Peter Brueghel 's Fall Of Icarus

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John Hollander in his introduction to The Gazer’s Spirit defines ekphrastic poems as “those which involve descriptions or other sorts of visual representations of works of art” (Hollander, 4). James Heffernan in his essay “Ekphrasis and Representation,” which presents a more detailed study of the definition of ekphrasis, has a similar but more concise definition of ekphrasis as “the verbal representation of graphic representation” (Heffernan, 299). Heffernan goes on to say that ekphrasis “releases the narrative impulse that graphic art typically checks” (Heffernan, 304). By analysing poems written on Peter Brueghel’s Fall of Icarus, this paper studies several different aspects of ekphrastic poetry. Firstly, it studies the manner in which ekphrasis not only describes a piece of art, but does so by translating the techniques used in the graphic medium to the poetic medium. Secondly, it examines the use of the piece of art as a device for the poet to create his own suggestions, interpretations and moral judgments that may differ from the artist’s style and instead fit into the style of the poet’s other works. Lastly, the paper examines the manner in which these interpretations often lead to other ekphrastic conversations that do not respond to the painting, as much as they respond to the poem about the painting, leading to several gazes: the gaze of the original painter, the gaze of the poet, the gaze of other poets on the gaze of the poet, and the gaze of the reader.
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