Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Comparative Literature


Dr. Calin-Andrei Mihailescu


My aim is to develop a philosophy of the image that includes an understanding of perspective and how the structures of perception influence reference and mimesis. I trace the logic of representative images that attempt to overcome the materiality of the picture plane in favour of an illusory appearance of the depicted object. I also follow the logic of incarnation and how Orthodox icons insist on the image’s material existence in order to remind the viewer of the event of incarnation. Whereas the tradition of linear perspective values verisimilitude and maintains the authority of an original model, the inverse perspective seen in Byzantine icons emphasizes the creation of presence and of a viewer’s encounter with that which is not directly perceptible. These two modes of image production are both essential to the figurative device of ekphrasis, which is the vivid verbal description of a visual image. In ekphrasis, the two modes are juxtaposed with the effect of dramatising the conflict between a belief in a referential illusion and an awareness of the means of depiction. Consequently, the aesthetic constructions of both visual and verbal art are put into question as their status as accurate representations of the world is destabilised. The influence of iconic image production asserts itself as an alternative philosophy of the image. The visibility produced by such a confluence of imagistic practices changes how one perceives what constitutes the visible itself. The imagistic texts I engage contribute to a philosophy of the image as much as they reflect it. The poem The Axion Esti by Odysseus Elytis uses verbal images to show the human capacity for the perception and expression of the transcendent in the world. The act of looking is affective because it can recognise the invisible in the visible. Alain Robbe- Grillet’s novel La Jalousie uses the vivid presence generated by ekphrasis to question the possibility of objective knowledge through sight and through art. Both texts create an encounter with contradictory ways of seeing the world, and they demonstrate how the production of visibility can transform the viewer’s or reader’s own vision.



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