In essays, interviews and at public readings, the contemporary German writer Patrick Roth presents himself as a modern prophet whose novels open up privileged access to the collective unconscious to his readers. However, through a close reading of Roth’s most recent novel Sunrise:Das Buch Joseph, this article argues that Roth’s poetics is based less on an intuitive or unconscious participation in timeless archetypes than on a subtly crafted intertextual play with biblical and apocryphal texts. Roth’s Jungian reworking of these pretexts has important theological consequences: In place of the Christian doctrine of atonement, Sunrise instates a neognostic psycho-religion that centers on the self-salvation of the individual. The novel therefore needs to be read as an aesthetic contribution to current debates about atonement and, more generally, about Gnosticism as an alternative Christianity
Classical ekphrasis is the literary form most closely associated with a specifically literary visuality. Understood as a special poetic genre by some critics, and a general principle of literature by others, this article argues that ekphrasis is most productively regarded as a mode of detailed and self-reflective engagement with a visual artefact. This can be a real artefact that actually exists outside the literary text, or a ‘notional’ artefact whose existence is solely based on the ekphrasis. Although the distinction between ‘actual’ and ‘notional’ ekphrasis matters to some readers, it has not had much of an impact on the mode itself; all ekphrases before the Renaissance were notional ekphrases. In both actual and notional ekphrases, the verbal presentation of a visual artefact directs attention to representation itself, to the differences between verbal and visual representation, to the powers and demands that each imposes on the recipient, and to visuality more generally.