EN3246   Literature and the Other Arts: Poetry and Painting

Rajeev S. Patke



REVIEW & REVISION  John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975)




     Q1. What attracts Ashbery to Parmigianino?

     1a: That he likes the subject-matter: a self-portrait?

     1b: That he likes his style: whether Mannerist or pre-Mannerist?

     1c: That he likes his novelty: the use of a convex mirror?

     1d: Some combination, or all, of the above?


   Q2. Why did Parmigianino choose to paint a self-portrait, on a curved surface, replicating the effect produced by an image in a convex mirror?

Q3. What does Ashbery derive by way of insight, pleasure or understanding from looking at, and reflecting on, the painting?

Q4. What is the nature of the relation set up by Ashbery between the poem as text and the painting in reproduction as image?

Q5. How does that help us see the painting in a new light? and poetry?



REVISION  John Ashbery: Dialectical tensions concerning  Reality/Art 





Life outside the frame of art


Inside the frame of art










 Englobed captivity


 Visible core












  Extraneous elements






 The rule of art













 Ideal beauty

 Codification (of life)





 The familiar

 The human


 My world

 We surprise him at work

 The unfamiliar

 The angel-like

 The concept

 His world

 He surprises us (looking at him) 




 Us (as in daily living)


 Inclusion as in a metaphor






 Me (in my life)


 Everything (in time)

 Time as in the present

 All time

 Our time

 The present

 The intention behind the artwork


 The ordinary

 Inner calm



 He (in the mirror of art)

 Pinch of death

 Everything refined, made assimilable

 Past time

 No time

 Its enduring outside time

 This mute undivided present (of art)

 The artwork as is, minus intention

 Artwork as life-obstructing task

 The otherness of not-being-us

 Artís aping of naturalness




2    Williams & Brueghel



Q1. What draws William Carlos Williams to such disparate-looking images?

Q2. What, if anything, is similar between these images, simply because Williams wrote about both? Link to Poem 1  Link to Poem 2

Q3. What do you infer about Williams's "poetics" from his texts?

Q4. What is the nature of the relation he sets up between words and images?

Q5. How does that relation contrast with what you find in the relation between Ashbery and Parmignianino? 



3    Dabydeen & Turner 


   Q1. How does this image problematize the simple question "what is this picture about?"?

Q2. If you didn't know the title of the painting, what title might you choose as most apt for what you find in it? What might we say about the relation between images and captions? Or of images without captions? Do they remain the same image (in affective terms) regardless of a title? In short, where do words enter the picture?

Q3. Can we separate Dabydeen's reaction to Ruskin from his reaction to Turner? Why is it important to even ask that question? What is resolved ors ettled by answering such a question?

Q4. Is Dabydeen's poem "about" the image? or about an aspect of human experience (or of art, history, politics, ethics) alluded to by the image?

Q5. How would you contrast the relation of text and image in Dabydeen's case with that in the case of Williams and Ashbery?



4    Photography & Poetry: the Gunn brothers


     'Drink Me'

     'Eat Me'

     and you grew or shrank.

     Here you have to wait.


   In a bus it is nice to ride on top because

it looks like running people over.


Q.1   As 'images' how are photographs different from paintings? In what ways are they similar, or relatable?

Q2. What kind of a photograph is this according to you? How would you discuss it as an image irrespective of the poem?

Q3.  How would you describe the relation between words and images in the case of the poem and photograph above?

Q4. What is the poem "doing" in relation to the image? Is the photograph "aware" of the poem, or the poem "aware" of the photograph?

Q5. What has changed between image and language between Gunn and Williams/Dabydeen/Ashbery? What remains similar, consonant, or comparable?



5    Review: The Verbal & the Visual 


Q1.  Does a poem "interpret" an image, or does it use it as a pretext for itself? Is there a difference? Is there a useful way of applying the Peircean distinction between IMAGE, SYMBOL and ICON to the paintings/photographs we have been dealing with in this module?

Q2. What brings images and poems together in ways that can hold together all the different relations between poems-images illustrated above? What is the basic compulsion behind "ekphrasis"?

Q3. What do images "do" that poems can't or don't? And what do poems "do" that images can't, or don't? How does the determinacy of one medium differ from and complement that of another?

Q4. Does the fact that we are looking at poems (and not prose) make a difference to what we say about the relations between images and words? Or is the distinction applicable to all language as against all visual/non-verbal media?

Q5. What are the ideas, concepts, or approaches and perspectives that help us understand the relation between the verbal and the visual better? How does the balance between an "intrinsic" and an "extrinsic" approach to a visual image chnage as we move from one image-poem pair to another?



Last Updated 30 March 2012