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Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures:

Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures:

Leonard Barkan
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures:
    Book Description:

    Why do painters sometimes wish they were poets--and why do poets sometimes wish they were painters? What happens when Rembrandt spells out Hebrew in the sky or Poussin spells out Latin on a tombstone? What happens when Virgil, Ovid, or Shakespeare suspend their plots to describe a fictitious painting? In Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures, Leonard Barkan explores such questions as he examines the deliciously ambiguous history of the relationship between words and pictures, focusing on the period from antiquity to the Renaissance but offering insights that also have much to say about modern art and literature.

    The idea that a poem is like a picture has been a commonplace since at least ancient Greece, and writers and artists have frequently discussed poetry by discussing painting, and vice versa, but their efforts raise more questions than they answer. From Plutarch ("painting is mute poetry, poetry a speaking picture") to Horace ("as a picture, so a poem"), apparent clarity quickly leads to confusion about, for example, what qualities of pictures are being urged upon poets or how pictorial properties can be converted into poetical ones.

    The history of comparing and contrasting painting and poetry turns out to be partly a story of attempts to promote one medium at the expense of the other. At the same time, analogies between word and image have enabled writers and painters to think about and practice their craft. Ultimately, Barkan argues, this dialogue is an expression of desire: the painter longs for the rich signification of language while the poet yearns for the direct sensuousness of painting.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4478-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    A few signposts with which to begin our journey:

    Where can we find a more violent or elaborate attitude than that of theDiscobolusof Myron? Yet the critic who disapproved of the figure because it was not upright, would merely show his utter failure to understand the sculptor’s art, in which the very novelty and difficulty of execution is what most deserves our praise. A similar impression of grace and charm is produced by rhetorical figures, whether they be figures of thought or figures of speech. For they involve a certain departure from the straight line and have the...

  5. One Visible and Invisible
    (pp. 1-26)

    Shortly before I turned sixteen, I took part in a high school film project. Each member of the group was required to write and direct a movie in the course of the summer, and we all served as each others’ crew. My fellow-cineastes devoted laborious thought to the choice of a subject, only to end up with the sorts of themes—rock-and-roll, science fiction, the pangs of young love—that doubtless could have provided quite predictable maps of our various adolescent preoccupations. I, however, seized on some rather arcane material, and without a moment’s hesitation. In German class, I had...

  6. Two Apples and Oranges
    (pp. 27-74)

    Apples and oranges, we are often told in the course of casual conversation, shouldn’t be compared. Among those given to more acute investigation of language and thought, the legitimacy of such an assertion, or at least of its placement in the produce department, has been frequently challenged; and, since the argument of this book will depend on some quite particular exercises in similitude, it may be worth reminding ourselves of the problems lurking behind the cliché. As it happens, for the role they seem to be playing in this oftrepeated formula, apples and oranges are rather a curious pair. Romanians,...

  7. Three Desire and Loss
    (pp. 75-126)

    Another, possibly wayward reminiscence. Long ago, when I imagined a future as a composer, I was being tested for the possibility that I might skip the elementary course in music theory and proceed directly to the advanced section. The professor seated me on the bench in front of his frighteningly large grand piano and began the examination by asking me to define a diminished seventh chord. When I responded by saying that it was three minor thirds strung together, he threw up his hands and declared that that was like saying that a face was an eye, a nose, a...

  8. Four The Theater as a Visual Art
    (pp. 127-160)

    Considering that this volume purports to illuminate the Renaissance, it seems to have spent quite a bit of time with predecessors. Plato and Ovid, Zeuxis and Praxiteles, Dante and Petrarch have occupied our attention, but only passing reference, or less, has been made to such matters as the ekphrastic traditions of High Renaissance Romance, the vast early modern library of picture books and emblem books, the careers of artist-poets like Michelangelo and Bronzino, and the traditions of visual iconography, along with their complex relations, as both source and destination, to verbal narrative. One reason for this emphasis is simply the...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 161-162)

    I protest—just in case anyone should make the accusation—that it was not by premeditation that I wrote a whole book about word and image without ever using the wordsLessingorLaocoön, rather like producing a novel without the lettere. It just happened that way, I insist. Upon reflection after the fact, however, it strikes me as worthy of comment for two, possibly contrasting, possibly parallel, reasons: First, because Lessing’s pronouncements on the subject, which focus on issues of temporality, aesthetics, and the representation of reality, have become so thoroughly assimilated to this topic that they seem...

  10. On Sources and Further Readings
    (pp. 163-168)
  11. Primary Sources: Works Consulted and Works Cited
    (pp. 169-174)
  12. Further Readings in Works and Images
    (pp. 175-188)
  13. Index
    (pp. 189-192)