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kkazan's picture

Written Portraits

  The idea of a written portrait is slightly hard for me to grasp. A portrait is generally a piece of art, yet who is to say that writing is not art? Henry James seems rather intent on playing with our usual idea of a portrait. Generally, we see portraits like that of Rembrant or Renoir; the classical ideal of a painted portrait. 

     

 

We, as spectators, know what to do with these portraits. There is little room for interpretation, and, as the genre tells us, these are what the sitter looked like. We gain a clear visual idea of what these individuals look like.

Unlike painted portraits, written portraits leave much room for interpretation, and cannot be fully trusted. The reader cannot be sure the author is 'painting' with words is the true image of the subject. Not only can we not be sure the subject is accurately portrayed, we cannot be sure the image it creates in our minds is the image the author was seeing. Words leave much up to interpretation, paint, generally does not. 

 

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