Picture This, Imagine That: The Literary and Pedagogic Force of Ekphrastic Principles

Picture this, imagine that: the literary and pedagogic force of ekphrastic principles by Zachary E. Pajak

My thesis is comprised of two articles, titled “Interpreting Britomart’s Encounters with Art: The Cyclic Nature of Ekphrasis in Spenser’s Faerie Queene III,” and “Picture This, Imagine That: Teaching Visual Literacy in the Disciplines.” The purpose of my first article is to argue that Edmund Spenser uses ekphrasis in his epic poem The Faerie Queene to draw comparisons between the regenerative natures of both art and life. I support my argument by examining three ekphrastic instances experienced by Britomart, the central knight figure of Book III of the poem: a magic mirror forged by Merlin, a tapestry telling the story of Venus and Adonis, and a statue of Hermaphrodite recollected by the narrator. Through close reading and the assistance of Murrary Krieger’s ekphrastic principle of “stillness,” I support that all three visual art objects underline and associate with the themes of cyclic regeneration in Britomart’s quest, and ultimately reveal Britomart to be an exemplary reader of art for readers to emulate. The purpose of my second article is to develop an economically, technologically, and theoretically accessible framework for teaching visual literacy in the disciplines. To accomplish my goal, I extrapolate from Classical rhetoric’s pedagogic use of ekphrasis as the first systematized method for teaching visual conceptualization, and adapt and extend it to suit the present needs of students in the 21st -Century classroom. To communicate the urgency of the need for students to enrich proficiency at visual literacy, I provide a literature review that narrates the growing need expressed by visual literacy scholars, composition theorists, visualization theorists and specialists, and the library community for an overarching visual literacy framework that provides scaffolding and common language for students. To demonstrate the framework’s usability, I apply it to three disciplinary visuals: a World War 1-era poster by the American Red Cross, a museum installation exhibit for communicating marine science to the public, and the Alpha Helix model created by Linus Pauling. I also offer suggestions for classroom practices and activities for using the framework across K-12 through university-level teaching.