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'[I]t wasn’t in the picture and is not': Blind Spots and Vanishing Points in Irish Poetical Self-Portraits

Abstract : Pictoriality and a propensity for self-examination and self-representation are characteristic of the poetry of Louis MacNeice, Derek Mahon, Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon. In many a poem, these four contemporary Irish poets try to capture their own portraits in words and images, through highly visual poems often inspired by paintings. This paper first examines how these poets use images and invest paintings, how verbal and iconic texts interact in their creations and to what extent self-exegesis is made possible and more successful through ekphrasis. With reference to Jacques Derrida’s essay on self-portraiture—Memoirs of the Blind: Self-Portraits and Other Ruins—this paper also focuses on the fiasco of self-revelation both through the textual and the iconic medium: as they seek reflections of themselves, the poets are faced with blind spots like MacNeice; they stumble on vanishing points like Mahon; they experience Roland Barthes’s “punctum effect” like Heaney or Muldoon. Finally, this paper probes into the significance and value of those “untidy spots” where—as in W.H. Auden’s poem “Musée des Beaux Arts” inspired by Brueghel’s painting The Fall of Icarus—the I/eye suddenly and unexpectedly slips away. Do those “untidy spots” amount to full stops, simple punctuations, starting points or ‘writerly’ points (R. Barthes) in the poets’ attempts at self-portrayal?
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Contributor : Christelle Seree-Chaussinand <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, August 23, 2016 - 6:06:13 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, April 4, 2019 - 12:08:58 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01355625, version 1



Christelle Seree-Chaussinand. '[I]t wasn’t in the picture and is not': Blind Spots and Vanishing Points in Irish Poetical Self-Portraits. Laurence Petit, Pascale Tollance. Point, Dot, Period.. The Dynamics of Punctuation in Text and Image, Cambridge Scholars Press, pp.84-96, 2016, ISBN (10): 1-4438-8806-0 ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-8806-6. ⟨halshs-01355625⟩



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