Linguistics and Literature Studies Vol. 10(2), pp. 25 - 35
DOI: 10.13189/lls.2022.100202
Reprint (PDF) (303Kb)

The Book of Evidence: Iconotext in John Banville’s Ekphrastic Novel

Huijuan Yi *
School of Foreign Languages, Soochow University, Suzhou, 215006, Jiangsu Province, China


The Book of Evidence (1989) is one of John Banville’s ekphrastic novels which are typical of verbal representation of visual representation. This paper aims to explore the intersemiotic transposition of literature and visual images by analyzing the way in which the two forms of signs interweave and the novel’s themes combine with the verbal representation of visual images. It is argued that the derogative verbal representations of laborers and women, as the protagonist’s perceptual images, denote the verbal/visual social coding and power relationship between the ekphrastic speaking subject and the mute semiotic other. Paintings to which ekphrastic texts are alluded to demonstrate the narrator’s displacement of colonial inborn superiority and racism towards the subordinated other. Verbal representations of pubs and drinkers vividly present the pregnant moment, moment of stopped actions displayed in paintings. The implications of verbal representations function as “a speaking speech” and evoke the power-dominated colonial history and critique its consequences of the overall inequality in Ireland between the 1980s and 1990s, identity hybridity and alcoholism in a new social order which resembles that of the colonized one. By comparing the narrative verbal representations of the woman in the portrait with the descriptive verbal representations of the maid, the paper probes into the protagonist’s inability to see others in real life and the denial of others’ alterity. In virtue of the language’s arbitrariness and freedom in conveying emotions and ideas, the ekphrastic narrative texts interpret and comment on the iconic woman’s portrait, which “envoices” the mute object and parodies the disregard for innocent lives and alienation resulting from long-term colonial violent conflicts between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Critique of racism, alcoholism and violence in post-war Ireland is conveyed by integrating visual images’ highly ambiguous and socio-political implications into the texts, which makes the novel an iconotext where intersemiotic transposition occurs.

The Book of Evidence, Ekphrasis, Colonialism, Iconotext, Intersemiotic

Cite This Paper in IEEE or APA Citation Styles
(a). IEEE Format:
[1] Huijuan Yi , "The Book of Evidence: Iconotext in John Banville’s Ekphrastic Novel," Linguistics and Literature Studies, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 25 - 35, 2022. DOI: 10.13189/lls.2022.100202.

(b). APA Format:
Huijuan Yi (2022). The Book of Evidence: Iconotext in John Banville’s Ekphrastic Novel. Linguistics and Literature Studies, 10(2), 25 - 35. DOI: 10.13189/lls.2022.100202.