Melville and the Visual Arts: Ionian Form, Venetian Tint

Melville and the Visual Arts: Ionian Form, Venetian Tint

Melville and the Visual Arts: Ionian Form, Venetian Tint

Melville and the Visual Arts: Ionian Form, Venetian Tint

Synopsis

Melville's allusions to works of art embellish his poems and novels. In this study, his use of the art analogy as a literary technique is traced, along with the influence of his predecessors and comtemporaries and how his sense of form was instructed by design in works of art.

Excerpt

If Melville read Frederic Henry Hedge Prose Writers of Germany (1848), and it seems likely enough that he would have read it, he knew the strictures that Gotthold Ephraim Lessing drew against literary pictorialism. in the preface to "Laocoon, or the Limits of Poetry," as translated by Hedge, Lessing pointed out that "false criticism" misleads authors, and

Has engendered a fondness for sketching in poetry and introducing allegory into painting. Men have attempted to make the former "a speaking picture," without properly understanding what Poetry can or ought to paint; and to make the latter "a silent poem," not considering in what degree Painting is capable of expressing universal conceptions, without departing too far from her destination and becoming a kind of arbitrary writing.

There is little doubt that Melville clearly understood Lessing's complaint. But, having studied the matter deeply and seen what poets and prose writers had already accomplished, he no doubt felt secure in pursuing, with all his literary tact, the venture of making speaking pictures. And, in any case, Lessing's battle had long since been lost. An article that Melville could have read, Lessing's Laocoön, probably by J. D. Whelpley, in American Review in 1851, discussed Lessing's ideas at some length and concluded that "Were the principles of our critic...to pass into literature as critical canons, we conceive a great and serious injury would be inflicted upon the arts" (19). There were already innumerable . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.