Art, Ekphrasis, and Music in Byzantium and Islam
Focus is on the interrelation of art, architecture, verbal description, poetry, and music (including the singing of psalms and recitation of the Qur'an). We explore how ekphrasis - the style of writing vividly intended to transform the listeners into spectators - structures the perception of and response to artistic production be it an art object, building, or a musical performance. More specifically, we will study the role of ekphrasis in animating the inanimate and the importance of breath and spirit, which become manifest in visual, acoustic, olfactory, and gustatory terms. The material covers both religious and courtly settings: Hagia Sophia, The Great Palace of Constantinople, The Dome of the Rock, The palaces of Baghdad and Samarra, the mosque at Cordoba, Medinat al-Zahra and the Alhambra. We will read Greek and Arabic writers on ekphrasis in translation, juxtaposing the medieval material to the ancient theories of ekphrasis and modern scholarship.