Nataliya Gorbina

4F Contemporary Ekphrasis
Session 4 – July 2, 15:30 – 17:30

“The Iconography of Sports Jackets”: Towards (De-)mystification of Art-historical and Art-theoretical Modes of Seeing in British Postmodern Fiction

Convinced of his intellectual superiority, the snobbish narrator of Michael Frayn’s postmodernnovelHeadlong, a self-proclaimed “urban intellectual”, appeals to Erwin Panofsky’s methods of art-historical analysis to draw post-ironically wrong conclusions about iconographical and iconological differences between the English countryside and the city. Within the thematic scope of the conference, this paper addresses the phenomenon of rewriting of various formulae of looking and thinking about art in British postmodern fiction. Based on a combination of(post-)structuralist and (de-)constructionist methodologies, the study aims to answer the following question: In what way does intertextually meta-ekphrastic recycling of art-discursive modes of perception contribute to a revision, subversion and ultimate replacement of the established canonical narratives of art as Jean-François Lyotard’smétarécits?In line with John Berger’s idea of cultural mystification, art-related grand narratives of seeing provide the beholder with commonly and conventionally accepted truths – or rather truths by consensus – about art, the beholder him-/herself and the world around him/her. Within the subversive poetics of a British postmodern narrative, the revelation of these assumptions results in their de-mystification as such. On the one hand, it concerns the discovery of possibly self-refuting and self-subversive motifs in canonically authoritative paradigms of art and perception and their controversial (un-)sustainability in contemporary reality (e.g. meta-ekphrastic(de-)mystification of the art-discursively inspired view on a Botticellian woman as a paragon of beauty and Michelangelo’s art as a touchstone of artistic mastery). On the other, the fictional appropriation of meta narratively formulated methodologies and ideologies that underpin the perception and understanding of art leads to the rewriting of such ideas as more localised and socioculturally specific truths. We see the emergence of a plurality of inherently subjectivepetitsrécits


Nataliya Gorbina is a PhD student at Technical University of Dortmund (Germany). After graduating with a BA in Romance Philology in 2014, she completed her MA in WesternEuropean Philology with a diploma with honours at Southern Federal University (Russia), in2016. In the winter term 2016/17 Nataliya Gorbina was awarded the DAAD research grant to work on her doctoral dissertation on ekphrastic gaze in British postmodern fiction at TechnicalUniversity of Dortmund.