A study of portraits of the artist in contemporary fiction: critical selfconsciousness as a characterising feature of twentieth-century writing
AbstractThis work examines the selfconscious novel, chiefly through the writing of Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov and SaTnuel Beckett. Selfconscious novels expose themselves as fictions rather than imitations of reality. Thus the art-work becomes a portrait of the artist who invents it, not a photographic study of the solid surfaces which enclose him. The selfconscious novel is also a portrait of art: it seeks to illuminate the nature of, and qualify belief in, all fictions. My introductory survey insists that self consciousness is centrally important to postfeudal individualist culture. The rise of the novel was linked to the rise of the middle classes and the individual, the decline of absolute values and coal, corporate identity. Early novelists and contemporary philosophers thus grew to self consciousness as they dared to depend on individual empirical observation of the world. As social mobility and fragmentation increased, the individual thinker became ever more aware of the provisional nature of perception. The selfconscious novelist shares the insight of the nineteenth-century Idealist philosophers, that all accounts of the world, however 'true' or 'official', are a priori constructs, artificial and even fictional. By portraying his own creative imagination at work'the contemporary selfconscious author may offer a model for independent resistance to the new canrnlnal and corporate fictions which twentieth-century mass society propagates with such unparallelled efficiency. The fictions of institutionalised literary criticism are a relatively minor but interesting example, and the selfconscious author often does battle with his critics. However his primary aim is perhaps to portray the true nature of his own vocation in a century which often projects false fictional roles upon its artists, or else rejects them, out of hand. Some of these themes will emerge in my discussion of Woolf, Nabokov and Beckett. In turn, the diversity of their work will illuminate the nature of, and qualify belief in, my awn critical fictions.
CitationGee, M. (1980). A study of portraits of the artist in contemporary fiction : critical self-consciousness as a characterising feature of twentieth-century writing. University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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