In an Internet age dominated by network structures and visuality, contemporary ekphrastic critics and writers have felt prompted to question anew the value of ekphrasis to its readers. That is, it has become important to demarcate a site for ekphrasis’s continued cultural currency for a readership well versed in relational thinking, who have come to expect the copresence of image and text in nearly every reading experience. In this paper, my questioning of ekphrasis’s continued relevance proceeds via ekphrastic responses—in particular, Ann Lauterbach’s (1995) “Edward Hopper’s Way”—to Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942, one of the most iconic paintings in American art. My consideration draws on Harriet Tarlo’s recognition (2009) of the contemporary value of found poetry, here applied to advance the concerns of ekphrasis in the process of retooling its response to a changing public sphere. Significantly, Lauterbach’s “Edward Hopper’s Way”, a found poem marked by digression, simulates a space of intimacy within Hopper’s pictorial elegies of alienation and lost commonality. Granted, “Edward Hopper’s Way”, in its oblique treatment of Hopper, does not conform to a traditional definition of ekphrasis. Yet Lauterbach, in proposing Hopper, the visual artist, as a lyrical guide to negotiate the tensions between public and private, self and other, and individual and collective at play in his iconic painting, references central concerns of ekphrasis in the digital age.
Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942: The Ekphrastic Poet’s Collective Diner
Jessica Bundschuh is a lecturer in English literature at the University of Stuttgart, initially joining the faculty as a Fulbright Lecturer in American studies. She has published on such topics as contemporary American and Canadian poets and the interconnections between Irish and American performance poetics. Her publications have appeared in The Paris Review, Quarterly West, The Forum, and Antigonish Review.
Jessica Bundschuh; Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942: The Ekphrastic Poet’s Collective Diner. Poetics Today 1 June 2018; 39 (2): 383–401. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-4324517
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