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Title:The Modernist Imagetext: Embodying Impersonality From Optics to Aesthetics
Author(s):Walter, Christina Michelle
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Jed Esty
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:This study investigates two related aspects of modernist thought and style: first, the aesthetic turn away from the humanistic subject and, second, a new scientific model of embodied vision that displaced the Cartesian fantasy of a disembodied, objective observer. I propose that modernists illustrated their own interest in embodied perception, against the long-standing presumptions of dualism, by developing visual languages, or "imagetexts," that were consonant with the partial, mediated images proposed by a late-19th-century physiological optics. These imagetexts---which appealed not only to science, but also visual art, commodity culture, cinema, and psychoanalysis---allowed modernists to express their critique of humanism and to explore the implications of a subjectivity at once inherently impersonal and embedded in bodily and social constraints. Whereas critics often take impersonality as the ultimate instance of modernism's desire to inoculate itself against bodily contingency, I argue that the impersonal aesthetic in fact registers the imbrication of mind and body, and self and world. Emphasizing an alternative canon to that centered on T. S. Eliot, my project describes how the visual languages of Walter Pater, Michael Field, H.D., D. H. Lawrence, and Mina Loy work to capture the opaque impersonality of the subject---to represent impersonality as the very condition of personality---without indulging in an Eliotic dream of escape from the body, the ego, or socially-mediated identity categories such as gender and race. My argument does not seek simply to recode aesthetic impersonality as a liberal politics, but rather to show how its critical marginalization as crypto-fascist has blinded us to the most pressing cultural questions that underwrite modernism's visual and stylistic experiments.
Issue Date:2008
Description:307 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3314930
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2008

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