On 29 September at 13.00 Silvia Kurr will defend her doctoral thesis "Material Ekphrasis: Bringing Together New Materialisms and Ekphrastic Studies".
Prof. Marina Grišakova, University of Tartu
Prof. Dr. Gabriele Rippl, University of Bern (Switzerland)
Dr. Jarkko Toikkanen, University of Oulu (Finland)
If in antiquity the term ekphrasis was used to denote a speech that stimulates mental visualization, then in contemporary discourse, ekphrasis refers to a wide array of intermedial phenomena, from descriptions of paintings, sculpture, and photography in literature to the integration of paintings in film. In this dissertation, I explore how contemporary literature and films engage with artworks (paintings and other media). In particular, I focus on how ekphrasis transforms images, thereby drawing attention to materiality and embodiment. My matter-oriented approach to ekphrasis is informed by new materialist thought, which pursues a twofold aim: first, to overcome dualisms, such as matter and meaning, body and mind, nature and culture; second, to challenge the view of matter as a passive object.
My analysis of materiality at differing scales—from microscopic to planetary—shows that contemporary ekphrasis challenges dualisms and anthropocentrism in multiple ways—from putting into focus the agency of cells and embodied experience to foregrounding large-scale ecological processes. Ekphrasis, thus, serves as a powerful tool for (re)shaping our understanding of art and the world.