The Ambiguity of Ekphrasis

As we discussed in class, ekphrasis refers to the verbal description of a work of art.  The image/text relationship is characterized as the self/other relationship.  One one hand we have an image that is supposed to concretely express something visual, while on the other we have the context, perspective, and cultural implications of the text.  Sometimes there is the threat that ekphrasis will never be fully capable of describing an image (ekphrastic fear), other times ekphrasis can help us “sense” an image to make it more real (ekphrastic hope), while in other cases it is neutral (ekphrastic indifference).

These different relationships between an image and text mirrors how we view other people.  People can experience fear in the idea that we are all one unit (humanity).  We can also feel hope in the sense that we are not alone.  Lastly we may be apathetic to our relations with others.  Viewing and discussing images and text is then, in a sense, like taking a psychology class.  Our opinions may be colored by our view on the world, or how we wish the world to be.  They may differ from visual to visual, or we may consistently wish for a particular relationship.  I am curious to see this theory practiced in class!

One Reply to “The Ambiguity of Ekphrasis”

  1. Maddy,

    I love this parallel of human relationships to ekphrasis. You suggested that our parallel to “ekphrasis fear” would be feeling as if we are all one unit.

    In addition to that, I’d say that we perhaps fear that we are unable to fully understand or communicate with one other. As with ekphrasis fear, we fear that we may never fully be able to articulate the thoughts of another human.

    We looked at the idea of “solipsism” in my Communications class the other day, so I figured I’d add some food-for-thought to your ideas 🙂


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