Behind the Arras: Tapestry Ekphrasis in Spenser and Shakespeare

Behind the Arras: Tapestry Ekphrasis in Spenser and Shakespeare

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Rather than stage a confrontation between word and image, a tapestry ekphrasis reminds us of the close relationship between texts and textiles. The arras underscores issues of representation in The Faerie Queene, Cymbeline, and Hamlet that have been overlooked or downplayed to our detriment. We have not, for instance, recognized the extent to which Spenser and Shakespeare present alternate discourses---and classical allusion, in particular---by way of a specifically material element. In so doing, they align hermeneutic processes with traditionally feminine textile practices such as weaving, translating, and unraveling. A tapestry ekphrasis creates an illusion of tangibility within a fiction and also highlights narrative threads in the text or play that are subtle but structurally imperative. The appearance of arras in these works creates opportunities for a rich array of interpretation: what is valuable about tapestries, actual and literary, is that they accommodate plurality without sacrificing narrative coherence.... Liz Oakley-Brown writes, a€œIn the process of translation boundaries and borders are disrupted and frames of signification ... only to tear apart in an act of violent sparagmos, but also to reconstruct, reinterpret, and therefore repair for posterity.

Title:Behind the Arras: Tapestry Ekphrasis in Spenser and Shakespeare
Author:Rebecca Olson
Publisher:ProQuest - 2008


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