Why They Are Not Painters: Ekphrasis and Art ... Why They Are Not Painters: Ekphrasis and Art...

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Transcript of Why They Are Not Painters: Ekphrasis and Art ... Why They Are Not Painters: Ekphrasis and Art...

  • Why They Are Not Painters: Ekphrasis and Art Criticism in the Twentieth Century

    by

    Laura Clarridge

    A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

    Department of English University of Toronto

    © Copyright by Laura Clarridge (2015)

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    Why They Are Not Painters: Ekphrasis and Art Criticism in the

    Twentieth Century

    Laura Clarridge

    Doctor of Philosophy

    Department of English University of Toronto

    2015

    Abstract

    This study of twentieth-century poetry proposes a re-examination of how we interpret ekphrasis,

    or poems that address existing works of visual art, by tracing a historical trajectory of these

    poems as responses to the art and critical climate of their time. Though much scholarship has

    elaborated the stakes of ekphrasis as a confrontation between the “sister arts,” between narrative

    time and visual stasis, and between desiring self and its enigmatic other, many modern iterations

    of the genre suggest its hybridity as a work of art and of criticism that poets use to consider the

    value and function of images in their world. The representative poets in this study - Marianne

    Moore, W. H. Auden, William Carlos Williams and Frank O’Hara - were not only adapting

    strategies gleaned from their encounters with Cubist, Surrealist, Dadaist, Abstract Expressionist,

    Neo-Dadaist, and Pop art and artists, but were also actively involved in critical debates about

    how this art was being interpreted, at times in their prose essays, but more frequently in their

    ekphrastic poems. These poets were especially interested in, and often suspicious of, the critical

    trend of formalism, which became increasingly orthodox in its interpretation of modern art in the

    postwar period. The intervention of this study is to demonstrate how these ekphrastic poems

    function as an alternative discourse to formalism, challenging not only the orthodoxy of its

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    increasingly rigid tenets, but also its underlying preoccupation with values of order, purity and

    unity. These poetic appraisals of art exploit the resources of their medium, such as Moore’s

    literary and archeological allusions to jars, which critique Roger Fry’s separation of form from

    function, Auden’s parody of the art critic that suggests the dangerous allure of art divorced from

    political life, Williams’ resistance to interpretation through pastiche and O’Hara’s blending of

    ekphrasis and elegy to expose the emotional repression inherent in Clement Greenberg’s

    authoritarian rhetoric. These poets suggest that writing about visual art often reveals as much

    about the observer as it does about the art, and thus they turn to ekphrasis for its potential to

    multiply the lenses through which to do that seeing.

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    Acknowledgments

    This study is most indebted to the thoughtful and insightful supervision of Andrew DuBois.

    Whatever attributes I have developed as a scholar are inflected by the intellectual generosity,

    attentiveness, and humility that pervade his teaching, his writing and every conversation I have

    had with him. I also want to thank Malcolm Woodland and Elizabeth Legge, whose incisive

    comments have shaped my thinking about poetry and art throughout this process. I am very

    grateful to each member of my committee for so often going above and beyond the call of duty –

    mentoring me during teaching assistantships, introducing me to their colleagues and inviting me

    to present on their conference panels. My committee’s collegiality and genuine interest in my

    project, along with that of Jeffery Donaldson, Robert McGill and Lynne Magnusson, also made

    my defense an especially positive and productive experience.

    My study of Marianne Moore was greatly enhanced by my marvelous visit to the Rosenbach

    Museum and Library in Philadelphia. Elizabeth Fuller and Kathy Haas patiently answered my

    many questions and guided my attention to many fascinating things that I otherwise would not

    have found. I want to thank the University of Toronto’s department of English for this travel

    funding, along with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the

    Ontario Graduate Scholarship Program for their financial support during my degree.

    I feel very lucky to have entered the Ph.D. cohort that I did, populated by so many brilliant

    scholars and lovely people. I’m especially grateful to have fallen in with the witty and wise

    women of GG(O)W (Miriam, Tara, Sundhya, Sarah and Dara), with my 723 office and lunch

    buddies (especially Jenny), and within the larger fold of loud and proud feminist killjoys. I can’t

    imagine what the past seven years would have looked like without them.

    My many days of solitary thesis writing were happily complemented by my time with the warm,

    welcoming community that is the Clinic on Dupont. I want to thank Randy Katz for his

    unwavering encouragement and generosity, and for creating the kind of supportive, collaborative

    environment that has changed my life in so many wonderful ways. I am grateful to him and to

    Zoe Laksman for not only envisioning an exciting niche for me at the Clinic, but for their

    continued support as it transforms into a fulfilling career. I want to thank them, along with Jane

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    Dalton, Dahlia Fisher, Patti Spens and everyone else at the Clinic for their mentorship and, very

    importantly, for their friendship.

    If my parents had not showed me how to love stories, I doubt I would have learned much of

    anything at all. Though I am the black sheep among the math teacher, architect, and engineers

    that compose my family, my parents always encouraged me to study what I loved and they

    always believed I would find my own path. For this and for so many other reasons, I want to tell

    them I love them. I also want to tell Adam and Elena that I now feel officially qualified to

    oversee the development of my niece’s or nephew’s little library! Finally, I need to thank Ed for

    filling my life with all of the things that matter most and for being just as excited as I am to be

    “Dr. and Mr.”

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    Table of Contents ACKNOWLEDGMENTS  .......................................................................................................................................  IV  

    TABLE  OF  CONTENTS  ........................................................................................................................................  VI  

    LIST  OF  FIGURES  ..............................................................................................................................................  VIII  

    LIST  OF  APPENDICES  .........................................................................................................................................  IX  

    INTRODUCTION  ....................................................................................................................................................  1  

    1   “PIERCING GLANCES INTO THE LIFE OF THINGS”: MOORE’S ART-CRITICAL EKPHRASES  .......................................................................................................................................................  17   1.1   INTRODUCTION: MOORE AND THE VISUAL ARTS  .........................................................................................  17   1.2   A CONNOISSEUR OF CRITICS: MOORE’S EARLY POETRY 1915-1932  ....................................................  21   1.3   A VARIABLE “SCIENCE OF ASSORTMENT”: MISCELLANY IN MOORE’S UNPUBLISHED WORKS  ..  30   1.4   ROGER FRY’S FORMALISM: ANECDOTES AND ANTIDOTES  .......................................................................  37   1.5   OVERCOMING MASTERY: EKPHRASIS IN THE LATE POEMS  ......................................................................  49  

    2   LOCATING THE “HUMAN POSITION”: AUDEN AND FRY IN THE MUSÉE  .....................  64   2.1   INTRODUCTION: AUDEN AND THE VISUAL ARTS  ..........................................................................................  64   2.2   AUDEN’S “APOLOGIA”: NEGOTIATING ART AND LIFE IN THE POEMS OF 1938  ..................................  68   2.3   “POETRY MAKES NOTHING HAPPEN”: THE FALLACY OF PRESCRIPTION  .............................................  76   2.4   FRY-SWATTING IN THE MUSÉE: AUDEN’S CRITIQUE OF FORMALISM  ...................................................  80   2.5   WHAT IS ART?: REVISIONARY ESSAYS BY FREUD, FRY AND AUDEN  ....................................................  89   2.6   PARABLES AND POLITICS: THE ARTIST AS EDUCATOR AND AUDEN’S SOLE EKPHRASIS  ...............  94  

    3   FROM PARODY TO PASTICHE: WILLIAMS, BRUEGEL, AUDEN  ........................................  96   3.1   INTRODUCTION: WILLIAMS AND THE VISUAL ARTS  ....................................................................................  96   3.2   “GOOD SWEET VERSES”: