Word and Image
Word and Image
Expanding Vernacular Narratives
As Chapter Four demonstrates, the murals were part of the efflorescence of Nyaungyan and Konbaung dynasty literary activity, visual counterparts to vernacular, Pāli, and dramatic productions. The narratives in the Burmese wall paintings were new tellings of old stories, drawing on Pāli texts and oral traditions, that were shaped to serve the purposes of the temples that housed the murals, reflecting the established repertoire, the desires and goals of donors, and the roles of the artists and monk producers. This chapter explores the various ways in which Burmese wall paintings connected with and related to “words,” both of the written and spoken variety. Textually and visually, Burmese wall paintings incorporated literary concepts in three main ways. First, the prose captions of the murals functioned as glosses to the visual narrative. Secondly, the popularization of drama and narration in Burmese society connected with a focus on an extended narrative format in the murals. Thirdly, the embellishments of descriptive prose and poetry paralleled the illustration of elaborate settings in the murals. The wall paintings formed a nexus of oral, visual, and textual traditions, linking them together through biographical memorialization.
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