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Contemporary Poets, the Visual Arts, and Ekphrasis

Huen, Pak Hang (2019) Contemporary Poets, the Visual Arts, and Ekphrasis. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis is a historical, biographical and literary investigation into modern poets’ diverse engagements with the visual arts and ekphrasis. The project situates contemporary poets in the context of the age of digital reproduction, which evolves from the Benjaminian age of mechanical reproduction, and re-frames ekphrastic poetry within an intricate network of relations between poets and the visual arts. Earlier studies of ekphrasis postulated a competitive relationship between poetry and the visual arts, but critics have now turned to recognise modern poets’ readings of not only works of art but their representations of life subjects. In line with this critical paradigm shift, I argue for a current, ongoing moment of a kind of biographically-inflected ekphrasis in the lengthy history of modern ekphrasis and poetry. I suggest that modern poets return to exploring the complex relations between visual artworks, artists, and viewers. The main body of the thesis is made of the case studies of three contemporary poets Pascale Petit, George Szirtes, and Tamar Yoseloff, chosen for their lifelong commitment to the visual arts and ekphrasis. I call them ‘ekphrasists’ and suggest that they take their bearings from their poetic, artistic and critical predecessors and contemporaries. Drawing on psychoanalytic and life-writing theories, especially Christopher Bollas’ 1987 notion of the transformational object, the case studies read their bio-ekphrastic oeuvres as three sustained life-writing projects about the transformational agency of art. This interdisciplinary project reveals new dimensions to modern poets’ engagements with the visual arts and ekphrasis as extremely fertile grounds for their various autobiographical and biographical purposes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
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Keywords: poetry, contemporary poetry, ekphrasis, literature and visual arts, psychoanalysis, life writing
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Pak Hang Huen
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2020 10:35
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2020 10:35
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25662

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