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Faculty Mentor

Dr. Kevin Griffith

Subject Area

Art, English

Abstract

If ekphrasisis a literary description of a visual work of art, and ecocriticism uses literature to study nature and ecological concerns, how do the two mix? The ekphrastic poem “Musée des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden not only expands the understanding of the genre but also broadens the understanding of nature. Auden’s poem is quintessentially ekphrastic, yet it has never been examined in terms of how it is both informed by and informs an eco-critical reading. Auden and Pieter Bruegel, the painter of “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” upon which Auden based his poem, express nature through the imagery of animals; however, Auden enriches his poem by synthesizing ecological nature, human nature, and inner nature, all of which not only help deepen understanding of Bruegel’s painting, but also create a more complex image of nature through the reader’s eyes. By combining Auden’s lyrical beauty, as he was heavily inspired by Freud in understanding suffering as exquisite, with Bruegel’s fantastical imagery, the viewer is able to understand the mythology of Icarus and how human nature, perhaps emphasized through ecological nature, has told the tale of Icarus many times over.

Keywords

Ecocriticism, Ecopoetics, Pieter Bruegel, W.H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, ekphrasis

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