Title

Ekphrasis and the frame: on paintings in Gogol, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky

Abstract

Theories of ekphrasis—the literary description of an artwork—have traditionally addressed the figurative contest between verbal representation (text) and visual representation (image) that structures the trope. Little attention has been paid to the material, physical aspect of the artwork and especially the solid, touchable picture frame. This article examines the function of the frame-as-object in the context of ekphrasis and nineteenth-century realist narrative. It argues that the physical border of the picture frame operates as a demarcating device in the ekphrastic text, as a door-like liminal space that outlines and maintains the boundaries of representation. Moreover, the picture frame’s material presence facilitates both representation and perception in the nineteenth-century realist text. It renders the artwork described more visible, touchable, real. Three nineteenth-century Russian literary works serve as case studies: Nikolai Gogol’s story “The Portrait (1842),” Lev Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina (1873–77), and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (1869). By analyzing ekphrastic scenes in which painted figures step out of the picture frame, this article shows how the frame becomes intertwined with questions of representation, aesthetics, and realist narrative.

Publisher

Taylor & Francis

Publication Date

1-1-2016

Publication Title

Word & Image

Department

Comparative Literature

Document Type

Article

DOI

10.1080/02666286.2016.1144435

Language

English

Format

text

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS