I really love art; my blog tends to mention quite a few trips to enjoy visual feasts. Some of my earliest memories are of art, both producing it and being surrounded by all sorts of wonderful images. I have also always been a reader; linking words and images is an extraordinary thing in my world – you should see my house. It is also my profession and now an enormous pleasure in English Studies.
I am quite passionate about English Studies. Although I am reading advanced units now I value Approaches to Text and the perspective it brings to reading more than ever. ‘Approaches to Text’ asks some provocative questions like is it useful to apply literary analysis to non-literary material. This year I decided to invert the question and frame it in a way more familiar to me; is it beneficial to use art terms when analyzing text.
Analyzing texts and literary elements like tropes and narratology as ‘elements of art’ opens an interesting way of thinking about writing, texts and authors. For me, Shakespeare’s metaphors are Chagall’s colors, Dante’s allegory is like Picasso’s use of line, and epic poetry is like Rivera’s murals. The way artists manipulate elements of art has a profound effect upon the viewer just as the way authors manipulate elements of language has profound effects upon the reader.
Effects upon the reader or viewer and the link between language and visual images are provocative to consider. For me, language and image is almost inseparable. Their juxtaposition helps to define the un-rendered space so central to expression; it is the space where effect happens and my imagination can construct meaning. Taking ordinary things like soup cans, gardens or domestic interiors, and making them extraordinary through manipulating the elements of visual art is fantastic to observe; making language extraordinary through manipulating its elements creates equally exceptional effects. When visual images and language are linked the effect is visceral and quite gripping.
Linking visual imagery and text is nothing new; illuminated manuscripts, DADA and Picasso come to mind; they are positively understated compared to Thomas Hirschorn and Mario Merz’s contemporary use of text and image. Both Hirschorn and Merz use sheets of published texts as visual elements in their compositions; pages and columns of text are used as shape, color, or line. This seems to suppress literary elements of the text. It represents a full circle from manuscripts where individual letters and margins are decorative elements, and a kind of commemorative art illustrating the importance of the words themselves, to an art form where words have no meaning. It requires me to use visual analysis when engaging with text.
Shakespeare’s ‘imagery’ begs visual analysis, too; what I visualize is part of his work’s extraordinary effect. For me, text and image are co-dependents; when I see an art work I create or seek a narrative to enhance my viewing experience just like my imagination paints a picture of Chaucer’s pilgrims or Bronte’s school girls. Since I tend to read like N. C. Wyeth illustrated classic novels it makes sense to approach literature using the tools of visual analysis too. When tropes are like brush strokes the world on the page becomes richer and more accessible.