What Literature Can Make Us See : Poetry, Intermediality, Mental Imagery

University dissertation from Lund : Bokbox förlag

Abstract: In this thesis I investigate what kind of mental imagery ekphrastic and pictorial poetry can evoke, how time is represented in this kind of poetry, and how readers experience the temporality it represents. Ekphrasis (a verbal representation of a static, visual, iconic representation) and pictorialism (a phenomenon that occurs when the reality of the fictive world, either psychological or physical, in the text is represented as image) are intermedial concepts: in various ways and to various degrees, ekphrastic and pictorial texts refer to and represent static, visual, iconic media such as painting, photography and sculpture. In the first part of the thesis I discuss intermedial theory and earlier research on ekphrastic and pictorial poetry, and present my contribution to the field. Having investigated the concepts of ekphrasis and pictorialism, I apply cognitive research on mental imagery on ekphrastic and pictorial poetry to examine what kind of mental images the texts are able to generate, depending on their content and structure as well as on how the human brain functions. Mental images have a lot in common with real viewing: the brain treats mental and real images similarly. What are the implications of that for the study of verbally evoked images? Last, I investigate how ekphrastic and pictorial texts can represent time passing as well as time standing still. I present a model to map the relationships between ekphrasis and temporality; how does an ekphrastic poem represent a source image representing either stasis or temporal flux? In this section the relation between sound and temporality is discussed as well. Throughout the thesis, the theoretical notions are supported by literary examples and analyses. Among the examples are poems by Tomas Tranströmer, Wizłava Szymborska, William Carlos Williams, Ella Hillbäck and many more.

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