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By Grant E Scott. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1994. Pp. xvi + 228; 19 illustrations. $37.50.
Whether or not they knew the word, ekphrasis has always been a matter of concern for readers of Keats when they tried to interpret the poet's uneasy response to art objects like the Grecian Urn and the Elgin Marbles. But although "Ode on a Grecian Urn," in particular, has provoked hundreds of critical readings, scholars generally have not paused to consider the inherent complexities of the creative act by which visual art is represented in a verbal medium. Grant Scott has made a welcome and important contribution to literary studies with his well-informed analysis of the history and theory of ekphrasis and of the special fascination and challenge Keats found in probing the relationship between his own art and those of painting and sculpture. Scott reminds us of the central role the pictorial arts played in Keats's poetry and of the unique stylistic mannerisms he developed in response to the challenges of ekphrastic description. In the process Scott demonstrates convincingly that ekphrasis, far from being a marginal or merely technical artistic concern, is a matter of central importance in cultural history.
The book gets off to an impressive start with an informed, illuminating account of the early history …