Wordsworth's Poetical Works

The Creative Function of Ekphrasis in the Work of Shelley, Keats, and Wordsworth College

Aesthetic critics and writers of the 18th century wrestled with a number of questions regarding beauty, nature, mimesis, art, and the sublime and how they all related to one another. One of these queries concerned mind and matter – that is, whether beauty is a property of the object itself, or a projection of the viewer. This seems a question that Eliot posits by separating the two potential sources of beauty, suggesting, by ‘let us love […] too’, that beauty is found both within the ‘formed’ object and within the ‘human sympathy’ and should be treated with equal reverence and appreciation. However, this very linguistic separation exposes a frustrating kind of estrangement between the subject and the viewed object, something perhaps encompassed in the sublime poetry of the romantics, in which greatness lies beyond reach and full apprehension of the poet. However, it is ekphrasis, a form described plainly by Gotthold Lessing as a ‘verbal description of a visual artefact’ that strives to close perceived ‘gaps’ between the subject and the object, as the poet attempts to make their words achieve an affinity with the visual object described; melding together the ‘divine beauty of form’ and the human perception, judgement, or ‘...

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