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Hagstrum, The Sister Arts (abstract)

  • Jean Hagstrum. "Preface" and "Introduction." The Sister Arts: The Tradition of Literary Pictorialism and English Poetry from Dryden to Gray. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1958. vi-xxii.

    THIS BOOK approaches "the sister arts" (painting and poetry) from the side of literature; it strives to illuminate neoclassical English poetry by using the methods of literary history and analysis to examine the pictorial imagery of that poetry. Rather than chase the Zeitgeist of this literary period, Hagstrum’s study of interart parallels examines where poetic imagery comes closest into relation with painting. Correcting  a limited notion of the picturesque, Hagstrum promises to reveal the pictorialism of English neoclassical poetry through four approaches: 1) looking at individual poems, studied for their pictorial images; 2) comparing particular poems with particular works of visual art; 3) sketching the historical development of ut pictura poesis; and 4) assessing the neoclassical poet’s use and modification of the pictorialist tradition. Hagstrum hypothesizes that pictorial imagery is most effective when it is in some way metaphorical rather than purely descriptive or imitative of visual reality. He defines his most important term (pictorialism) as a description "which must be imaginable as a painting or sculpture." Also, the pictorial must be ordered in a picturable way; the pictorial is not limited to one particular school of method; the pictorial in text involved the reduction of motion; and the pictorial implies some limitation of meaning. (Jean Jacobson.)

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Michael Hancher
Department of English, University of Minnesota
URL: <http://mh.cla.umn.edu/txtimjj7.html>
Comments to: mh@umn.edu

Created 24 November 1997
Revised 7 May 2000