Writing with Image: Verbal-Visual Collaboration in 20th-Century Poetry

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Helwig, Magdelyn Hammond
Loizeaux, Elizabeth B
This study examines verbal-visual collaboration in which a poet and a visual artist work cooperatively to produce a single book. Verbal-visual collaboration is a fertile genre that refigures the historically oppositional relationship between the sister arts and that anticipates today's hypertext experiments in interart forms. I confront the problem of reading a multi-media text and posit &ldquo;integrated reading&rdquo; as a constructive critical approach that privileges neither word nor image. Integrated reading stresses relationships and asks questions about how the verbal and visual elements interact, what they say to and about each other, and how they work together to interrogate issues of representation. Examining the nature of poetry from the stance of images, and vice versa, means questioning the nature of representation itself. A central concern of verbal-visual collaborations, and modern poetry, is representation. My integrated readings consider issues of representation demonstrated in the process, presentation, and meaning-making of verbal-visual collaborations. My dissertation has two other goals: to begin to write the history of modern verbal-visual collaboration and to develop a taxonomy of such projects. I focus on three texts: Ted Hughes and Leonard Baskin's <italic>Capriccio</italic> (1990), Frank O'Hara and Larry Rivers' <italic>Stones</italic> (1957-1960), and C.D. Wright and Deborah Luster's <italic>One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana</italic> (2004). I trace the specific histories of these works to position each within the history of verbal-visual collaboration and to show how the creative process bears on reading a collaborative text. I describe categories of collaboration based on the working proximity of artist and poet and their relationship to material production, and my taxonomy provides a beginning for classifying the various ways in which poets interact with visual images.