my literature PhD thesis abstract

***I’m currently in the 4th year of my PhD in literature, hoping to be finished in around a year to a year and a half. Thought I’d share my abstract so people can get an idea of what it is I write about***

TITLE: The Implicit Art: Tracing the Underlying Presence of Art, Artists and Art Movements in Modernist and Late Modernist Literature

ABSTRACT: My research centers around discerning how art can be present within a text without being explicit, that is, by overt means such as actual images and allusion to specific art, movements and artists. It will be argued that the presence of art, and moreover the ideologies associated with many of the presiding art movements of the twentieth century onwards, can be felt even when a text is confined to the purely literary. Thus, whilst many of the texts discussed often experiment with graphic, visual dimensions, blurring the boundary between literature and art, it is vital to consider that such dimensions provide only a fraction of the artistic gamut engaged by these authors. Indeed, the presence of art can be felt through all manner of literary dimensions: be it through language (e.g. tone of narrative voice, character dialogue, turns of phrase, inflection, use of irony); recurrent motifs and thematics; stylistics; tonality; choice of setting; historicisation (references to specific historical figures, fashions, events, technologies, forms of language, etc.); metatextuality (which often crosses into the surface/pictorial space of texts but is by no means restricted to it); even the much more generalised ideology of the text. I will use four authors as my exemplars, all of whom have had a presiding influence by art within their work: for J. G. Ballard this is the European surrealists and especially the paranoiac-critical art of Salvador Dali; for Douglas Coupland the Pop Artists of the 60s and especially the iconic works of Andy Warhol; for William Burroughs the artist Brion Gysin, with whom he developed the legendary cut-up method; and for Gertrude Stein theĀ age-defining cubist art of Pablo Picasso. It shall be argued that all these authors are consciously appropriating and adopting the aesthetics of these artists and movements within their texts, often as a means to channel a preexisting philosophy in order to bolster and extend on their own ideas, or in some cases, to provide a critical lens up to society. This idea of art providing a critical lens, was argued by the media theorist Marshall McLuhan, whose philosophical works often veered into artistic spheres (in part drawing on the ideas of Wyndham Lewis), and who had a seminal influence on many of the authors present, and so his theoretical approach will be utilised throughout the thesis.