March 12, 2005

Non-specialist audience

Ok.. so I'm back to writing my abstract. The audience this time is a non-specialist audience. One of the most significant hurdles, I'm discovering, is tryhing to boil down all of the ut pictura poesis tradition, the history of ekphrasis, the definition of ekphrasis, and the history of gendered gazing into... well... one paragraph.

I've learned that the word "ekphrasis" presents serious problems to non-specialist readers. They seem to regard it as jargon... but it's not jargon... its just the easiest way to say something that otherwise takes 5 words... and when every word counts, that's a big deal. So, a definition is necessary. It's quite hard to put yourself in the position of the non-specialist (um... obviously) and then try to imagine what needs to be said. So, I'd welcome any reactions. Here is one paragraph... what sounds like jargon to you? Seriously...

First paragraph:
This interdisciplinary study examines the ways women poets in the twentieth century aproach writing poems about the visual arts, a sub-genre of poetry called “ekphrasis.” My dissertation argues that women’s ekphrasis plays out sympathetic relationships between the sister arts and that we require a more precise critical apparatus for interpreting the genre as a whole—one that accounts for amicable, codependent relationships between the arts. Through four studies of poems by women, my dissertation demonstrates how sympathies between the poet and the artwork that is the object of her gaze alter our current understanding of how ekphrasis operates. Furthermore, by uncovering how these poets use the rhetoric of sympathy to engage paintings, I contend that our critical approach to ekphrasis needs to better accommodate reciprocity between the arts and I suggest “empathetic interpretation” as an alternative to current theorizations. My project addresses how women poets identify, resist, and diffuse gendered power struggles in their artistic creation and how readers of these texts can interpret such work.

Posted by c_jane at March 12, 2005 10:55 AM | TrackBack

Hi there, CJ. Non-specialist reader here. I can certainly understand the difficulty of trying to condense a lot of issue-specific language into an easily digestible summary. "Bushmeat is...and it matters because..." I did have to read a couple of sentences several times before I began to understand (my fault, certainly). I think I got bogged down in the sentences that included "...codependent relationships between the arts" and "rhetoric of sympathy." I'm not sure what the latter is and whether women ekphrastic poets employ it; and I wasn't clear on *which* arts are being discussed in the former. Is it ekphrastic poetry and paintings? The sentence says that "ekphrasis plays out sympathetic relationships between sister arts" - how does ekphrastic poetry play out relationships between poetry and painting if poetry is being used to show those relationships? I think I'm looking for a Heisenberg principle here - if you use one system to measure another, then you can't also use that system to measure itself. I'm really interested in reading more, and really hope that these are helpful comments. Believe me, I know how hard it is to condense all of this down. But do you *really* need to appeal to a generalist audience? Hugs and kisses, N

Posted by: natalie at March 12, 2005 2:00 PM |

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That is a huge help, Natalie :-) Thank you!

Posted by: CJ at March 12, 2005 6:56 PM |

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I really like "empathetic interpretation" and want to hear more (shades of Negative Capability in an ekphrastic context?)

Drafting a one-paragraph abstract of your diss. for a non-specialist audience is a great idea; I need to try that too!

Natalie, I'm fascinated by your Heisenberg Principle angle on this . . .

Posted by: kari at March 12, 2005 7:29 PM |

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Kari... Thanks! Actually, that's the one thing that we just cut from the dissertation :-(. I think there's something there, and I'm really interested in pursuing it, but it may need to wait until I'm done with "ekphrasis" before I start back up with "reading strategies... "

My idea, I think, is very cool. It's founded on the principle that empathy is a "teachable skill." I like that idea. It means that you need to reach across difference to "imagine" and to put yourself into the position of the other.

THAT, I think is very useful. It just gets away from words like "stress" and "interference"... I think that the term "integrated" doesn't do enough... Reciprochal does something... but that idea that you can teach and learn empathy... I like that.

Posted by: CJ at March 13, 2005 10:34 AM |

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