Interpretation as an Obstacle to Ekphrasis

I find the concept of ekphrasis rather ambiguous, in that Mitchell states that on a semantical level, there exists essentially no difference between images and language. The same amount of information and meaning can be articulated through speech and through an image. However, the relationship between the two and the degree to  which they correlate with one another becomes the obstacle. In certain cases, an illustration can serve to support a speech or verbal element, as a picture is worth a thousand words. In other cases, the opposite occurs: speech can help better understand an image.

Although this signifies that verbal and pictorial factors are correlated on some level, the exercise we did in class with Achille’s Shield proved that while images and language are able to support one another, they are not a replacement for each other. The exercise demonstrated just how limited the practice of ekphrasis can be. No matter how detailed and descriptive the passage was, there still remained infinite ways to depict the shield because while images are concrete and straight-forward, textual and verbal descriptions leave room for imagination. Hence, interpretation obstructs the practicability of ekphrasis.

One Reply to “Interpretation as an Obstacle to Ekphrasis”

  1. Marie, I agree with you that ekphrasis is limited due to the fact that images cannot substitute text and text cannot substitute images.  However, I disagree with your reasoning that, “Images are concrete and straight forward” and “Textual and verbal descriptions leave room for imagination.”  Aren’t images capable of leaving room for imagination?  Since all images are not literal, isn’t there a possibility for multiple interpretations?  For example, an image of an American flag might mean patriotism, revolution, capitalism, exceptionalism individualism, etc.  I believe both images and text have the capability to be interpreted a multitude of ways.  Yes, images and text cannot replace one another,  but both have the ability to overlap with each other, and contain multiple meanings.

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