Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Anne Stevens

Second Committee Member

Emily Setina

Third Committee Member

Kelly Mays

Fourth Committee Member

Susanna Newbury

Fifth Committee Member

Daniel Erwin

Number of Pages



This thesis seeks to investigate ekphrasis as a mode of description and as a rhetorical strategy that produces literary affect. In particular, it considers the Romantic poet John Keats’s ekphrastic works to argue that he employs visual strategies of obscurity, which are rooted in

Edmund Burke’s concept of the Sublime, in order to register the formation of Poetic Consciousness. These visual strategies are observed in literal obscurity, which is expressed in shadows as a poetic conceit; they are also demonstrated in what this thesis terms notional or poetic obscurity, which involves mental abstractions that engage the imagination by challenging it to contain seemingly contrary and impossible images. Additionally, this thesis draws aesthetic parallels in William Henry Fox Talbot’s phototextual prototype The Pencil of Nature (1844) in order to not only illustrate these rhetorical strategies but also to reinforce early photography’s response to and involvement in Romanticism, as suggested by Sofia Hofkosh. Finally, this thesis charts connections between ekphrastic poetry and photography via a motivation to address mortality, and how death not only epitomizes obscurity as the ultimate unknown, but also serves as a prime catalyst for the genesis of selfhood.


Burke; Ekphrasis; Keats; Photography; Romantic Poetry; Talbot


Art and Design | English Language and Literature | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Theory and Criticism

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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