The Relationship Between Ekphrasis and Illumination

After our class discussion today, I found myself particularly interested between the relationship of ekphrasis and illumination. We discussed how they can coexist and also fail to work with each other when presented at the same time. There is no denying that when something is illuminated, the piece of art is visually enhanced. However, I would say the experience for the reader when viewing something where ekphrasis is present is more meaningful and impactful rather than simply viewing an illuminated piece of art.

My reason for this statement can be directly linked to the power of imagination. When something is left for the reader to imagine, such as it is with ekphrasis, I believe it creates a more powerful experience. Rather than being shown an image, the reader is left to interpret the text for themselves and envision what they are reading. This stance on ekphrasis is a personal opinion and I am well aware that some people might disagree.

I have always found that a successful book will force its readers to visualize what is occurring within the text. Because of this, the plot line and imagery stays with the reader for a long time because they were forced to come up with the visuals all by themselves. In contrast, when analyzing an illuminated piece of art, the image within the onlooker’s mind can be fleeting because the person is simply observing rather than creating.

One Reply to “The Relationship Between Ekphrasis and Illumination”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with your view on the relationship between ekphrasis and illumination. I have always found that when reading (in particular when reading a novel), descriptive and vivid language adds immensely to my experience with the work. I enjoy being able to craft the images in my own mind, rather than having someone do it for me. Being able to imagine for myself what particular characters look like or what certain settings or scenes entail is half of the fun. Often times, when books are made into movies, I find myself particularly disappointed with the casting, as I have already decided on my own how particular characters should look and sound. One example would be the adaption of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. I’d read the book at least five or six times before seeing the film, and I had crafted for myself the images of George and Lennie. In my opinion, casting John Malkovich as Lennie and Gary Sinise as George wasn’t the right call, but therein lies the beauty in ekphrasis and the use of ones imagination. While I had crafted my own images of George and Lennie, the film makers had crafted their own as well, and theirs must have leaned more in the direction of the actors that they chose. As you pointed out, I believe the process involved in creating your own visuals will leave you with a longer and more lasting impression of a work, as compared to when you are simply viewing someone else’s imagined image.

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