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Faces and Pronouns

A D Nuttall

Nuttall begins his essay with an analysis of portraits by two Dutch masters of the late 17th century and compares the cool enigma of Vermeer’s women in profile with the direct emotional engagement of a Rembrandt self portrait. Finding an equivalent contrast in literature, he equates the third person pronoun, most commonly used in linear narrative, with the art of the profile, and the first and second person pronouns with the face-to-face, full frontal modes of personal lyric and devotional poetry. 

While the broader interest of this previously unpublished paper lies in the application of this apparently simple analogy to illuminate the works of authors as diverse as Milton, Wyatt, Keats and Sterne, it is the work of George Herbert that comes under Nuttall’s particular scrutiny, and this material is developed at considerably greater length in Overheard by God.

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