Digital technologies entail new possibilities and challenges for the production and reception of ekphrasis. The ekphrastic poet is given the opportunity not only to write a poem “describing” a work of art, but to create a multimedial artwork involving several senses. In consequence, the recipient is no longer simply reading an ekphrastic poem but engaged in an activity of reading, viewing, and listening, whereby ekphrasis becomes part of a multisensory “event.” Digital “remediation” has given the ekphrastic writer a new creative freedom to work with the visual arts. In particular, software techniques have allowed the ekphrastic writer/artist to experiment with the kinetics of text and image, thus developing new ways to problematize and overcome the old dichotomy of stasis and movement within the arts. This article focuses on three examples of computer-mediated ekphrasis that make use of the digital possibilities in various degrees. The Swedish writer Lotta Lotass’s tetralogy Redwood (2008–9), Hemvist (2009, Abode), Kraftverk (2009–10), and Nya Dikter (2011, New Poems), published on the website Autor Eter, relies on ekphrasis as a mode of writing in relation to a vast number of remediated photographs in the form of picture postcards. Edward Falco’s Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales (2006), available on the homepage of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), is a suite of image-text combinations where photograms are the object of ekphrastic re-presentations. Accounts of the Glass Sky (2006) by M. D. Coverley (Marjorie Luesebrink), published in ELO’s first collection of electronic literature, is based on old black-and-white remediated photographs that are linked to ekphrastic poems. The article shows that ekphrasis in all of these cases becomes part of a multi-medial experience or aesthetic event that in various degrees relies on the active participation of the reader/viewer.
Ekphrasis and Digital Media
Mats Jansson is professor of comparative literature at the University of Gothenburg. He is the author of books on the introduction of T. S. Eliot in Sweden, on the Swedish modernist breakthrough in the 1940s, and on the poetry and art of the Swedish modernist Sven Alfons. He has published a selection of Eliot’s literary criticism in Swedish translation, and has coedited English and Nordic Modernisms (2002), European and Nordic Modernisms (2004), and Nordic Responses (2014). His latest publication is on ekphrasis in Swedish poetry from romanticism to the digital age: Poetens blick. Ekfras i svensk lyrik (The Poet’s Gaze: Ekphrasis in Swedish Poetry, 2014)
Mats Jansson; Ekphrasis and Digital Media. Poetics Today 1 June 2018; 39 (2): 299–318. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-4324468
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