Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Art of Interpretation

Ok--this is something I'm very excited about, but I'm kind of nervous too...this may be a terrible idea, but...

We learn about all kinds of literary interpretation, but one kind of interpretation that I love the most is artistic interpretation. That is, using the visual arts to interpret literature and vice versa. An example of this is Anne Sexton's interpretation of Vincent Van Gogh's painting Starry Night. I had this poem, as well as a poster of the painting, above my bed for a long time:

Starry Night by Anne Sexton:
The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.   
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die.

It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons   
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.   
Oh starry starry night! This is how   
I want to die:

into that rushing beast of the night,   
sucked up by that great dragon, to split   
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.
Now, I know that there are tons of paintings and sketches and other artistic interpretations of Borges' short stories. I would love to compare and analyze some of this artwork in the context of it being its own kind of literary analysis. I can also look into whether intellectual property rights come into play here--for instance, has anyone ever taken a piece of art (based on Borges) with a creative commons license and remixed it? I may not be able to find anything, but I am willing to look into it....


  1. I just read this poem in my creative writing class. It's a great one. Our assignment was to write our own poems in response to a piece of visual art (an ekphrastic poem). I actually posted about it on my blog.

  2. Oh yeah, I think I posted on your blog after you wrote that! haha :)

  3. Well I dont know if this helps you but I think it will intrest you. The Van Gogh Museum just realeased a Van Gogh comic book. It is about his life but it is stylised like a Van Gogh painting. Here is the link:

  4. Matt--wow, that is a very intense-looking comic book! Thanks for sharing the link. I think it's valuable to look at art from a lot of angles, and it's interesting to see how people connect art and literature together.