Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Maria A. Gomez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Santiago Juan-Navarro

Third Advisor's Name

Renee M. Silverman

Fourth Advisor's Name

Ana M. Bidegain


Ekphrasis, Icono-Textual Discourse, G.A. Becquer, Spanish Literature

Date of Defense



The relationship between literature and the visual arts is ancient and it has been studied from different conceptual frames. Scholars agree that both have a descriptive function and therefore share the common goal of portraying a fictional or nonfictional reality. Based on this correspondence between two different modes of artistic expression, the Roman poet Horace coined the well-known simile ut pictura poesis --as is painting so is in poetry-- which in turn functions as the theoretical underpinning of ekphrasis, a rhetorical device through which one medium of art tries to describe the essence and form of another medium of art, with the purpose of enhancing the original work described. Spanish post-romantic poet and writer Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870) mastered this rhetorical strategy by expertly weaving all of his artistic interests into his prose.

The purpose of this dissertation is to analyze how Bécquer makes his readers both see and hear through his prose. My semiotic research encompasses

the various forms of ekphrasis used by Bécquer in the “Leyendas”. It shows how both images and symbols produce in readers sensory experiences that enhance their role as active participants in the creation of meaning. Thus, Bécquer´s prose is like a painting which not only tells a story, but also reflects reality through the eyes of the reader’s imagination.

By using these ekphrastic strategies in his collection of short stories, Bécquer makes words, paintings, and music converge and collide with iconography, visual culture, and intertextuality. These components must be read, seen, heard, and understood to be more than just complementary to the text, but rather crucial elements, equal in importance to verbal expression. This analysis shows how Bécquer’s “Leyendas” not only tackle notions such as fantasy, figuration, and imagination, but also the importance of the reader´s gaze. Bécquer integrates processes such as imaginative action, iconization and visualization, into a semantic web whereby the reader creates his own particular hermeneutic image.





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