September 2, 2004

Prospectus paragraph

If nothing else, I'm learning to appreciate the time that I can spend even just reworking and revising just snippets of things here or there. This morning I reviewed many of the notes that I'd taken for my "self-portraiture" chapter, and it prompted me to revise/rework/restart my prospectus. So far, this is what I've come up with:

This study examines how women use and change the tradition of ekphrasis as they look at and respond to the visual arts through poetry. Current theories of ekphrasis, the verbal representation of visual representation, view its social dynamic through a necessarily gendered lens. By examining women’s ekphrasis, this study questions the fatalism of existing theories as an always already violent pursuit of the visual field by the verbal. It seeks to explain ways in which female poets position themselves as simultaneous speakers and subjects of their own art and to uncover the creative possibilities these poets discover as they negotiate the charged gender relations of the genre. At its heart, this study investigates the degree to which women looking at art approach it as self-portraiture and how negotiating the self she is able to make larger claims about the nature of art, aesthetics, and power.

Of course, this is probably too big to start with. The biggest problem that I keep running into is this basic need or desire to make some overarching statement about the situation and tenor of women's ekphrasis today. It's not something I necessarily feel comfortable doing because to do so seems like another attempt to essentialize a female experience. So, that's unhelpful. The disseration, of course, will focus on people who are major contributors to women's ekphrasis. How do we know if someone's a major contributor? Well, I think that their work, or the poem itself, needs to have been incorporated into a larger discourse of major poetic contributions. That seems like an incredibly phallocentric way to approach poetry by women, though. So... the binds become more ensnaring.

So far, I'm imagining a first chapter in which the history and the lay of the academic discourse on ekphrasis is laid bare. Next, I think we need a chapter about ekphrasis that explicity confronts the image of the artist's self, since a female poet viewing an image as female entity is necessarily doing some act of self-representation when she regards and represents any image. So, it's best to deal explicitly with images of the self and how women represent images of the self in order to begin a discussion of how women deal with the image as something "not" of herself. That probably doesn't make much sense at this point. I'm also envisioning chapters in which women consider popular images by well known artists, a chapter on women writing about landscapes (the artistic genre, not actual landscapes). I think there's probably also something to be done about women approaching paintings by unknown artists... though I'm not sure how many poems I could point to at this point for which this makes sense. There's probably another chapter in there about women and household images, still life, and the family portrait (esp. the photographic portrait). We'll see.

I need to get back into reading again. I've taken a short fiction reprieve, and so I need to get back into reading women's poetry again. The reason I was so interested in Ashcroft and the boob in the Department of Justice was because of the poem by Claire Braz-Valentine called, "An Open Letter to John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States." I think there's a lot that can be done in discussing this as an example of women resisting ekphrastic fatalism. Maybe it'll appear as some sort of exigence-creating forward.

Posted by c_jane at September 2, 2004 10:42 AM | TrackBack