This article takes as its starting point the conspicuous ekphrastic nature of many contemporary Anglophone transcultural novels and asks about their engagement with ekphrasis as a self-reflexive writing mode delving into implicit power relations, cultural hierarchies, and the media landscapes of our digital age. Against the backdrop of intermediality theory, my functional analysis of the cultural work of ekphrasis builds its argument on the analysis of three novels: No Violet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (2014), Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (2013), and Teju Cole’s Open City (2011). I analyze these writers’ interventions in the field of aesthetics, considering networks of aesthetic exchange as well as identity politics, and argue that the functions of ekphrasis in narratives written by the transcultural writers discussed here are of a cultural-critical and sociopolitical nature.
The Cultural Work of Ekphrasis in Contemporary Anglophone Transcultural Novels
Gabriele Rippl, professor and chair of literatures in English, and director of the department of English at the University of Bern, has published on topics such as ekphrasis, intermediality, literature and anthropology, autobiography, and autofiction. She is coeditor of Anglia: Journal of English Philology, the Anglia Book Series, and the De Gruyter series Handbooks of English and American Studies: Text and Theory (the series includes her own Handbook of Intermediality, 2015).
Gabriele Rippl; The Cultural Work of Ekphrasis in Contemporary Anglophone Transcultural Novels. Poetics Today 1 June 2018; 39 (2): 265–285. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-4324444
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