Magritte’s Head in the Mirror: Ekphrasis, Art, & Translation

Magritte’s Head in the Mirror: Ekphrasis, Art, & Translation

Push your ekphrastic practice to the next level under the guidance of expert editor and writer, Elena Karina Byrne.

‘Reality is a cliché’ – Wallace Stevens
‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’ – Anton Chekov 

Ekphrastic writing straddles time, using the oldest and newest paradigms of perception, asking how can a work of art both represent our current state of mind and stand-in for a kind of ars poetica 

Through effusive use of details, writers in ancient Greece aspired to transform the visual into the verbal. Poets moved beyond description to reflect on deeper meanings. Today, the word ekphrastic can refer to any literary response to a non-literary work. Ekphrasis explores concepts of beauty and epiphany when describing fine art, photography, sculpture, film, music, performance art – even the natural world. Michel Foucault’s famous essay on Diego Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas demonstrates how two seemingly paradoxical truths about visual and verbal representation can coexist.  

On this course we will invent the artwork’s ‘backstory’ in our writing and play with ekphrastic weaves that celebrate the narrative/abstract as an interrogatory impulse to bring the world into the gilt frame of our imaginations. Along the way we’ll take inspiration from writers and artists including Camille T. Dungy, Patricia Smith, Emily Dickinson, Paul Valéry, Susan Sontag, Andrei Tarkovsky, Jorie Graham, Michel Gondry, Mark Rothko, Morgan Parker, Beyoncé, and Ocean Vuong. 

 5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]. For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image Credit: Quinn Buffing

About Elena Karina Byrne View Profile

Elena Karina Byrne is a private editor, freelance lecturer, Programming Consultant & Poetry Stage Manager for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the 2022 co-judge for the international Laurel Prize, and Literary Programs Director for the historic Ruskin Art Club. Former 12-year Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America, Elena served as a Contributing Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, one of the final judges for the Kate and Kingsley Tufts Poetry Awards in Poetry from 2016–2018, and visiting speaker for the 2018–2019 ten university consortia in the Georgia Poetry Circuit. Her lecture and teaching artist positions include the University of Southern California, Poetry Barn, Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Claremont Graduate University, Todos Santos Writing Workshops, The Los Angeles Film School, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry recipient, Elena’s five collections of poetry include If This Makes You Nervous (Omnidawn, 2021) and No Don’t (What Books Press, 2020). Elena’s writing screenplays while completing her collection of “interrupted” essays entitled Voyeur Hour: Poetry, Art, Film, & Desire.

'It has given me connection and stimulation and more poetry in my life. Not an easy task when one is juggling work and other life commitments. It has been a great force for change. I am grateful.'

- Spring 2022 survey response

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