From flesh to fiction : the visible and the invisible in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Eudora Welty and Elizabeth Bowen.
Our ways of thinking modernism and its legacy are imprinted with the pattern of an opposition, a struggle between two sets of extremes: objective and subjective; form and feeling; mechanistic and organic; mind and body; knowing and being; self and world; aesthetic and historical. The three writers whose work I explore in this thesis challenge prevailing notions of this oppositional discourse. Entering the scene of modernism late in its history, Elizabeth Bowen, Eudora Welty and Maurice Merleau- Ponty develop a new kind of vision that makes us rethink the relationships between perceiver and perceived, between mind, body and world. All three writers undertake a fundamental reorganisation of the relationships between internal consciousness and external things through the narration of a perception that is outside the limits of discrete sensations or causal relationships. Physical things are neither pure objecthood nor merely external triggers for the ramblings of a solipsistic consciousness, rather they infringe on a consciousness whose own edges are indistinct. This writing establishes an interdependent and interlocutory relationship between subject and world, which become not opposite ends of a perceptual scale, but aspects of a common flesh. The intimate connection to the world is both comforting and threatening, both reinforcing subjectivity and de-centring it. The re-ordering of the connections between self and world leads to a reassessment of collective identity and historical agency, as well as impacting upon approaches to modes of representation. In trying to express the pre-linguistic experience of embodied consciousness, this writing looks to models of mute expression found in visual images. Exploring how the invisible aspects of experience emerge within the visible realm, the writing takes on an often hallucinatory or uncanny character. Charting the passage from being to doing, from perception to creation, from the style of the flesh to the style of fiction, Merleau-Ponty, Welty and Bowen dissolve received boundaries and distinctions at every level.
AuthorsMenczer, Katy Alexandra
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