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Derek Mahon's 'Museum Without Walls'

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‘Poetry, I often think, is a visual art among other things’, said Derek Mahon (b. 1941) in an interview for Poetry Review. ‘[My poems] evolved, I seem to remember, very slowly, word by word, as if putting paint on a canvas: staining the silence, improving (I hope) on the blank page.’ This paper addresses Mahon’s relationship with the visual arts, focusing on his poems ‘Courtyards in Delft’ (after Pieter de Hooch’s painting ‘A Courtyard in Delft’ [1659] in the National Gallery London), ‘The Hunt by Night’ (after Uccello’s ‘The Hunt by Night’ [1470] in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), and ‘Girls on a Bridge’ (after paintings by Munch), before turning to more recent encounters between Mahon and modern Irish artists. Through close analysis of individual pictorialist poems, their visual source(s), and sites of encounter, Mahon’s work will be understood in the context of AndrĂ© Malraux’s ‘museum without walls’, W. J. T. Mitchel’s ‘pictorial turn’, and recent critiques of the narrative and tutelary functions of ekphrasis.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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