By Michal Peled Ginsburg
What makes tales approximately images so gripping and unsettling? Portrait tales argues that it's the methods they problematize the relation among subjectivity and illustration. via shut readings of brief tales and novellas by means of Poe, James, Hoffmann, Gautier, Nerval, Balzac, Kleist, Hardy, Wilde, hurricane, Sand, and Gogol, the writer exhibits how the subjectivities of sitter, painter, and viewer are produced in terms of representations formed via specific pursuits and gear kin, usually made up our minds via gender in addition to through classification. She specializes in the facility that may accrue to the painter from the act of illustration (often on the price of the portrait's subject), whereas additionally exploring how and why this act may perhaps threaten the portrait painter's experience of self. examining the viewer's relation to the portrait, she demonstrates how portrait tales problematize the very act of seeing and with it the best way subjectivity is developed within the visual field.
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Additional info for Portrait Stories
Unwittingly gives him back” to her (215). “Seeing” the same thing constitutes the two women not only as rivals but also as mirror image or echo of each other—thus “de-realizing” both. If the man in the portrait is a ghost, an apparition that only the two women see, the specular relation between the women compromises the status of “seeing” itself as part of the real. Whereas in James’s official view, the artist’s vision gives us access to reality in all its fullness and nuance, here seeing de-realizes both seers and what is seen.
The lack of any recognizable social setting in the story strips this power of any determinants other than gender difference. Most importantly, the painter who wields this absolute power is presented as a disinterested, “pure,” artistcreator who has no worldly concerns, who aspires to transcend the real, and who paints only for the love of art, his first bride. Thus, Poe’s story presents the view of art as a separate sphere, outside the world, and hence, presumably, outside power relations, as dependent upon or grounded in a gender differential that gives the male painter complete power over the woman.
The frame narrator’s reaction to the portrait sidesteps these issues. Unlike the visitors to the turret, who see the portrait’s “mighty marvel” in its resemblance to the original (483), the narrator is not struck by the portrait’s mimetic accuracy; there is no textual evidence to suggest that he recognizes the portrait’s subject. Nor does the narrator express admiration for the portrait as capturing the essence of life, being “Life itself,” as the painter put it. 17 Unlike the story of the painter, the story of the narrator’s reaction to the portrait cannot be generalized, or allegorized: it remains the story of one individual’s affective response or reaction to a particular portrait.