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  • Des pouvoirs de l’ekphrasis: l’objet auratique dans l’œvre de Claude Simonby Yona Hanhart-Marmor
  • Jean H. Duffy
Des pouvoirs de l’ekphrasis: l’objet auratique dans l’œvre de Claude Simon. By Y onaH anhart-M armor. ( Faux titre, 396.) Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2014. 212 pp.

Yona Hanhart-Marmor’s book makes a substantial and original contribution to the critical scholarship on the relationship between word and image in Claude Simon’s fiction. Drawing on the work of Barthes, Benjamin, and Didi-Huberman, and informed by Ruth Webb’s reconsideration of ekphrasisin her important 1999 survey article ‘EkphrasisAncient and Modern: The Invention of a Genre’ ( Word & Image, 15.1 (1999), 7–18), the study opens with an overview of some of the ways in which Simon problematizes the distinction between frame and framed, before proceeding to argue, for the most part persuasively, that he challenges both the conception of ekphrasisas a self-sufficient ‘detachable’ entity and the modern restricted application of the term to the description of art objects. For Hanhart-Marmor, Simon’s ekphrastic practice is closer to ancient rhetorical conceptions of the exercise, according to which ekphrasisis, of course, defined as ‘descriptive language, bringing what is portrayed clearly before the sight’ (Theon, Progymnasmata), which is to say a vivid evocation of almost any subject (people, places, periods of time, events) that is distinguished by its enargeia, by the impact that it makes on the mind’s eye of the listener. Viewed from this perspective, Simon’s exploitation of ekphrasisis conceived as encompassing the description not only of artworks, artefacts, and various sorts of visual representation, but also of fictional scenes and objects, as well as the recounting of events and processes; most importantly, it also foregrounds the engagement of the perceiver with the object, scene, or event that is being conjured up and, when combined with references to punctaand auratic objects, results in passages of particular temporal density in which different periods are juxtaposed, superimposed, interwoven, and merged. I have three main reservations about the study. First, the distinction between what, in Simon’s work, is to be regarded as description and ekphrastic description is not directly addressed. Second, the exposition of methodology is rather piecemeal, and the study never fully articulates in a sustained statement the connections among the theoretical models and concepts on which it draws and which, in some instances, it adapts. Thus, the extension of the Barthesian studium–punctumdistinction beyond photography to include not only painting, but also fictional scenes is presented as unproblematic, while the broader implications of other adaptations made by the study – for example, the association of the punctumwith the viewer’s activeemotional investment in a given object – are likewise not considered in any detail. Third, parts of the study synthesize material from a wide range of earlier scholarship or rehearse points made elsewhere; although most relevant studies are cited in the useful bibliography, a fuller in-text, critical contextualization of the argument in relation both to criticism on Simon and, more generally, scholarship on ekphrasiswould have brought [End Page 261]out with greater force and clarity the originality of Hanhart-Marmor’s thesis. Notwithstanding these concerns, I found this to be a highly engaging study: its general argument is bold and thought-provoking, and its analysis of detail is precise, perceptive, and often illuminating.

Jean H. Duffy
University of Edinburgh


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