The Poetics of Description tells a remarkable story that begins in classical antiquity with ecphrasis, the art of describing the world so vividly that the audience could become imaginative eyewitnesses. The story continues with the European writers from Milton to Lord Byron who inherited this tradition and used it to describe places, both natural and man-made, to serve as figures for mind, memory, and creative perception. It comes to a surprising conclusion when, in the middle of the twentieth century, one prominent scholar?s misunderstanding limited ecphrasis to descriptions of works of art, and what had begun as an ideal of immediacy was transformed into nearly its opposite, a preoccupation with representation of representation.

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