Profile: Ruth Yeazell
Prof. of English, Yale
My research and teaching focus on the novel from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, the history of gender and sexuality, and the relations of literature to the visual arts. As a teacher and critic, I am concerned with the way works of art both respond to and imaginatively transform their culture.
I also enjoy writing on a variety of literary and other topics for a wider public in the London Review of Books and elsewhere. Among my recent books, Art of the Everyday (2007) concerns seventeenth-century Dutch painting as a model for literary realism and includes chapters on Balzac, George Eliot, Hardy, and Proust.
NoteStreams By Ruth Yeazell
I have a confession to make: I rarely walk into a museum or gallery without finding my eyes drifting down to the title of a painting – often before even looking at the painting itself.
Though I feel guilty about this habit, I suspect that I have a lot of company in my fellow museum goers, who probably also share my sense that there is something illicit about the practice.
But why did pictures acquire titles in the first place, and what accounts for my twinge of guilt when I turn to them?