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Ekphrasis

Ekphrasis: the graphic, often dramatic description of a visual work of art

On Ekphrasis: A Caveat
One of the Museum's goals is to encourage visitors to confront authentic works and to genuinely respond to them. The form and character of that response varies, but one of my favorites is ekphrasis, the vivid and poetic response to and description of a work of art. Trying to capture the essence of one medium in another inherently drives creativity, and perhaps nowhere is that more clear than when the simultaneity of visual expression is juxtaposed against - and expressed through - the irreducible linearity of utterance. In this section we present examples of ekphrastic writing based on objects in the Museum's collections.

Two of the most memorable ekphrastic passages in antiquity describe shields: Homer's description of the shield of Achilles in the 18th book of the Illiad, and Virgil's description of the shield of Aeneas in the 8th book of the Aeneid. Here, then, is our own shield - we don't edit creative writing for factual accuracy, nor do we select writings that match our own views of the work or works involved. Here the validity of a statement is measured not by how accurately it reflects current scholarship and curatorial judgment regarding an object, but by how well it expresses the genuine reaction of a viewer to that work.

Read, enjoy, respond.

Alex Barker, Director

Poetry from Professor Unrath's class, February 2008 (opens new window)
 


Art and Sound: A Short Film by Boden Lyon (February 26, 2010 )

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