Ekphrastic texts are usually published separately from the visual representations they re-represent. The relation between the text and the image is one of substitution: the text replaces the image. But when an ekphrastic response and the image that inspires it are placed next to each other, the result is not redundancy. Rather, the juxtaposition draws attention to the polysemy of the image and to what I call the polysemy of looking. Ekphrasis that narrativizes, moreover, necessarily adds information to what is depicted, whereas ekphrasis that describes may add information but need not. If, as I assume, narrativizing is a typical cognitive response to scenes in our world as well as to represented scenes, an analysis of the additions in ekphrasis that narrativizes can help to explain why interpretations of events in our world can differ as much as they do. I draw examples from two novels that juxtapose images and ekphrastic responses, one in which individual images are narrativized (Vargas Llosa) and one in which sequences of images are narrativized (Calvino).
The Polysemy of Looking: Reading Ekphrasis Alongside Images in Calvino’s Castle of Crossed Destinies and Vargas Llosa’s In Praise of the Stepmother
Emma Kafalenos; The Polysemy of Looking: Reading Ekphrasis Alongside Images in Calvino’s Castle of Crossed Destinies and Vargas Llosa’s In Praise of the Stepmother. Poetics Today 1 March 2012; 33 (1): 27–57. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-1505531
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