Abstract: My paper investigates different roles that the description of art can take in a modern novel from the point of view of the relationship between ekphrasis and laudatio. Ekphrasis can be defined as the description of a work of art in a literary text and it can assume different roles: sometimes, a writer pretends that s/he needs the means of a painter in order to better describe reality, so ekphrasis helps mimesis (Balzac, Fielding). Sometimes, the ekphrastic reference becomes a narrative device, as the characters fall in love when they see a resemblance between their lover and a famous painting (Proust’s Swann, Balzac’s La maison-du-chat-qui-pelote, or Aragon’s Aurélien). In these examples ekphrasis is used not only as a descriptive device, but the aura of the work of art is transferred to the character or the story. This aura is perhaps the reason why recent ekphrastic novels (Terrasse à Rome by P. Quignard, The Flemish Painting by A. Perez- Reverte, Girl with a Pearl Earring by T. Chevalier, La princesse de Mantoue by M. Ferranti) have become best-sellers. But what is the role of the description of contemporary art? In Je m’en vais by J. Echenoz and Plateforme by M. Houellebecq, contemporary art is described from an ironic perspective, as art has lost its beauty and meaning. Interart studies need concepts from different disciplines, literary theory, rhetoric, ekphrastic, comparative literature.
Keywords: ekphrasis, rhétorique, littérature comparée, roman moderne, intertextualité