Ut Pictura Poesis, Paris-New York: Trans-Atlantic Exchanges between Poets and Painters, 1850 to the Present
Course Reader; see Description
Ut Pictura Poesis, “As is painting, so is poetry” wrote the Roman poet Horace, a rather prophetic statement given the number of poets that have been fascinated by, even sought employment in the visual art world.
In this course we’ll examine the poetic tradition often called ekphrasis (poetry about the visual arts, painting most often) as it informs the cultural exchanges between poets writing in America and France, above all the two competing capitols of the art world, Paris and New York. Focusing on ekphrastic poems and poets’ art criticism, we’ll explore how poets use writing about painting to articulate their about what poetry is and what its relationship to the world is or could be.
Reading excerpts along the way from the classic formulations of the relationship between poetry and painting by Horace, Lessing, and Plato, we’ll look at poetry and art criticism by Charles Baudelaire, Guilliaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, reading this work in relation to the schools of Realist and Impressionist painting, and later on the Dada and Cubist movements. Over the second part of the semester, we’ll look closely at the American Abstract expressionist painters and read the New York poets John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and Barbara Guest, considering the marked influence of French poetry on their own writing about painting. Time permitting, we’ll read texts by Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Aimé Césaire, Francis Ponge, Anne Portugal, and André du Bouchet.
Students can expect to complete a number of assignments designed to fine-tune interpretive and analytical writing skills across different types of objects (poems and paintings, in this case). But as this course fulfills the university’s R1B requirement, we’ll spend a lot of time thinking about and developing larger research projects, understanding secondary texts related to our topic, and presenting arguments in dialogue with larger scholarly conversations.
Students can expect to complete a number of assignments designed to fine-tune interpretive and analytical writing skills across different types of objects (poems and paintings, in this case). But as this course fulfills the university’s R1B requirement, we’ll spend a lot of time thinking about and developing larger research projects and connecting out analytical writing with the scholarly field at large. Each week students can expect to read a number of poems as well as art criticism, essays, and scholarly writing. Students will be asked to prepare short presentations on these sources over the course of the semester.
All reading and discussion will be done in English, with many texts translated from French. Students will be expected to produce a number of short papers (2-3 pages in length) in response to set questions and exercises, as well as two drafts of a longer final paper on a topic students will begin to develop in the second half of the semester.
French R1B satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement. Classes are conducted in ENGLISH