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Om fototextpoesi: Läsningar av mötet mellan fotografisk bild och poetisk text
Södertörn University College, The School of Culture and Communication.
2007 (Swedish)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Magister), 15 points / 22,5 hpStudent thesisAlternative title
On Phototext Poetry : Readings of Photographs and Poetic Texts in Juxtaposition (English)
Abstract [en]

What is the relation of image and word, of sentences and pictures? What kind of message does this combination produce when juxtaposed on a single material plane? And how do we read its “infinite” relation? These are the questions at the center of this inquiry. My main interest concerns the exact nature of the relation between photographic images and textual elements of poetic language when these are juxtaposed in what I call Phototext poetry.

The thesis calls into question the conventional reading habits of the conjunction of photographs and texts, and seeks to understand the more complex connections intrinsic to the relation image/word and its material and perceptual play in poetic works. Does a text always “anchor” the multiple meanings of an image, as Roland Barthes argues? What if the alterations of an image could “anchor” certain fractions of a poetic, polysemantic textual construct? Is a photograph indifferent to the visual, material permutations of texts that certain contemporary poetic practices produce?

I discuss phototextual works and collaborations of various kinds, from Molin fontän [“Molin’s fountain”] (1866) over classic surrealist poetry to language-oriented writing. This last interest also shows (with ambiguity) in the thesis’ two close readings: 23:23 (2006) by Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg and The Tango (2001) by American poet Leslie Scalapino. Throughout the study, I also put these in relation to other works of various, and related, kinds, such as artists’ books, concrete poetry, and phototexts in 20th century art.

My theoretization of phototext poetry focuses on questions of function. My perspective on the phototextual meeting in poetry is therefore concerned, not with taxonomy, but with local, contingent definitions. That is not to say, however, that certain things cannot be attributed to its particular, juxtaposed form. An “unthinkable space” (Michel Foucault), the relation between verbal and visual derives its dynamics from the different ways it actually makes itself “thinkable” and, furthermore, is materially represented. From Craig Dworkin’s conception of illegibility, Jacques Ranciere’s term phrase-image, and Roland Barthes’s obtuse meaning, I try to weave a network of connections concerning the reader’s relation to the photo/text conjunction. My argument that a certain phrase can cooperate with a certain part of an image, that a photo can “anchor” a specific meaning in a polysemantic text, and that the typographical appearance of a text may well have a plastic quality, also suggests a reading that focuses on systems of verbivisual parts and contingent intermedial meetings rather than the stable relation of a determining text and a determined image. In sum, I argue that the relation of photographs and texts must always be approached as a local problem.

My second argument is that the phototext is a self-reflexive form – it investigates itself, as it were. When a photograph and a (poetic) text are juxtaposed, they try to define their own media characteristics. In short, they often investigate the premises for phototextual documentation, communication, and aesthetics. The phototextual form therefore shares a photographic trait, as a “process of rendering observation self-conscious” (John Berger).

I also trace the supplementariness and discursiveness of the relation between image and word, and investigate how it affects our reading of this “disjunctive conjunction”. The text and the image run through each other, both inside and among us, as Rancière would have it. This, in turn, produces a contemporary approach to aesthetics (as a term and philosophical tradition) in this thesis, which involves the practice as much as the aesthetic perception of the phototextual combination. However, I also see as necessary to negotiate with the ways in which the image-word relation has been theorized since the early eighteenth century, as well as with earlier, even ancient, conceptions.

In short, the aim of this thesis is to conceptualize the relation of photographs and texts in phototext poetry, not by destroying the dualistic positions of the visual and the verbal, but rather by re-negotiating them: by approaching them as located inside as well as between these two media, image and text. The relation of photographs and poetic text, I therefore suggest, performs its work “inside” language, at the same time opening up towards the “infinity of language” (Barthes).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Huddinge: Institutionen för kultur och kommunikation , 2007. , 125 p.
Keyword [en]
Phototext, Aesthetics, Contemporary poetry, Photography, Intermediality, Leslie Scalapino
Keyword [sv]
Fototextpoesi, Samtida poesi, Fotografi, Estetik, Intermedialitet, Leslie Scalapino, Marie Silkeberg, Paul Éluard
National Category
Other Humanities not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-1266OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-1266DiVA: diva2:15329
Uppsok
humaniora/teologi
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2007-06-28 Created: 2007-06-28

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