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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12128/5148
Title: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: painting verus poetry
Other Titles: Bractwo Prerafaelickie - malarstwo i poezja
Authors: Zasempa, Marek
Advisor: Kalaga, Wojciech
Keywords: malarstwo; poezja; Bractwo Prerafaelickie
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Katowice : Uniwersytet Śląski
Abstract: Pre-Raphaelitism in art and literature is in many respects regarded as a foreshadowing of Modernism. Rossetti, in his creation of mood and inclusion of psychological analysis in poetry, heralds the techniques and concerns of Imagism, and his experiments with consciousness and phenomenology are combined with a devotion to an idea of the image as a compact and revelatory expression of a state or feeling (an idea comparable to the Modernist “epiphany”). Pre-Raphaelitism in poetry had a major influence upon the writers of the Decadence, and on Gerard Manley Hopkins and William Butler Yeats, who were also influenced by Ruskin and visual Pre-Raphaelitism. Additionally, Yeats’s private symbolism and the visual aspects of his poetry bear much resemblance to Pre-Raphaelite ideas. The examples gathered in the present study show that the work of the Brotherhood did not pass away as a short-lived phenomenon, but instead paved the way for future generations of poets and painters. The Pre-Raphaelite legacy is significant, and the achievements of the movement encompass both poetry and painting, which they freed from their constraints simultaneously, bringing the two areas of artistic expression closer together. The analytical approach taken towards the interrelationship of poetry and painting in this study has consisted of a treatment of both forms of expression as “secondary modelling systems,” composed of distinguishable meaningful units (refered to as “images” throughout the argument). The application of this approach to both arts has demonstrated that those units are indeed comparable even though they are created in different artistic domains and employ different tools, methods and material in order to express meanings. As has been shown, these arts can be analysed in a parallel fashion if they are treated as texts that can be read regardless of the kind of code they are composed of. Therefore, it is possible to demonstrate that the intellectual operations involved in both the poetic and the painterly text creation and reception processes are similar. To show that it is possible to compare these arts has been the broadest aim of this study. Such a comparison leads to the discovery of specific similarities between the two artistic domains. In this study, a few fields of intellectual operations have een treated as those that particularly facilitate investigation of the resemblances between poetry and painting. First of all, notions of spatiality and temporality have been the most informative and constructive in terms of cross-artistic references. As has been proved, neither space nor time can be unequivocally associated with only one form of expression; even though the refutation of Lessing’s traditional approach is not an innovative contribution of the present study to the research field, my argument provides evidence that spatiality and temporality are not realms differentiating poetry from painting but are, in fact, spheres that facilitate the substantiation of the close connection between the arts. The evidence was gathered throughout the demonstration of the interconnectedness, but also ambivalence, of time and space as concepts as well as due to the revelation of the presence of temporal structures in painting and spatial relations in poetry, which was a traditionally repudiated argument. The next broad notion that this study has been concerned with is spectatorship. The concept has appeared with the same frequency in interpretations of poetry and in analyses of painting; this fact can serve as an argument supporting the proximity of these arts. More specifically, the idea of looking, when it appears in discussions of poetry, immediately steers these discussions towards the topic of human visual perception, which conventionally relates to pictorial arts. At this point, what I believe to be two significant achievements of the current study should be mentioned: first, not only are the themes of human perception, visuality and even physical optics discussed in relation to painterly creation, but, and this is worth emphasising, they are also explored in connection with poetic accounts. Secondly, the argument successfully, I believe, merges the concepts of the “reader” and the “viewer” into one locution – the “reader/viewer” – in discussions of these two, thereby conceptually fused arts. The most prominent (but not the only) illustration of this achievement is the phenomenon of the double work of art, which was discussed as being, in varying degrees, a unified form of painterly/poetic expression. Of course, it would be an overstatement to claim that such an approach to the recipient of the artistic experience is an innovative contribution of the present study, but contemporary criticism is still too bashful in using the “reader/viewer” as a legitimate, conceptual entity in discussions of painting/poetry as fused forms of expression. Inter-systemic correspondence was most evidently exemplified in the parts of this dissertation concerned with the verbal features of painterly expression and the visual qualities of poetry. As was pointed out, paintings do indeed show “exclusively” poetic attributes, like the ability to generate narratives, equivalents of rhetorical figures, devices that indicate mood, and self-reflexive remarks. Poetry, on the other hand, has painterly characteristics such as indications of space, attention to detail and references to the act of looking itself. These sets of attributes do not only reveal that painting and poetry share each other’s features, but also that each of those forms of art can imitate the other. The intermedial “exchange” of properties leads to a situation in which verbal images can actually “simulate” pictorial occurrences, and, reversibly, visual images “pretend” to belong to the realm of verbalism. The presentation of such examples in this study is, I believe, a further noteworthy accomplishment. As was stated at the outset of this study, similarities inevitably entail differences. These are most vividly observable in transformations of poetry and painting into the other medium, in which cases the mode of inter-systemic translation is exposed. The most frequent alterations involve the emphases and contexts that are changed during the process of conversion. For example, the painter or the poet may choose to focus on a different area than the one highlighted in the source work, or the converted work can be situated in altered historical or cultural circumstances. Frequently, the time perspectives are also changed; poetic extensions of momentary actions from painting obviously indicate a discrepancy between the verbal and visual renderings. This fact, however, does not mean that prolonged time perspectives are not achievable in painting: this study examines examples of visual narratives, or socalled “pregnant moments” with extended chronology. Thus, the difference in question is one between particular versions of the same motif or a deliberate modification of the source meanings by the “appropriator,” not a difference dictated by the insufficiency of any of these forms of art. Another dissimilarity, and, this time, a certain deficiency of the visual medium, surfaces in the painters’ attempts to render ambiguity, moral dilemmas or complex spiritual experiences. Such transformations often involve a narrowing of meaning, and the resulting painterly representations prove limited, simplified or too obvious (as in the case of Hunt’s depictions of Shakespeare’s characters). Nevertheless, instances of successful renderings of even the most intricate spiritual states are also numerous, as is proved by the example of Rossetti’s Dantesque paintings. Therefore, it is not legitimate to claim that painting is incapable of conveying abstract complexities. It has not been the aim of this study to desperately search for differences, and, as it turns out, when dissimilarities between poetry and painting occur, they are not essentially conditioned by the nature of these art forms. One could even say that there are no discrepancies between the arts that could not be reconciled on the condition that both arts are approached with the same attitude towards their creation, structure and mechanisms. The stance assumed in the present study is, in fact, exactly of this kind, with its emphasis on the image-istic, textual and readerly character of both forms of expression.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12128/5148
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