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    Scars of the visible: the politics of the image in contemporary experimental fiction

    Barrow, Daniel (2019) Scars of the visible: the politics of the image in contemporary experimental fiction. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis explores the politics of narrative form in a number of contemporary Anglo- American novels concerned with states of stasis, temporal fragmentation, and antipsychological blankness of character. It focuses on an underexplored aspect of works by Tom McCarthy, Ben Lerner and Don DeLillo: their concentration on the image or the visual as an element of narrative, which both interrupts a temporal continuity conceived, in the traditional realist novel, in terms of depth, flow and plenitude and, dialectically, seems to promise the most immediate access to such depth and plenitude. Developing, in the first two chapters, a critical framework from Guy Debord’s post-war theory of ‘spectacle’ and its recent interpreters in art history, I situate these novels’ narrative experiments, by which the novelform turns to its opposite, the visual register, within the longer-term history of late capitalism. Concomitantly, this thesis places these texts in the context of a recent critical resurgence of interest in realism, emerging out of postmodernism, arguing that the anti-realist devices of these novels constitute a means of testing and modifying realism’s mimetic relationship to the object-world amid temporal conditions that make its forms of temporality untenable. Chapter Three develops this argument through close readings of Lerner’s 10:04 (2014) and DeLillo’s Point Omega (2010), exploring the ways in which these novels handle their narrative temporality in a disempowered and contemplative manner, but turn to visual intertexts in art and film to restart narrative time. Chapter Four looks at a qualitative shift in this turn towards the visual, through Tom McCarthy’s work, in which, in his avowedly anti-psychological novels, surface and space replaces depth and time. In Chapter Five, I show how the rigidified opposition between subject and object at the heart of Debord’s spectacle theory is momentarily overcome in these novels, precisely by a turn back toward the image.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: This thesis is not currently available for public use
    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: 04 Feb 2020 15:15
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:17


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