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    An insubstantial defence of the Father, incorporating Djuna Barnes' melancholy corpus

    Hocking, Nick (2017) An insubstantial defence of the Father, incorporating Djuna Barnes' melancholy corpus. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    My thesis being a suitably rhizomatic proliferation of thematic obsessions, personal anecdotes, theoretical debates, political reflections, and close readings of several major works by Djuna Barnes, it feels like a particularly brutal kind of revisionary, reterritorialising horticulture would be required in order to state in a few hundred words what it is that I have tried to do, at root. But since I must, let’s say that the underlying preoccupation of my writing, oriented through a focus on various figures of the Father in Barnes’ writing, has been the (political, psychological and social) necessity of such en-tirpatory aggression: the selective, irreducibly ideological laying down of roots needed to construct an arborescent substance (such as a doctoral dissertation, or a social justice movement), and the role played in this kind of symbolic reordering by a retrospectively-posited legitimating figure (archetypally, the founding Father). In a vaguely Sedgwickian gesture I contest here that critical theory, and contemporary Leftist thought more generally, suffers by its one-sided approach to fantasies of substantial identity. Some of us steadily insist with heroic Stoicism on the phantasmic misrecognitions entailed in all stable identities, others are continually moving on from such passé essentialisms as Nation, Family, or Self, giddily repeating the same gestures at each vibrant new theoretical ‘turn’, with Sisyphean regularity. Critical theory therefore appears stuck with a body that it can neither internalise nor efface. Meanwhile the latest capitalist crisis has found the Left ready with convincing analyses, but a fractured and disorganised base; capable of mobilizing mass protest, but without the co-ordinated strategy or political will to ‘occupy’ dominant power structures or attract popular support beyond the embattled enclaves of academia and activism. A few years earlier, Wendy Brown diagnosed this situation as an endemic Leftist melancholia in which ‘the impulse to blame and complain tends to displace any impulse to develop strategies for the assumption of power’, but, paradoxically, she also suggested that we might yet successfully mourn the catastrophes of history while proleptically recognising that the objects of our mourning are insubstantial; ‘Something has died but we argue over what the body is (there will turn out not to be a body).’ Conversely, this thesis ultimately flirts with a post-Jungian mythopoetic ‘turn’ in arguing that we need to give substance back to our grief and expend a few lachrymose passages over our Father’s body, whoever he might turn out not to have been.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2017 16:54
    Last Modified: 10 Jun 2021 20:17


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