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Speaking With the DeadExplorations in Literature and History$
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Jurgen Pieters

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780748615889

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748615889.001.0001

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

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

(p.54) Chapter 2 The Gaze of Medusa and the Practice of the Historian: Rubens and Huygens
Speaking With the Dead

Jürgen Pieters

Edinburgh University Press

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

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