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Ravishing Images

Ekphrasis in the Poetry and Prose of William Wordsworth, W.H. Auden, and Philip Larkin

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Margaret Katy Aisenberg

This major study of Wordsworth, Auden and Larkin proposes that we read the history of contemporary poetry as the history of a war between words and images. This book argues that the desire for transparent clear poetry, in the 19th and 20th centuries, led poets to try to appropriate the powers of the image: the main trope they used was ekphrasis, a written description of a work of art. But the relationship between the arts was less a marriage than a rape. These poets feared the wordless power of the other they described. They narcissistically created these images with the rhetoric of possession, domination, violence, or entombment.