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Unformatted text preview: Nicholas Yoo SID 19484733 March 21, 2008 Comp Lit 41A Laocoon: The Limits of Painting and Poetry In Laocoon , Lessing argues that while there are similarities between poetry and art, both have qualities unique to themselves, and shows these differences in the production, use of subjects, and true subjects of art and poetry. Lessing shows that poetry and art are not synonymous in the way each is produced. Because the goal of art is beauty while that of poetry is illusion, the artist cannot produce a work the same way a poet can. This can be seen when comparing Virgil’s Laocoon to the sculpture. When Virgil describes Laocoon, he is able to describe Laocoon’s scream and death explicitly, while the artist will not allow it. Rather than focusing on the death of Laocoon, the artist focuses on his struggle. This difference in focuses is due to the role that the imagination plays in art and poetry. In poetry, Laocoon’s death can be emphasized because it is in our imagination, and there is a distance between our imagination and reality. But, if this same death were shown in sculpture, it would be too gruesome and offensive, making us want to turn away. Laocoon’s cries and screams of pain would not show beauty in art. In order to evoke the imagination while keeping the sculpture beautiful, the artist does not show the actual scream, but sets restraints on Laocoon’s expression and presents the moment before the climax. Through this beauty and pain, not only does the sculpture evoke pity, but also allows the viewer to imagine the scream, creating an effect much more powerful than setting the scream in stone. Lessing also emphasizes the unique qualities of art and poetry through their use of subjects. The first distinction between the two is whether it is harder for the poet and artist to express or to invent. Lessing notes that for the artist, it is harder to express a subject, while it is harder for the poet to invent a subject. The poet can easily describe a subject, while it is harder for the poet to invent a subject....
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- Spring '08