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THE FRACTURED SEASCAPE: DIONYSIAN MIMESIS IN NOVALIS AND J.M.W TURNER

A parallel text focused on a representational field centered around the ear rather than the eye provides a path connecting the brief legend of Arion in Novalis's novel fragment Heinrich von Ofterdingen with J.M.W. Turner’s late seascapes. The legend of Arion is usually read as a simple, however naïve, tale of reconciliation between artist and nature. My reading isolates a tragic strain in the legend and highlights the enigmatic appearance of the sea monster, which, as will be shown, is indicative of an impossible translation between sound and image. Such a translation is approached by Nietzsche in terms of Dionysian mimesis, a concept (for lack of a better word) that aids in picking apart the traditional reading of Arion. Contextualized in the larger aesthetic shift from historical to landscape painting, the legend of Arion proves to be fertile ground to explore the Romantic generation’s critique of Neo-Classical aesthetics (typified by Lessing and Schiller), the (exceeded) limits of poetry and painting for the Romantics, and the subterranean current of tragedy in Novalis.

Selected seascape paintings by J.M.W. Turner:

"Peace"

"The Slave Ship"

"Snowstorm"