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The Poetics of Sight


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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abstract art 200–6, 252–4 Ames rooms 4 animism 7, 151–2, 228–9 Aristotle 215, 224 art galleries 164, 190–1 Austen, Jane 160–2, 187 Mansfield Park 160–1 Pride and Prejudice 161–2 Bachelard, Gaston 8 Bacon, Francis 18, 245–6, 251–2, 264 Balzac, Honoré de 53 Barry, James 47–50 Battle Hymn of Republic 225–6 Baudelaire, Charles 219 Bell, Steve 156 Beuys, Joseph 255–6, 268, 273 Black, Max 221 Blake, William 8–10, 27, 46–50, 57, 71–112, 130 foetal postures 9, 21, 84–5 and miscarriage(s) 85–6 and movement 75, 77–9, 88–90 on oil painters 77–8 and pelvis 10, 18, 20, 72–3, 79 and sexuality 73, 80–4, 105 works Ancient of Days 10, 71–3 The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve 92–4, 232 Book of Job 22–3, 88–91 Book of Urizen 9, 84–5 Divine Comedy 24, 90–2 Eve and the Serpent 96–7 ‘The Fly’ 99–102 God Judging Adam 25, 109–12 Jerusalem 19–20, 78, 85–7, 97–8 Milton 18, 73, 78, 97–9, 107 Mirth 94 Paradise Lost 87–8 Paradise Regained 8 ‘The Poison Tree’ 102–4 ‘The Sick Rose’ 104–7 Songs of Innocence and Experience 97–108 Vision of the Daughters of Albion 21, 82–4, 86 the body 185–7, 263–6 classical vs vile 130 disintegration 156, 264 noses 153 Boitard, François 6, 29–30,...

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