February 25, 2005

Anatomy of an End Comment

I. Topic of genuine praise for the paper
(e.g. The use of personal experience on page one nicely adds to your ethos as a reliable authority on the topic.)
II. Two or three of the biggest trouble spots in the paper in decending order:
A. State the problem.
B. Identify where it occurs in the paper.
C. Offer a brief suggestion for improvement.
D. Rinse and repeat.
III. One comment for the student to remember while preparing the next assignment (either something to keep doing or something to look out for).

Posted by c_jane at 4:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005

What I'm reading right now

When I'm not perfoming metacommentary on definition papers by freshman writing students (and there's plenty of that to be done), these are the articles/sites that are keeping me busy today. The first is an online reinvention of a print journal about experimental writing and interart work called How (ever) and How2. The second is an article by Rachel Blau DuPlessis on Barbara Guest's work (which appears in the above periodical). The third is an interview with Kathleen Fraser and Barbara Guest from Jacket Magazine.

Posted by c_jane at 8:44 AM | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

My wildest scholarly dreams

This post responds to Matt's post from yesterday.

One of my original hopes when I started writing my dissertation was to compile an anthology of women's ekphrasis in order to answer the question, "how have women (and, frankly, men, too) looked at and responded to the visual arts with poetry?" Currently the "tradition" of ekphrasis (words representing images) has been theorized solely on the basis of works authored by male poets. In order to see if current theorizations are representative of the whole, we need to recover ekphrastic works by women. The most difficult, of course, to find are pre-Romantic poems by women.

In order to find examples of ekphrasis by women, I've had to literally stand around in libraries and skim through volumes and volumes of poetry looking for "catch phrases" or words or literary devices or, frankly, titles that seem to indicate that the poem is referencing a work of art. My "dream" would be to try to train a computer to do what I'm doing, but better.

Here's what I imagine: based on contemporary poems come up with terms, phrases, contexts, figures of speech, etc that are commonly used in ekphrasis (could you teach a computer to identify "descriptive language"?.. I suppose this would be research question #1). Then, based on the texts entered in the database somehow come up with a robust series of features that "typify" poems about visual subjects. )I suppose you'd have to go through a series of checks and balances... the computer makes suggestions... a human being determines whether or not the poem fits the criteria... tells the computer if it does or doesn't... the computer essentially "learns" from this process and modifies its results based on what is included and excluded from the generated lists.)

An activity like this would be interesting because, of course, one of the most difficult methodological questions, I think, in interart studies is finding a way to make sister art comparisons. Also, I think the process itself would spark rich and interesting questions about the "how" part of my question. "How" do poets represent images with words? The question is vexed with all kinds of interpretive presuppositions... but watching how the computer identifies "ekphrastic" language would teach us about the "how" that we can't see.

Visualization of the information in this instance might be more informative for the researcher than descriptive language... because description of description... well... seems only to be more derivitive, but perhaps illustration of description (translating back to the image through language) would be more interesting.

The end result of attempting this task, I imagine, would be two-fold. 1.) an important work of recovery (the anthology) and 2.) an attempt to answer "how" words represent images.

Posted by c_jane at 1:38 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 21, 2005

More on Museum Ekphrasis

In the introduction to her dissertation, Barbara Fisher describes what she sees as two ways ekphrasis has been understood in it’s theorization and critical treatment. In the first place, ekphrasis has been treated as an acting out of the “sister art” tradition. By focusing on the “ut pictura poesis” similarities, the theorizations focus on the generative, fruitful relationship that the arts share. The second theoretical treatment has focused more particularly on the struggle between the two art forms for aesthetic and social dominance. This approach, championed by W.J.T. Mitchell and James A.W. Heffernan focus on the competition (given the term paragoni by da Vinci) between the arts as playing out the social, gender, and economic struggles between those in power and those perceived as threatening to that power. Fisher’s own work charts another path for ekphrasis in the 20th century. By situating contemporary ekphrasis as taking place in the setting of the museum, her case studies attempt to reposition ekphrasis as a means of engaging with the physical, economic, and social constructions of how we come to view and to respond to art.

Fisher’s approach is new, inventive, and, frankly, quite fresh. I’ve only had a chance to read through the first part of it, because that’s all I could get for free on the electronic dissertation site. But I’d like to consider the way that she sets up the critical history of ekphrasis as generative tradition versus competitive. This is different than how I’ve been imagining theories of ekphrasis. Not radically so, but different enough to help me clarify what I’ve seen happening. Basically, I have seen the history of ekphrasis in practice as charted on one trajectory and the history of theorizations and critical engagements with ekphrasis on another trajectory. I think those who tend to celebrate ekphrasis for its productive and fruitful relationship between the arts tend to be those who are either a.) poets who are engaged in the process and therefore championing the arts collaborations or b.) Joseph Frank and Murray Kreiger who come from the New Critical School of thought and see ekphrasis as a formal opportunity. (Heffernan writes that it “elevates ekphrasis from a particular mode of literature to a literary principle.) It’s the critical approach that is revised by, essentially, Marxist critics: Heffernan and Mitchell. Their theorizations of ekphrasis are determined by the struggle for social, economic, ontological, and gendered dominance of one art by another. In other words, they replace the “sister arts” analogy with another trope of the genre: paragoni struggle. To my mind, what we end up with in the end is this: Poets see the arts as sisters and are attempting to use their similarities and differences to fruitful and creative ends. Critics use the conventions of the genre to explore formal and social phenomena that happen as a result of its practice. These seem, at least, to be the end results.

Fisher’s scholarship explores poets’ use of the museum space in order to do both: explore the sibling affinities and tensions between the two arts while simultaneously critiquing the social mores, tropes, institutions, etc. of art’s display and reception. I’m not clear, however, on how Fisher is “reading” the poems? It is unclear from these first few pages if she reads them as part of the history of ekphrasis. Clearly, her study is more interested in their treatment of the museum-space; however, I’m left wondering how these poems use the museum space (if they do) to cope with the conventions of the genre and its tradition. Does she assert that the competition between the arts simply doesn’t exist because the poem’s concern lies in its “peripheral vision” (her term) focusing on the museum and the setting more than the direct object of the poets’ gaze?

Posted by c_jane at 9:13 AM | TrackBack

February 20, 2005

Museum ekphrasis

Today's not a good day on the ego. Fresh off the Digital Dissertation press: Museum mediations: Reframing ekphrasis in contemporary American poetry Barbara K Fisher out of NYU. Do you ever have one of those days where you'd just like everyone in your discipline to do a kind of "roll call"? Alrighty... everyone working on ekphrasis in the 20th century, please stand up and be counted. Oh, and by the way, would you like to get coffee and chat, because that community would be really valuable right now?

Posted by c_jane at 2:25 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

After the dissertation

I'd just like to say that one of the projects I want to work on after the dissertation is about poets and painters collaborating on dramatic productions. This just seems utterly cool... and a constantly recurring phenomeonon. Most are aware that W. B. Yeats not only wrote plays, but was involved in their production and stage design. Wallace Stevens and Kenneth Koch are also followers in this tradition. What strikes me is that their most important collaboration is over set design... something that is not illustration, nor is the writing ekphrastic. I wonder where you find images of these productions, if it's even possible.

[Note: I've now discovered that I'm not the only one who's thought this same thing. Oh well...]

Posted by c_jane at 8:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jack Vettriano

An article on Jack Vettriano on BBC. I found this by way of taking an online course on Modern and Contemporary Art at the Tate Modern. This particular lesson, focusing on value, raises the question of Jack Vettriano's art in the U.K. One of the most popular contemporary painters, Vettriano's work is not exhibited in any galleries. His work is scorned by art critics as "reductive" and "escapist." What is interesting to me is the way that the critics discuss his images in terms of its value based on its "narrative structure."

The biggest complaint lodged against his art is that it can be "consumed in a glance." What is interesting is that the narrative emphasis in visual art is usually devalued for it's *inability* to be consumed at a glance. Essentially, Vittriano's art is being sucked into the illustration/illumination debate. What devalues his work is that it is trying too hard to be like language.

The public, on the other hand, responds favorably to his work. In fact, his prints sell faster than Monet in the UK.

As far as the Tate online course goes, I'm really intersted in the interface. It is clean and easy to follow. It encourages frequent feedback and reflection. I think I may have found a model that is useful for teaching with images.

Posted by c_jane at 12:20 AM | TrackBack

February 19, 2005

Electronic poetry magnets

If you enjoy your magnetic poetry set, but either can't stand the mess it makes, or have small children who could eat the words... Consider satisfying your chance poetry fix at the London Poetry Center. Or, you can simply go to the online magnetic poetry website. My favorite is the "innuendo kit."

Posted by c_jane at 2:17 PM | TrackBack

MLA and MSA '05 CFPs

MLA '05 will be held in Washington, D.C. The list of calls for papers includes two enigmatic calls for papers on literature and the visual arts. One due March 5.

MSA '05 will be held in Chicago, IL. The deadline for seminar proposals rapidly draws near. Attending a seminar has been, perhaps, one of the most fulfilling experiences of my graduate career. More disciplinary associations should consider the seminar format. I'd love to put together a panel on Modernist Ekphrasis. Any takers?

Posted by c_jane at 11:51 AM | TrackBack

Categories and organization

Now that I'm actually making noticable progress writing my dissertation, I'm interested in making my work space, work flow, and organization of materials more efficient and user friendly. So, I've expanded my categories to reflect this. I've altered categories a little to add with my ability to parse information more quickly. I'm getting back to the purpose of the blog, which was to help me write my dissertation. I've added a "commonplace" section for briefly (one or two sentences at most) annotated links. Within that section are several subcategories, including each of the poets I'll be useing, ekphrasis, book arts, illustration, etc. These, of course, will be troubled divisions, but that's the point. Oh! And why not a couple of personal categories. I'm going to start populating some links and things under the "Hobbies" categories.

Posted by c_jane at 8:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack