Imagery and Ideology: Fiction and Painting in Nineteenth-Century France

Imagery and Ideology: Fiction and Painting in Nineteenth-Century France

Imagery and Ideology: Fiction and Painting in Nineteenth-Century France

Imagery and Ideology: Fiction and Painting in Nineteenth-Century France

Synopsis

Literature is ostensibly a sequential and thus temporal medium, and painting a static and spatial one; yet writers like George Sand and Emile Zola have attempted repeatedly to represent visual and spatial phenomena in literary texts, just as painters like Eugène Delacroix and Claude Monet have sought consistently to capture effects of time and movement on canvas. The incorporation of elements from one artistic medium into another creates a dynamic interplay of image and ideology, both between art forms and within individual texts and paintings, which constitutes the crux of this book. Each chapter involves the detailed analysis of a text and a painting, related through topic, theme, and technique. By juxtaposing the works of ten major writers and ten painters of comparable stature, the book explores the various modalities and layers of meaning in nineteenth-century French art, both verbal and visual, and proposes ways of reading the ambivalent artifacts of ‘modernity.’

Excerpt

Literature is ostensibly a sequential and thus temporal medium, and painting a static and spatial one; yet writers like George Sand and Emile Zola have attempted repeatedly to represent visual and spatial phenomena in literary texts, just as painters like Eugène Delacroix and Claude Monet have sought consistently to capture effects of time and movement on canvas. the incorporation of elements from one medium into another creates a dynamic interplay of imagery and ideology, both between art forms and within individual texts and paintings, which constitutes the crux of this book. Each chapter involves the detailed analysis of a text and a painting—related through topic, theme, and technique—in order to explore various modalities and layers of meaning in nineteenth-century French art, verbal and visual.

Sisterhood and sibling rivalry

On the eve of the nineteenth century, reacting against the long-standing bond between the “sister arts,” Gotthold Lessing defined, then defended the boundaries between poetry and painting in the Laocoon, with his classic statement that “succession of time is the province of the poet, co-existence in space that of the artist” (1766/1910, 109). Among the legions of critics to follow Lessing’s lead is Boris Uspensky, who contends that “if pictorial art, by nature, presupposes some spatial concreteness in its transmission of the represented world but allows temporal indefiniteness, then literature (which is essentially related not to space, but to time) insists as a rule on some temporal concreteness, and permits spatial representation to remain completely undefined” (1973, 76). Yet, in numerous cases, modern literature is characterized precisely by the effort to suggest space, often bending the very rules of temporal concreteness proper to its medium and espousing those of painting, while modern painting often sacrifices spatial precision to achieve the illusion of temporality and even narrativity inherent in literature.

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