Henry Miller's Painterly Eye

Katy Masuga

Henry Miller's works, specifically the unofficial “Obelisk” trilogy and The Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy , provoke questions concerning the representation of the visual in the literary text, as the inclusion of real and fictional paintings and painters in Miller's texts are frequent occurrences. Such widespread traces of painting in Miller's work mediate both the narrator and the reader's relation to the text and to the world and raise questions of the stability of language in depicting other forms of art. Indeed, through the narrator's experiences with these arts, the reader enters, by means of ekphrastic descriptions, the world of the depicted art to the extent that written language permits. In this article, I provide a mapping of the ways in which the act of painting surfaces in Miller's work, which I separate into three categories . I call the first notional ekphrasis , where episodes experienced by the narrator are described as if they could be paintings themselves or as resembling paintings that do not actually exist (that, in fact, Miller is creating in the passages). The second category involves the manner in which Miller refers to paintings and to painters in order better to articulate or depict an episode in his own text. In these passages the narrator suggests that the events around him, which he is incidentally describing, remind him of actual paintings or suggest to him that they could be, or should be, part of actual paintings. I term this writing function referential ekphrasis . Lastly, Miller describes himself in detail in the act of painting and refers to various elements concerning the process and the medium of painting, a form of writing that I dub active ekphrasis . Thus, by engaging in several rather complex and self-conscious forms of ekphrasis, Miller develops an innovative writing style that encourages the reader to reflect on the impossibility of language as a stable, communicative tool and to reconsider the act of writing as a straight-forward mode of representation, and instead to recognize that all language use is an ongoing mode of creation, blurring the lines between artistic mediums and the expectations from those mediums.


亨利 . 米勒的作品,尤其是俗稱的「方尖石塔(自傳)」三部曲,以及「薔薇十字架三部曲」( The Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy ),觸發文學文本中視覺再現的問題。米勒的作品中實際與虛構的畫作與畫家,屢見不鮮;繪畫的痕跡無所不在,成了敘事者和讀者與文本和世界的關係之中介,從而引發語言在描述其他形式的藝術時,穩定度的問題。讀者透過敘事者的藝術經驗,藉由視覺描述,就書寫語言所及,進入藝術刻劃的世界。本篇論文中,我嘗試勾勒出繪畫行為浮顯在米勒的作品中的幾種方式,共分成三類。第一類是「觀念視覺藝術描繪」( notional ekphrasis )。敘事者所經驗的情節故事之描繪,猶如繪畫本身,或類似實際不存在的繪畫,亦即米勒在字裡行間創造出的繪畫。第二類則涵蓋米勒在其文本中,為進一步闡述或描繪某一段情節,而指涉繪畫及畫家的方式。許多相關章節中,敘事者暗示他不經意間描述的周遭事件令他回憶起實際的畫作,或者畫作之局部。我稱這種書寫功能為「指示視覺藝術描繪」( referential ekphrasis )。最後,米勒在繪畫行為中鉅細靡遺地描繪自我,並且涉及繪畫過程和媒介相關的各種元素,我稱這種書寫形式為「主動視覺藝術描繪」( active ekphrasis )。在投身幾種相當複雜、自覺的視覺藝術描繪( ekphrasis )形式的同時,米勒發展出嶄新的書寫風格,鼓勵讀者思索語言作為穩定的溝通工具之不可能性,重新思考書寫行為作為直接無礙的再現模式,而體察到所有語言使用皆為生生不息的創造模式,不斷模糊藝術媒介及其期待之界限。