Architecture and ekphrasis

Space, time and the embodied description of the past

By Dana Arnold

Architecture and ekphrasis


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9949-6
  • Pages: 168
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: October 2020
  • BIC Category: LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory, Geography, Literature, Art History, Theory of architecture, ART / Criticism & Theory, ARCHITECTURE / Criticism, Humanities / Social & cultural history, The arts / Theory of architecture, The arts / History of architecture, The arts / Theory of art, Literature & literary studies / Literary theory, ARCHITECTURE / History / General
  • Series: Rethinking Art's Histories


Architecture and ekphrasis examines how eighteenth-century prints and drawings of antique architecture operated as representations of thought. Using original archival material, it considers the idea of the past in the period, specifically how it was discovered and described, and investigates how space and time inform visual ekphrasis or descriptions of architecture. The idea of embodiment is used to explore the various methods of describing architecture - including graphic techniques, measurement and perspective - all of which demonstrate choices about different modes of ekphrasis. This well-illustrated, accessibly written study will be of interest to academics and students working in a broad range of subject areas. It will also be an essential teaching tool for increasingly popular cross-disciplinary courses.


'This provocative, highly readable book explores the potent exchange between visual and verbal description, considering what the visual allows us to explore and convey that the verbal does not and vice versa. Using a wide range of scholarly, pictorial and technical sources, Dana Arnold examines how words and writing help make us understand the object being described.'
Diane Favro, Distinguished Research Professor, Architecture and Urban Design, UCLA

'Dana Arnold critically examines the relation of architectural theory to the images used in its illustration. Analysing verbal and visual approaches to description from a phenomenological point of view, she demonstrates the ways in which they both parallel and are yet distinct from one another. She also explores the psychic and somatic investments of their creators, revealing unacknowledged philosophical and gendered commitments.'
Keith Moxey, Barbara Novak Professor of Art History, Barnard College

'In this innovative addition to the "Rethinking Art's Histories" series, which takes untraditional approaches to the history of art, Arnold (Univ. of East Anglia, UK) looks at how visual representations can have linguistic qualities and serve as verbal description. In a previous title from Manchester University Press, Writing for Art: The Aesthetics of Ekphrasis, 2008, Stephen Cheeke provided a solid introduction to the subject. The present title looks at how drawings, particularly prints, of the 18th century represent a new language of architectural description for the buildings of antiquity, functioning as ekphrasis. Having concluded that the verbal is not always adequate or accurate to describe ancient architecture, the author analyzes how two-dimensional works on paper can lead to a richer description with greater influence than the written word. The book includes discussion of the understanding of antiquity in the 18th century; the media of drawing and printmaking and the importance of line and space during this period; and gender, specifically how the absence or presence of women impacted the visual ekphrasis of these ancient structures. A substantive bibliography and numerous notes are included.'
--E. M. Hansen, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.


1 The past
2 Time
3 Space
Select bibliography


Dana Arnold is Professor of Art History at the University of East Anglia

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