Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials One x 2-hour weekly seminar


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment PORTFOLIO 2: 2500 WORDS  50%
Semester Assessment PORTFOLIO 1: 2500 WORDS  50%
Supplementary Assessment RESUBMIT FAILED ELEMENTS  Resubmit or resit failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. 

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to

1) demonstrate familiarity with the literary tradition and significant texts of ekphrastic writing, including both prose and verse, from classical beginnings to the present time;

2) discuss critically contemporary theories relating to the nexus between word and image;

3) demonstrate competency of technique and a degree of originality in undertaking creative projects (both prose and verse) involving ekphrastic concepts and theory.


Week 1: Introduction to `Painting Words'

Week 2: Classical beginnings I - Space and Time
Texts: `The Shield of Achilles' from Homer's Iliad (18.478-608)
Writing task: bearing in mind fundamental concepts of temporal and spatial conformity and conflict discussed in seminar, write a brief ekphrastic piece based on one of several classical casts or friezes reproduced for hand-out.

Week 3: Classical beginnings II -- Reimaginings
Texts: excerpts from Virgil's Aenead
Writing task: being in mind issues of `reimagining' discussed in relation to Virgil's reconstruction of Homer's `Shield', re-write your own writing task from week 2.

Week 4: Metamorphosis and Medievalism
Texts: extracts from Ovid's Metamorphoes and from Chaucer's `The Knight'r Tale'
Writing task: bearing in mind themes discussed in relation to the Philomela Myth in Ovid and in Chaucer, write an ekphrastic piece based on a handed-out reproduction of a contemporary depiction of that story.

Week 5: Ekphrasis and sex in Spenser and Shakespeare
Texts: from Spenser's Faerie Queen and Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece
Writing task: emphasizing theoretical concepts of sexual difference as they relate to generic differences between the verbal and the visual, write an ekphrastic piece inspired by one of several images handed-out.

Week 6: Romantic reactions I
Texts: Wordsworth's `Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm,
Painted by Sir George Beaumont?
Writing task: bearing in mind concepts discussed linking image, language, memory, and loss, write an elegiac poem or short prose piece inspired by an appropriate painting.

Week 7: Romantic reactions II
Texts: Keats's `Ode on a Grecian Urn' and `Elgin Marbles' and P. B. Shelley's `Ozymandias'
Writing task: bearing in mind concepts of time and art, including ironies of immortality and endurance, write an ekphrastic piece inspired by a suitable work of sculpture.

Week 8: Modern ekphrasis
Text: from William Carlos Williams's Breughal Poems and W H Auden's `Musee des Beaux Artes'
Writing task: bearing in mind concepts of altered framing and unreliable perspective discussed in seminar, write an ekphrastic piece based on one of several modernist works reproduced for hand-out.

Week 9: Postmodern Ekphrasis
Texts: extracts from John Ashbery's Self-portrait in a convex mirror and from R S Thomas's two ekphrastic volumes Between here and now and Ingrown thoughts
Writing task: bearing in mind post-modernist concepts of subjectivity and self-reflection, write an ekphrastic piece inspired by one of several works reproduced for hand-out.

Week 10: Review of Key Concepts


This module explores the intriguing literary tradition of translating visual works of art (whether painting or sculpture, etc.) into verbal ones, a metamorphosis known as ekphrasis, and asks students to put into creative practice theoretical concepts and techniques discussed in seminar. The module is organised chronologically and summons well-known progenitors of the technique such as Homer's `Shield of Achilles', to famous instances in English Romanticism, to twentieth-century engagements with the genre such those as undertaken by W H Auden and R S Thomas

Brief description

This module acquaints students with the literary history from classical to contemporary times of `ekphrasis', or the verbal description of visual artifacts, alongside important recent theoretical considerations of that tradition. Integrated weekly writing tasks will respond to the concepts discussed in seminar


This module is at CQFW Level 6