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Stewart, Engraven Desire (abstract)

  • Philip Stewart. "Text, Image and Allegory." Engraven Desire: Eros, Image and Text in the French Eighteenth Century. Durham, NC: Duke UP. 1ñ38.
AS PREPARATION for his book, which sets out to reveal a discourse of propriety and desire in eighteenth century French illustrated texts, Philip Stewart outlines his methods of exclusion and definition. His primary principle is that "text never determines how it is illustrated" (2). In other words, illustrations exist as products of individual readings of a text and are "constrained by definable boundaries . . . [that are] by no means fully determined" (3). 
    Stewart recognizes that undertaking the definition of all definable boundaries would be too large a project. Instead, he treats illustrations of the unclothed body, demnstrating how the different articulations of this image are affected by engraving technology, author-artist relationships, and social and historical contexts. 
    Stewart's final discussion in this chapter deals with the idea that images limit the possible readings of the text they accompany. The difference between representation and resemblance is defined as Stewart demonstrates that successful execution of one does not necessarily guarantee the success of the other. In order to be suggestive, an image should not be exhaustive. Its power may rest on its exclusions and its deft, short-handing of concepts. This may also mean it has the potential to truncate the text it accompanies. 
    Stewart marshals his argument to conclude that images are ultimately dependent on a verbal context, and that the more complete that context is, the more the image may mean. This is, finally, a very Lessing-like argument; it carefully defines the domains of word and image and then finds the domain of the image to be wider and more proliferative. Howver, I am unsure that he makes his case. (Joan Menefee.)

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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: <http://umn.edu/home/mh/txtimjm5.html>

Comments to: mh@umn.edu

Created 24 November 1997

Revised 23 December 1997