what is the function of description?

The great French novels of the nineteenth century in particular, Balzac’s first of all, are crammed with houses, furnishings, costumes, exhaustively and scrupulously described, not to mention faces, bodies, etc. This setting was already the image of man: each of the walls or the furnishings represented a double of the person who inhabited it–rich or poor, severe or vainglorious–and was in addition subject to the same destiny, to the same fatality. The reader overly concerned to know the story could even consider himself justified in skipping the descriptions: they involved only a frame, which moreover happened to have a meaning identical to that of the picture it was to contain.

Obviously, when this same reader skips the descriptions in our books, he is in danger of finding himself, having turned all the pages one after the other with a rapid forefinger, at the end of the volume whose contents will have escaped him altogether; imagining he has been dealing hitherto with nothing but the frame, he will still be looking for the picture.

This is because the place and the role of description have changed completely. While the preoccupations of a descriptive order were invading the entire novel, they were at the same time losing their traditional meaning. Description once made us see things, now it seems to destroy them, as if its intention to discuss them aimed only at blurring their contours, at making them incomprehensible, at causing them to disappear altogether.

Alain Robbe-Grillet, Time and Description in Fiction Today



The peripheral flesh, compact and homogenous, of a fine chemical redness, is uniformly thick between a band of shiny skin and the semicircular area where the seeds are arranged, yellow, of uniform caliber, held in place by a thin layer of greenish jelly lying alongside the swelling at the heart. The latter, of a diluted and slightly granular pink, begins, near the lower hollow, in a network of white veins, one of which stretches out towards the seeds, in a somewhat uncertain manner.

Alain Robbe-Grillet, The Erasers


The Reality of the Symbol


In Marienbad, and some of your other films, certain shots are repeated throughout. Is it a way of emphasizing a particular incident, or image?


No. It is the other way round; it is not because a scene is important that it is repeated, but by being repeated it becomes important.

The Paris Review



This is a poem by John Ashbery that is composed of movie titles.


They all kissed the bride.
They all laughed.
They came from beyond space.
They came by night.

They came to a city.
They came to blow up America.
They came to rob Las Vegas.
They dare not love.

They died with their boots on.
They shoot horses, don’t they?
They go boom.
They got me covered.

They flew alone.
They gave him a gun.
They just had to get married.
They live. They loved life.

They live by night.
They drive by night.
They knew Mr Knight.
They were expendable.

They met in Argentina.
They met in Bombay.
They met in the dark.
They might be giants.

They made me a fugitive.
They made me a criminal.
They only kill their masters.
They shall have music.

They were sisters.
They still call me Bruce.
They won’t believe me.
They won’t forget.