Ekphrastic Spaces: The tug, pull, collision and merging of the in-between

Cassandra Atherton, Paul Hetherington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although James A.W. Heffernan influentially defines contemporary ekphrasis as ‘the verbal representation of visual representation’ (1993, 3), we argue for a more dynamic and fluid understanding of ekphrasis. In particular, we focus on the multiple and indeterminate perspectives created by ekphrastic poetry, emphasising the way ekphrastic poetry develops complex and interart relationships that cause a fracturing and/or stretching in the perspectives of both the poem and the artwork(s) it invokes. A powerful in-between or liminal ekphrastic space is created in which meanings tug, pull, swirl and merge. As new meanings are created ‘betwixt and between’ (Turner, Victor W. 1979. “Betwixt and between: The Liminal Period in Rites de Passage.” In Reader in Comparative Religion: An Anthropological Approach, edited by W. A. Lessa and E. Z. Vogt, 234–243. New York: Harper and Row, 234), an ekphrastic point of view emerges, problematising and questioning both-artworks-at-once and highlighting the provisional as it probes what can possibly be said in language about modes of artistic representation in artworks. Additionally, because poetic ekphrasis cannot fully represent, and always reinterprets, another artwork, it is engaged in processes of substitution through which poetic tropes stand in for some of the content of the original artwork. In applying these ideas to the relationships of ekphrastic prose poems to works of visual art, we explicate works by David Grubbs and Lorette C. Luzajic, as well as our own ekphrastic prose poetry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
JournalNew Writing: the international journal for the practice and theory of creative writing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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