Portrait Stories

Portrait Stories

by Michal Peled Ginsburg


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What makes stories about portraits so gripping and unsettling? Portrait Stories argues that it is the ways they problematize the relation between subjectivity and representation. Through close readings of short stories and novellas by Poe, James, Hoffmann, Gautier, Nerval, Balzac, Kleist, Hardy, Wilde, Storm, Sand, and Gogol, the author shows how the subjectivities of sitter, painter, and viewer are produced in relation to representations shaped by particular interests and power relations, often determined by gender as well as by class. She focuses on the power that can accrue to the painter from the act of representation (often at the expense of the portrait’s subject), while also exploring how and why this act may threaten the portrait painter’s sense of self. Analyzing the viewer’s relation to the portrait, she demonstrates how portrait stories problematize the very act of seeing and with it the way subjectivity is constructed in the field of vision.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823262601
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 12/15/2014
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Michal Peled Ginsburg is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Northwestern University. She is the author of Flaubert Writing: A Study in Narrative Strategies and Economies of Change: Form and Transformation in the Nineteenth-Century Novel as well as the co-author of a book on the Israeli novelist David Shahar.

Table of Contents



1 Poe's "Oval Portrait"

2 The Portrait's Two Faces: James's "The Special Type" and "The Tone of Time"

3 The Portrait Painter and His Doubles: Hoffmann's "Die Doppeltgänger," Gautier's "La Cafetière," and Nerval's "Portrait du diable"

4 On Portraits, Painters, and Women: Balzac's La Maison du chat-qui-pelote and James's "Glasses"

5 Portraits of the Male Body: Kleist's "Der Findling," Hardy's "Barbara of the House of Grebe," and Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray

6 Portraits, Parents, and Children: Storm's "Aquis submersus" and Sand's "Le Château de Pictordu"

7 Gogol: "The Portrait"

Afterword: Reading Portrait Stories

Works Cited

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