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The Poetics of Sight

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John Harvey

«Ut pictura poesis», Horace said, but through the two millennia in which «the sister arts» have been compared, little has been said about the nature of sight itself. What we see in «our mind’s eye» as we read has not been explored, though by following the visual prompts in texts, one can anatomize the process of visualization.
The Poetics of Sight analyses the role of sight in memory, dream and popular culture and demonstrates the structure of a complex sight within the metaphors of Shakespeare, Pope and Dickens; and within the visual metaphors of Picasso, Magritte and Bacon. This book explores the difference between the great and the failed works of the supreme poet-painter, William Blake, and tracks the migrations of the Satiric muse between verbal mockery and scabrous images in Persius, Pope, Gillray and Gogol. It records the rise, and partial decline, of the vividly «seen» novel in Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Proust and Hardy.
The key concept throughout this book is visual metaphor, which in the twentieth century acquired overarching importance: in art from Picasso to Kapoor, in poetry from Eliot to Hughes, in aesthetics from Pound to Derrida. The book closes with a far-reaching definition of visual metaphor and with the great visual metaphor of the human body.

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List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgements xiii Introduction: Sight, the Mind’s Eye and Art 1 Chapter 1 Shakespeare Pictures 21 Chapter 2 The Unequal Art of William Blake 71 Chapter 3 Satire and Sight 109 Chapter 4 Bleak House to Lighthouse: The Optics of the Novel 159 Chapter 5 Metaphor and Modernism 213 A Note on the Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare’s Women 267 Notes 277 Select Bibliography 299 Index 305 Also by John Harvey 310

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