The Gaze of Medusa and the Practice of the Historian: Rubens and Huygens

Jürgen Pieters

in Speaking With the Dead

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780748615889
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652020 | DOI:
The Gaze of Medusa and the Practice of the Historian: Rubens and Huygens

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This chapter addresses the significance of Constantijn Huygens and Peter Paul Rubens. Conversation with the dead is a dialogue of the special sort that thrives upon the separation of its participants, on the physical absence of one or both parties, and on the structural impossibility of real-life interaction which follows from the dead's particular modus vivendi. Rubens' painting, which represents the head of Medusa, belongs to a long narrative tradition of which early traces can be found in Homer. The French critic Alain Michel briefly touches upon the figure of Medusa in the opening pages of La parole et la beauté. Furthermore, the chapter explores Shelley's 1819 poem on the Medusa painting that he saw in the Uffizi in Florence, which he believed to be by Leonardo. Shelley wrote that although the woman's head is no longer attached to its trunk, there is still life in death.

Keywords: Constantijn Huygens; Peter Paul Rubens; Medusa; Leonardo; Shelley; Alain Michel; painting

Chapter.  13955 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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