Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Creatures of Habit
by Alison, Cheryl, Ph.D., Tufts University, 2014, 204; 3624685
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation contends that the kinds of consistency composition both affords and demands in order to hold together as a composition have a special location within European and American late modernism. In the decades surrounding the Second World War, artists acknowledged that art needed to let in disorder to reflect lived experience; yet, it still had to cohere in order to be recognizable as art, or a form of presentation. Paying attention to how diverse late modernist artists were thus creatively challenged, I argue that their works of art demonstrate historically located and informed compositional conservatism, or formal rigidity. Making the case for the breadth of composition's organizing force during the period, I focus on a different artist and disciplinary area in each of three chapters: Francis Bacon's oil paintings, Samuel Beckett's dramatic and theatrical work in Endgame, and Ralph Ellison's novelistic efforts in Invisible Man and his unfinished second manuscript.

Late modernist artwork exercises formal control in ways extreme enough to be called violent. But if "violence" signifies here how formal control stringently orders components (and excludes others) to bring them into line with composition's demands, this formal signification hardly removes such violence from having lived consequences. More, such components' failure to fall into line, or the artist's failure to accomplish such organization, can itself have unfortunate repercussions. Building on Gilles Deleuze and FĂ©lix Guattari's art theory, which lays the groundwork for aligning apparently dissimilar compositions, I argue that in Bacon, Beckett, and Ellison, compositional force operates in ways shared by larger physical and psychological arrangements. I show how not just home or domestic spaces, but also national and political structures, including, e.g., those defining German fascism, partake in composition's formational activities. Making use of conceptual apparatuses that extend beyond Deleuzoguattarian theory to include psychoanalysis and Frankfurt School theorists, this dissertation examines how the violence (and pleasure) of form variously subtends the period's configurations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Litvak, Joseph
Commitee: Edelman, Lee, Lurz, John, Walkowitz, Rebecca L.
School: Tufts University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 75/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Modern literature, Art history, American literature, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Bacon, francis, Beckett, samuel, Drama and theatre, Ellison, ralph, Fine art and painting, Original writing, The novel
Publication Number: 3624685
ISBN: 9781303986017
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