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2. On Reading Laokoon 讀拉奧孔

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Chapter Summary

The distinctions between the relative functions of painting or the plastic arts, and poetry or the literary arts, is discussed by Lessing in Laokoon. His central point was that painting is more suitable for the expression of "bodies" or forms whereas poetry is more suitable for the expression of "actions". Lessing considers that a "poetic picture" cannot be transmuted into a "material painting", whereas words and language can describe the development of a series of actions over time, colour and lines, and can depict the layout of a certain scene in space. Even the most ordinary metaphor can be more than enough to present painting with severe difficulties, and metaphors are precisely the distinguishing characteristic of literary language. Lessing recognised that both poetry and painting had unique aspects, but that when compared with each other the expressive sphere of poetry proved "broader".

Keywords: Laokoon; Lessing; metaphor; painting; poetry

10.1163/9789004270213_006
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