Liliane Louvel 2011. Poetics of the Iconotext

By Kerchy, Anna | European English Messenger, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

Liliane Louvel 2011. Poetics of the Iconotext


Kerchy, Anna, European English Messenger


Liliane Louvel 2011. Poetics of the Iconotext. Ed. Karen Jacobs. Trans. Laurence Petit. Farnham, Surrey, UK, and Burlington, Vt: Ashgate, 206 p. ISBN 978-1-4094-0031-8; (eb). ISBN 978-1-4094-3116-9.

Liliane Louvel 2010. Le Tiers pictural. Pour une critique intermediale. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, coll. "Interferences", 300 p. ISBN : 978-2-7535-1030-2

Poetics of the Iconotext undertakes to introduce the work on text/image relations of prominent French iconographer Liliane Louvel to the English speaking audience. Editor Karen Jacobs entitles her Introduction to the volume "Infinite Dialogues" to highlight the major organizing principle of Louvel's theoretical agenda that pursues a systematic study of a series of intricate interactions rooted in the complex crossover between the literary and the pictorial form. Besides the dialogue between Louvel's major fields of expertise, the British novel and Western painting, the multifocal perspective of the Louvelian oeuvre also establishes an innovative interface between the French and the Anglo-American semiotic schools, the formalist structuralist and the more ideology critically oriented post-structuralist approaches, as well as canonized mastertexts of the ut pictura poesis tradition (from Aristotle to Gombrich) and lesser known francophone semiographers' voices from the 1980s (from Fontanier to Garagnon). The kaleidoscopic methodology fuses insights of art criticism with those of phenomenological philosophy, the psychology of perception and the physiology of vision to explain the reading/viewing experience in terms of Greek -Roman myths of representation, ranging from Medusa and Orpheus to Narcissus; hence it is applicable to both old and new literary and visual media. As a result, this cutting-edge analytical take is worthy of the attention of scholars of classic illuminated medieval manuscripts and hypertext-enhanced digital e-books alike, as the editor rightly points out. In fact dialogism surfaces on the volume's structural organizational level too, given that the collection offers a synthesis of Louvel's two most seminal theoretical works which together constitute her poetics: chapters 1, 2, 3, 5 are derived from L'oeil du texte: Texte et image dans la litterature anglophone (Toulouse: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 1998), while chapters 4, 6, 7 were extracted from Texte/image: Images a lire, textes a voir (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2002).

The polyphony of dialogues is meant to overturn fossilized binary oppositions by breaking down barriers between image and text, space and time, form and content, false and true sense, manifest and latent content. The three parts of the book clearly uncover how Louvel's iconotextual "typology of the in-between" succeeds in resisting rigid classificatory schemata to foster creative critical reflection. Part I begins with explaining the function and the nature of image, focusing on intersemiotic rhetorical practices like ekphrasis or hypotyposis. Key terminological notions are contextualized within the most significant and current debates of text/image studies, as Louvel enters into a productive dialogue with critics of arts and literature from the Antiquity to Postmodernism, from Horace, Lessing and Burke to Merleau-Ponty, Didi-Huberman, Barthes, Derrida and W.J.T. Mitchell.

Already the first definition of the most basic concept, "iconotext", is illustrative of Louvel's unique style, distinguished by the presentation of theoretically challenging ideas in a highly enjoyable, poetic, metaphoric manner. Tellingly, iconotext is described as a pluriform fusion of text and image, reminiscent of the rhetorical trope of the oxymoron that conveys a desire to converge two irreducible objects into one new, ambiguous, aporetic, in-between object, while allowing each term to maintain its difference in the text's pictorial subconscious vibrating with a fruitful tension. The "poetics of the iconotext" indicates the project to circumscribe a typology of modes of image insertion within texts, which produces new hybrid iconotextual artifacts whose modus operandi needs to be scrutinized. …

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