Download The Poetics of Description: Imagined Places in European by Janice Hewlett Koelb PDF

By Janice Hewlett Koelb

This e-book tells a amazing tale that starts in classical antiquity with ecphrasis, the paintings of describing the area so vividly that the viewers may possibly turn into imaginitive eyewitnesses, and the occasions that triggered an incredible of immediacy to be remodeled into approximately its contrary, a preoccupation with illustration of illustration.

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References to its artistry or its material are rare” (2). Speaking of the description of the ambush scene in particular, Scott finds that “every detail [. ] conspires to persuade us that we are listening to a story rather than viewing a static artwork,” as if the text is really—underneath its deceptive narrative appearance—a description of a static artwork. The reason we must work so hard to “remind” ourselves of its iconicity is, of course, that Homer does not present a static icon. Homer manifestly presents an ongoing activity, a shield in the process of being made; and such a narrative ecphrasis was entirely normal in the view of the ancients.

Pope shows the same flexibility that the Greek language permitted the ancients when he classifies the shield under “Descriptions of Things,” among other such vividly described pragmata as “dancing,” “fires by night,” and a “woodman’s dinner” (Poetical Index 1171–72). Quintilian’s preliminary exercises cover much the same ground as the Greek, but the arrangement is somewhat different. ” Quintilian discusses descriptio not as an exercise in its own right but in a long digression from narratio, giving more ink, however, to the digression than to the main topic.

Homer’s treatment of Achilles’ gesture exemplifies how poets use ecphrasis to “stamp events with certain places and characters,” as Dionysius puts it. Marmontel was thinking along the same lines when in the eighteenth century he suggested that the powerful effect the lines have exercised on audiences over more than two millennia has to do with the analogy between the landscape and the action that should take place there. It is by no means a pleasant canopy that Achilles should seek for mourning the death of Patroclus, but a solitary and arid seashore that is either silent or heaving in response to his grief.

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