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Ekphrastic encountersNew interdisciplinary essays on literature and the visual arts$
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David Kennedy and Richard Meek

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526125798

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526125798.001.0001

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Close encounters of the third kind: Hamo Thornycroft’s The Mower and Matthew Arnold’s ‘Thyrsis’

Close encounters of the third kind: Hamo Thornycroft’s The Mower and Matthew Arnold’s ‘Thyrsis’

Chapter:
(p.165) 8 Close encounters of the third kind: Hamo Thornycroft’s The Mower and Matthew Arnold’s ‘Thyrsis’
Source:
Ekphrastic encounters
Author(s):
Jane Thomas
Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781526125798.003.0009

This chapter applies the idea of a non-hierarchical, creative exchange of meaning to Hamo Thornycroft’s 1884 sculpture of The Mower, and its accompanying epigraph from Matthew Arnold’s 1866 elegy for the poet Arthur Hugh Clough: ‘Thyrsis’. The chapter argues that sculpture and epigraph, taken together, constitute a third inter-medial artwork in which the compromised relationship between the aesthetic act and the desire to apprehend the ‘real’ is manifested through a complex series of textual and, more importantly, genre citations – including classicism, naturalism, realism, pastoral elegy and Romantic lyric. These coalesce and interrogate each other in this most ‘realistic’ and ‘democratic’ of Thornycroft’s sculptures to date, establishing a competitive and a co-relational dialogue that is enacted on and by the body of the artwork. Placed in the context of social, industrial and political developments in the later decades of the nineteenth century, sculpture and epigraph combine to reveal ethical, ideological and moral dimensions that might otherwise remain hidden in what Stephen Cheeke has described as ‘the sensuous field of the visual’ and the logocentric pretensions of the verbal.

Keywords:   ekphrasis, desire, Hamo Thornycroft, Matthew Arnold, The Mower, Arthur Hugh Clough, ‘Thyrsis’, elegy, Sculpture, epigraph

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