The "Art" of Engagement: Ut Pictura Poesis Once More
The main attraction to the study of humanities remains its ability to engage totally most or all aspects of what it means to be human. A successful engagement, however, necessitates not a neat collection of separate academic boxes but a smooth blending uniting all curiosities, interests, and concerns in a liminal area of potentiality. Such a smooth blend can be seen in the age-old comparison of the visual and literary arts, a connection credited to the words of Simonides of Ceos (c. 556 BCE), "ut pictura poesis", "as in painting, so in poetry". Yet this ancient debate can only be resolved with the realization that true reader/audience engagement in a work is achieved not with the strong boundaries demarking the two areas but with a blurring of those boundaries, creating a type of "fumato" if you will, a liminal area drawing together poet/painter and reader/audience. Thus, rather than distinguishing two realms of humanistic knowledge, the concept of "ut pictura poesis" expresses instead a "paragon" which forces both sides to acknowledge not the superiority of one to the other but the necessity of their cooperation in a true expression of the human. A look at the liminal poetic portraits of seventeenth-century English poet Andrew Marvell illustrates this point.
Keywords: Engaging the reader/audience, Visual and Literary Arts, Andrew Marvell, Liminality, Seventeenth-Century Poetry
Dr. Joan Faust
Associate Professor, Department of English, Southeastern Louisiana University