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  1. Much nineteenth-century aesthetic theory values the visual imagination of the writer. The emphasis on the writer's eye creates a particularly close relationship between painting and poetry. How do poems which represent paintings draw attention to both the power and the limitations of language in relation to visual art? To what extent are poems about paintings also — or instead — poems about language?
  2. Although vision is the dominant sense in nineteenth-century aesthetic theory, it is not the only sense to be mentioned in this topic or in Robert Browning's poems on artists, Fra Lippo Lippi (NAEL 8, 2.1271) and Andrea del Sarto (NAEL 8, 2.1280).
    1. Where do you see the power of the other senses acknowledged or invoked?
    2. Paintings offer to the eye what they withold from the touch. How does this idea relate to the experience of desire presented in the poems?
  3. While reading a poem is a process that takes time, a picture presents itself to the eye all at once. Poetry and painting thus bear different relationships to time. Consider this phenomenon in relation to any of the paired literary and visual representations in this topic.
    1. How does each mode try to achieve the effect natural to the other? That is, how do visual representations encourage viewers to experience them as a process, and how do literary representations seek to provide a unified experience?
    2. Does the relation between visual and the literary representations seem one of cooperation or competition? How does considering the two together make you more aware of the strengths and limitations of each mode?
  4. In his review On Some of the Characteristics of Modern Poetry, Arthur Henry Hallam uses the term "picturesque" to describe Tennyson's poetry.
    1. How useful is the term "picturesque" in defining the character of Tennyson's poetry? Does it apply equally to his early and late poetry?
    2. To what extent is it a useful way of thinking about nineteenth-century poetry more generally?
  5. Along with the sublime and the beautiful, the picturesque had been the focus of Romantic aesthetic theory and poetic practice. See for instance Gilpin's Observations . . . Relative Chiefly to Picturesque Beauty and Sir Uvedale Price's On the Picturesque (listed under Electronic Texs).
    1. Where do Hallam's ideas of the picturesque seem derived from Price's? Where do they differ?
    2. Although Hallam considers Tennyson a picturesque poet, he also sees him as seeking beauty. Price's distinction between the beautiful and the picturesque seems no longer to hold. Why do you think this distinction disappeared? What is gained and what is lost by this collapsing of categories?
  6. Hallam praises Tennyson for "his valid, picturesque delineation of objects, and the peculiar skill with which he holds all of them fused, to borrow a metaphor from science, in a medium of strong emotion." The poetic practice praised here would later be condemned by Ruskin as the "Pathetic Fallacy" (NAEL 8, 2.1322).
    1. How does an early work of Tennyson's like Mariana (NAEL 8, 2.1112) illustrate the practice described by Hallam and by Ruskin?
    2. Ruskin himself distinguishes between those pathetic fallacies that have "some beauty" and "no discord" and those that "set our teeth on edge." Into which category do you think the fallacies in Mariana fit? How do the other terms of Hallam's praise help you to make that judgment?
  7. This topic is dominated by men's paintings of women and by men's poems about those paintings. The power to represent is presented as a masculine prerogative to which women must submit. Yet almost all of the poems attribute a certain power to the women in the paintings. What is the nature of this power? How is this effect conveyed in the language of the poems? What social and/or aesthetic anxieties does it reveal?
  8. While not himself a painter like Rossetti, Robert Browning was the author of Fra Lippo Lippi (NAEL 8, 2.1271) and Andrea del Sarto (NAEL 8, 2.1280), dramatic monologues in which painters muse to themselves about their paintings. By contrast, My Last Duchess (NAEL 8, 2.1255) and The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed's Church (NAEL 8, 2.1259) represent the point of view not of artists but of collectors and patrons, whose power and money influence artists' work. The Robert Browning Hypermedia Archive will allow you to read some of these poems while viewing the artworks they describe.
    1. What image of the visual artist emerges from Browning's poetry? How does the artist in these poems relate to society in general, and to patrons in particular?
    2. While Browning embeds his artists in a social world, Rossetti tends to focus exclusively on the artist's relation to the model. To what extent can Rossetti's poems also be described as "dramatic"?
  9. Christina Rossetti's sonnet In an Artist's Studio (NAEL 8, 2.1463) explicitly concerns itself with the relationship between the male artist and the female model.
    1. What problems, both personal and aesthetic, characterize this relationship?
    2. Is it possible to determine the speaker's final judgment about the "truth" of the painter's works? If so, what is it?
  10. Ruskin praised Turner's The Slave Ship (NAEL 8, 2.1321) as a masterpiece, yet he sold the painting because he found it "too painful to live with."
    1. To what extent does Ruskin segregate his different responses from each other? Is the painfulness of the painting part of its aesthetic power as Ruskin describes it?
    2. How does Olaudah Equiano's description of life aboard a slave ship (NAEL 8, 1.2851–59) change your response to Turner's painting, if at all?
  11. W. H. Auden's Musée des Beaux Arts (NAEL 8, 2.2428) is a twentieth-century poem about a sixteenth-century painting, Brueghel's Icarus. Compare Auden's poem to some of the works in this topic, particularly as regards the textual description of visual art, and the relation between poet and artist.

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