Symbolism in Painting
I believe that Symbolist painting, especially in the late nineteenth century, obtained much of its power by borrowing techniques from poetry--by becoming, in effect, a poem written in a language of paint. I discuss (and show many examples from) paintings by Rossetti, Redon, Rops, Delville, and others from the fin de siècle, as well as some works from the Renaissance and from the late twentieth century, particularly those by Keith Haring.
Yeats and Art History
W. B. Yeats attended an art school, not a college, and, although he gave up any intention to pursue his father's occupation, painting portraits, visual imagery is of great importance in his poetry. I discuss his debt to formal art history (particularly to the art historian Josef Strzygowski) and Yeats's way of devising his theories of historical cycles by studying, not politics (as Toynbee and others did) but painting and statuary.
Symbolism in Music
In setting to music the plays of Maurice Maeterlinck, the composers Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas developed a rich and complex vocabulary of musical symbols, and I discuss, with many musical examples, how it is possible to make musical equivalents to the half-visual, half verbal symbols common in the Symbolist art found in other artistic media at the end of the nineteenth century.
Pound and Surrealism
Surrealism was not central to Pound’s poetics; but it is possible to argue that Pound was a Surrealist without quite knowing it. According to the usual taxonomies of twentieth-century art, Pound stands almost diametrically opposed to the Dadaist/Surrealist movement: if Tristan Tzara, Max Ernst, André Breton work to obliterate normal meaning, Pound works to intensify meaning, to kindle concrete particulars into ideogrammic blazes of meaning. But nonsense and excessive sense are extremes that tend to converge.
Wagner and Naming
Names are important to the study of Richard Wagner's music dramas in two ways: 1) the hero often has a concealed or riddling name; and 2) his musical themes often seem to have names--sometimes concealed, in that Wagner's semantic intentions may be unclear, and he did not authorize any guide to his leading motives. I believe that these are two aspects of the same problem, and I will propose (with many recorded examples) a method for solving it.