A. S. Byatt's Babel Tower explores a postmodern world in which discursive systems clash and compete. Adopting critical distinctions between actual ekphrasis (“literary representation of visual art”), notional ekphrasis (“verbal representation of a purely fictional work of art”), and pictorialism (“effects [in language] similar to those created by pictures”), I examine the relation of Byatt's writing to the visual arts. The focal point is a comparison of “lamination,” the layering of disconnected narrative panels or intertexts, with “overpainting,” a layering of pigments that subsumes previous work without removing all traces.

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