presentations (Wednesdays 10-11, 11-12)



13 Jan

Reading Pictures





20 Jan

Reading Poems about pictures





27 Jan

[CH. NEW YEAR] : no lecture

1 - 28 Jan

1. Poems from Benton bk.



3 Feb

Benton bk. poems

2 - 4 Feb

2. Poems from Benton bk.



10 Feb


3 - 11 Feb

3. Williams



17 Feb

Williams / Dabydeen

4 - 18 Feb

4. Williams


21 Feb 1 March RECESS WEEK



3 March

CLASS TEST (50 mins)

5 - 4 March

5. Dabydeen



10 March


6 - 11 March

6. Dabydeen



17 March

Dabydeen / Ashbery

7 - 18 March

7. Ashbery





8 - 25 March

8. Ashbery



31 Mar

Ashbery/ Poetry & Photography: Gunn

9 - 1 April

9. Poetry & Photography



7 April

Poetry & Photography: Gunn

10 - 8 April

10. Comparisons

  Term Paper due by the end of week 12



14 April

 Gunn / Revision




18-24 April ONE WEEK BREAK



EN3246 EXAM: 6 May 2009, afternoon




Links to each lecture topic will be provided by the start of the semester

Topic 1: Reading Paintings

Topic 2: Reading Ekphrastic Poems

Topic 2b: Image-Poem Pairs (Benton book)

Topic 3: Williams


Topic 4: Dabydeen

Topic 5: Ashbery

Topic 6: Gunn

Review and Revision

Topic 6: Poetry & Photography: Thom & Ander Gunn





A module such as EN3246 profits from the ready use of electronic images. However, students must bear two things in mind:

1. Intellectual rights have to be respected: i.e. never use an image in your writing without proper ascriptions.

2. Restricted image use: images used for this module are for purely academic purposes, within  the confines of the NUS. Do not use images from this module for any purpose outside module requirements.



Suggestions for Presentations and Projects


 [A few examples of poets influenced by specific painters, movements in painting: ideal for Projects. Of course, students can access periods prior to the twentieth century, and cultures other than that of the West for their projects,]

Sujata Bhatt, A Colour for Solitude (Carcanet, 2002):

Grace Nichols, Paint Me a Poem: New Poems Inspired by Art in the Tate (A & C Black Childrens Books, 2004): The Tate

Wallace Stevens, "The Man with the Blue Guitar",  Collected Poems (Knopf, 1956): Cubism

The poems of Charles Tomlinson and Painting



Supplementary Reading

NOTE: The following is meant to give an idea of what is available in the library.
Students should be selective in deciding what they are likely to find useful.  
 Andrews, Malcolm. Landscape and western art. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.  N8213 And
 Caws, Mary Ann. The art of interference: stressed readings in verbal and visual texts. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989.   PN53 Caw
 Krieger, Murray. Ekphrasis: the illusion of the natural sign. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.  PN1126 Kri
 Kronegger, Marlies. Ed. The orchestration of the arts: a creative symbiosis of existential powers: the vibrating interplay of sound, color, image, gesture, movement, rhythm, fragrance, word, touch. Dordrecht; Boston, Mass.: Kluwer Academic, 2000.  B3279 Hus*Ah 63
 Robillard, Valerie & Els Jongeneel. Ed. Pictures into words: theoretical and descriptive approaches to ekphrasis. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1998. PN56 Ekp.Pi
 Thomas, Julia. Ed. Reading images. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.  B105 Ima.R 
 Wagner, Peter. Ed. Icons, texts, iconotexts : essays on ekphrasis and intermediality. Berlin; New York: W. de Gruyter, 1996.  PN56 Ekp 1
 3.  John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1992). PS3501 A819S
Altieri, Charles. Self and sensibility in contemporary American poetry. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984. PS325 Alt
Ashbery, John.  Reported sightings : art chronicles, 1957-1987. Manchester: Carcanet, 1989. NX640 Ash
Herd, David. John Ashbery and American poetry. New York: Palgrave, 2000. PS3501 A819*He 2000
Lehman, David. Ed. Beyond amazement: new essays on John Ashbery, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1980.  PS3501 A819*B   
Mills-Courts, Karen. Poetry as epitaph: representation and poetic language. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.  PR508 Epi.Mi    
Nason, Richard W.  Boiled grass and the broth of shoes: reconstructing literary deconstruction. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1991. PN98 Dec.Na
Shapiro, David. John Ashbery, an introduction to the poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. PS3501 A819*S
Shoptaw, John. On the outside looking out: John Ashbery's poetry. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994. PS3501 A819*Sh
Ward, Geoff. Statutes of liberty: the New York school of poets. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993. PS255 New.Wa
Watkin, William. In the process of poetry: the New York school and the avant-garde. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press ; London ; Cranbury, NJ : Associated University Presses, 2001. PS255 New.W
 4.  David Dabydeen, Turner ( 2002). PR9900 Guy.Da 1994
Döring, Tobias.  Caribbean-English passages: intertexuality in a postcolonial tradition. New York: Routledge, 2002.  PR9900 Wes*D 2002    
 5.   W. C. Williams, Pictures from Breughel & Other Poems (1967).  RBR PS3545 W728Pi
 Diggory, Terence. William Carlos Williams and the ethics of painting. Princeton, N.J.  Princeton University Press, 1991.  PS3545 W728*Di
  Halter, Peter. The revolution in the visual arts and the poetry of William Carlos Williams. Cambridge University Press, 1994.  PS3545 W728*H
 MacGowan, Christopher J. William Carlos Williams's early poetry: the visual arts background. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1984.  PN94 Sml
 Sayre, Henry M. The visual text of William Carlos Williams. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983.  PS3545 W728*Sa  
 Schmidt, Peter. William Carlos Williams, the arts, and literary tradition. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.  PS3545 W728*Sc
 6.  Gunn, Tom & Ander. Positives (1973). RBR PR6013 G976P
Campany, David. Ed. Art and photography. London; New York : Phaidon, 2003.  TR655 Art 2003  
Cotton, Charlotte. The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.   TR642 Cot 2004
Dodsworth, Martin. 'Thom Gunn: Positives and Negatives', The Review, 18, April 1968.
Howells, Richard. Visual culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2003.  LB1068 How 2003
Shukla, Ananta. Ed. Art and representation: contributions to contemporary aesthetics. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2001.  BH301 Rep.Art   
Wells, Liz. Ed. The photography reader. London: Routledge, 2003. TR146 Pho 2003    
Szto et al. 'Poetry and Photography: An Exploration into Expressive/Creative Qualitative Research'. Qualitative Social Work 2005; 4: 135-156.





 The Poet Speaks of Art: Harry Rusche (Emory University)

Painting with Words: An Anthology of Ekphrastic Literature: Damian G. Rollison (Univ. of Virginia)

(This site does not any longer have all its former images, so use it selectively)




Web Gallery of Art


Steve Durbin on art and perception

University of Dundee Philosophy module on the aesthetics of the sublime



Sample list of Ekphrastic poems


from John Hollander, The Gazer's Spirit: Poems Speaking to Silent Works of Art (1995)

Allen Tate, "Sonnet"/William Lescaze, Portrait of Hart Crane
Richard Howard, "Nadar"/Adrien Tournachon, Portrait of Nadar
Ben Jonson (1572-1637), "The Mind of the Frontispiece to a Book"/Renold Elstrack, Engraved Title Page of Sir Walter Ralegh's History of the World
Sir Richard Lovelace (1618-58), "To My Worthy Friend Mr. Peter Lilly"/Sir Peter Lely, Charles I and the Duke of York
Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), "To the Fragment of a Statue of Hercules"/Anon., Torso Belvedere
William Wordsworth (1770-1850), "Elegiac Stanzas"/Sir George Beaumont, Piel Castle in a Storm
Washington Allston (1779-1843), "On the Group of the Three Angels Before the Tent of Abraham, by Rafaelle, in the Vatican"/Raphael, Abraham and the Angels
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto 4/Anon., Apollo Belvedere
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), "On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery"/Anon. (no longer attributed to Leonardo), The Head of Medusa
Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820), "The National Painting"/John Trumbull, The Declaration of Independence
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82), "For 'Our Lady of the Rocks'"/Leonardo da Vinci, Virgin of the Rocks
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "For a Venetian Pastoral"/Titian, Concert Champetre
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61), "Hiram Powers' Greek Slave"/Hiram Powers, The Greek Slave
Robert Browning (1812-89), "The 'Moses' of Michael Angelo"/Michelangelo, Moses
Ford Madox Brown (1821-93), "The Last of England"/Ford Madox Brown, The Last of England
Charles-Rene Marie Leconte de Lisle (1818-94), "Venus de Milo"/Anon., Venus de Milo
Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), "Gypsies on the Move"/Jacques Callot, Les Bohemiens
Emma Lazarus (1849-87), "The New Colossus"/Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, Liberte eclairant le monde
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), "Before the Mirror"/J. A. M.
Whistler, Symphony in White no. 2: The Little White Girl
Herman Melville (1819-91), "The Temeraire"/J. M. W. Turner, The Fighting "Temeraire"
John James Piatt (1835-1917), "To the Statue on the Capitol"/Thomas Crawford, Columbia, Goddess of Liberty
James Thomson ("B.V.") (1834-82), from The City of Dreadful Night/Albrecht Durer, Melencolia
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "For Spring, by Sandro Botticelli"/Sandro
Botticelli, Primavera
Walt Whitman (1819-92), "Death's Valley"/George Inness, The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Edwin Markham (1852-1940), "The Man with the Hoe"/J. B. Millet, L'Homme a la houe
Edith Wharton (1862-1937), "Mona Lisa"/Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa
Robert Bridges (1844-1930), from The Testament of Beauty, Book III/Titian, Sacred and Profane Love
Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), "Brueghel's Winter"/Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Hunters in the Snow
W. H. Auden (1907-73), "Musee des Beaux Arts"/Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
Randall Jarrell (1914-65), "The Knight, Death, and the Devil"/Albrecht Durer, The Knight, Death, and the Devil
Anthony Hecht (1923-), "At the Frick"/Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in Ecstasy
Robert Conquest (1917-), "The Rokeby Venus"/Velazquez, The Rokeby Venus
Richard Wilbur (1921-), "A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra"/Anon., Fountain
W. S. Merwin (1927-), "Voyage to Labrador"/Alfred Wallis, Voyage to Labrador
James Merrill (1926-), "The Charioteer of Delphi"/Anon., Charioteer
Donald Hall (1928-), "The Scream"/Edvard Munch, The Scream
Irving Feldman (1928-), "'Se Aprovechan'"/Francisco Jose Goya y Lucientes, Caprichos, no. 16
Thom Gunn (1929-), from Positives/Ander Gunn, untitled photograph
Marianne Moire (1887-1972), "Charity Overcoming Envy"/Anon., Tapestry, 15th century
W. D. Snodgrass (1926-), "Matisse: 'The Red Studio'"/Henri Matisse, The Red Studio
Daryl Hine (1937-), "Untitled"/Roger van der Weyden, Calvary
Richard Howard (1929-), "Giovanni da Fiesole on the Sublime, or Fra Angelico's 'Last Judgment'"/Fra Angelico, Last Judgment
J. D. McClatchy (1945-), "A Capriccio of Roman Ruins and Sculpture with Figures"/Giovanni Paolo Panini, Capriccio of Roman Ruins and Sculpture with Figures
David Ferry (1924-), "Cythera"/Jean-Antoine Watteau, Le Pelerinage a l'isle de Cythere
Vicki Hearne (1946-), "Gauguin's White Horse"/Paul Gauguin, Le Cheval blanc
Rosanna Warren (1953-), "Renoir"/Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party
Rachel Hadas (1948-), "Mars and Venus"/Sandro Botticelli, Mars and Venus
John Hollander (1929-), "Effet de Neige"/Claude Monet, La Route de la ferme St. Simeon





Last Updated 19 March 2009