School of Culture and Communication - Theses
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Writing with Feeling: Practising Angers in Late-Medieval English Chronicles
This dissertation explores depictions of anger in fourteenth-century English chronicles. In doing so, it asks questions about methodology in the history of emotions: how we interrogate our texts, and what we bring to our understanding of the emotionalities of a distant culture. Few chroniclers were immediate witnesses to the emotions of the people they depict, nor do many chronicles allow an unequivocal view into the chronicler’s own emotional life. How, then, do we approach the relationship between literary representation and historical reality? I study chronicles in three languages and a variety of styles, including the chronicles of Jean Froissart and Geoffrey le Baker, the Vita Edwardi II, the Anonimalle, the Annales Paulini, Les Voeux du Heron, and the Middle English prose Brut. I bring these into conversation with works in adjacent narrative genres such as chanson de geste, particularly the alliterative Morte Arthure, Raoul de Cambrai, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Comparing the chronicle texts to their more overtly emotional cousins illuminates the patterns of emotional behaviours in medieval narrative culture. When we think in terms of emotion scripts—structured and repeated sequences of emotional behaviour—we begin to recognise vocabularies of reference and meaning across texts and genres. This is particularly appropriate for medieval texts, due to a cultural habit of thinking in terms of figures and auctoritas: recognising tropes and allusion is an essential part of accessing meaning in a text. This approach illuminates the traditions and conventions that chroniclers use to shape meaning, and reveals underlying anxieties about socially dysfunctional emotional styles. Anger is not a single emotion but a complex cluster of feelings and practices. It intersects with many different social institutions, from religious ethics to the negotiation of personal honour and feudal relationships. In all its forms, however, it is associated with moments of social dysfunction, where pressure is put on existing relationships and emotional norms. Studying angers can therefore elucidate the ways in which normative medieval emotionality is imagined and performed, but can also expose the "cracks" where dominant emotional styles are under pressure or in the process of renegotiation. I employ a form of practice theory that centres on narrative culture: examining the emotional norms and styles of texts as if the chronicles were themselves emotional actors in history, as well as witnesses to emotional acts. Expression categorises emotions, but it also shapes them. I find that expression includes not only words and emotional behaviours but scripts and stories: semi-predictable series of actions with an accumulated weight of cultural meaning, performed (or narrated) over a period of time. With that in mind, I suggest that we should reconsider the role of narrative (and especially genres with authoritative cultural cache such as historiography) in recording, sorting, teaching, shaping, regulating, and ultimately changing emotional norms.
The Traveller’s Phrasebook: Linguistic Translator and Cultural Mediator
The printed translating phrasebook for travellers dates back more than 500 years and represents a particularly rich and varied genre. However, despite its ubiquity and longevity, the phrasebook has essentially been hidden in plain sight and remains a relatively undervalued and under-researched genre. This study aims to advance knowledge about the phrasebook genre, both as linguistic translator and as cultural mediator. It further aims to change the way we think about phrasebooks by examining the ways they function not just as linguistic translators, but also as cultural interpreters. This thesis is a discourse analytic study of printed phrasebooks for travellers that begins with a brief bibliographical study of eight phrasebooks dating from c.1480 to 2018 to trace the evolution of the genre. It proposes a model of the printed phrasebook’s evolution to make sense of differences in form, function and content in phrasebooks over the genre’s development. It undertakes a diachronic analysis of the function and features of the eight phrasebooks examined in the first chapter, to identify the defining characteristics of the genre, asking what it is a phrasebook does and how its form and content both contribute to and are shaped by that function. Turning its attention to the content of the eight phrasebooks, it identifies three broad categories – linguistic, metalinguistic and extra-linguistic content – and the semantic domains common to these books. It then considers how these semantic domains are represented in relation to the evolutionary model proposed in the first chapter, and it examines the ways in which the domains remain consistent while the linguistic expressions comprising them change in response to the changing needs of phrasebooks users over time. Acknowledging both that genres are dynamic and that flexibility is necessary for the longevity of the genre, the fourth chapter examines the genre’s adaptability and the types of variation it permits. It asks what a selection of phrasebooks and phrasebook-like tools reveal about what the phrasebook is becoming through its extension to specialised domains and to new formats. At the same time, the assortment of phrasebooks surveyed here serves as an introduction to the enormous diversity of this highly adaptable genre. The thesis then investigates ways in which phrasebooks explicitly and implicitly mediate both the linguistic and the cultural experience, exploring mediation strategies employed and the effects of these strategies. Chapter five examines strategies that mediate the target language, including representation of the target language and its systems as easy and accessible, down-playing the need for correct production or usage of the target language for communication, establishment of relationships of linguistic equivalence between the source and target languages, and direction of the user’s gaze towards some aspects of the linguistic systems of the target language and away from others. Chapter six examines strategies for cultural mediation, including explicit acknowledgement and explanation of cultural difference and prescriptions for adhering to cultural norms, mediation of culinary culture, and mediation of the traveller–host relationship, as well as the assumptions inherent in these strategies, and their implications.
Sight, Sound, Touch: The Sensory Child of Contemporary Cinema
Across the diverse, albeit cumulative, works of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Julia Kristeva, the child figure enacts or embodies psychological catalysts that are pertinent to the adult psyche. In psychoanalytic narratives, the child figure is indicative of the formation of the self, and all that was lost in the amnesia of childhood. Yet, childhood persists via memories, dreams, and fantasies which serve to make meaning of the past and the present for the adult subject. These processes of retroactive meaning-making are primarily represented through acts of witnessing: a kind of childish way of seeing, or experiencing, that resonates at the deepest strata of the unconscious. As Jacqueline Rose's states in relation to literature: “[Childhood] persists as something which we endlessly rework in our attempt to build an image of our own history.” This way of thinking about, and representing the child, has also permeated cinematic form. Various cinematic studies have explored the representation of the child from a psychoanalytic perspective, particularly in a visual context, in terms of the gaze and relations of looking. This thesis offers a new contribution in examining the significance of psychoanalytic film theory in relation to what I term ‘the sensory child’, in understanding contemporary Western cinematic representations of ‘the child’ and ‘childhood,’ and what the latter means for the adult spectator. Drawing on sequences from the films Where the Wild Things Are (2009), The Fits (2015), What Maisie Knew (2012) and Moonlight (2016), this thesis investigates the representation of the sensory child through an analysis of the visual, the aural, and the tactile, haptically-charged representations of childhood in cinema. This thesis examines in detail the significance of the child’s gaze for the adult subject, asking how these films position the adult spectator to look at, and through the sensory child figure. I argue that the often-poetic depictions of childhood in these films can elucidate the relationship between screen and spectator, especially in relation to mise-en-scene, modes of looking, and film language. I refer to a particular form of cinematic language that emerges from these relationships as an aesthetic of childhood. This is a film form that, alongside the psychoanalytic descriptions of the child figure, foregrounds the haptic, tactile, and sensory ways the child witnesses and absorbs the world around her. Understanding the dynamics of the child’s gaze is central to understanding the figure of the sensory child. Each of these films attempt to create a child’s positionality, or a childish subjectivity, with the intention of drawing the spectator into an emotive and empathetic alignment with the child’s perspective. This thesis examines the purpose of these representations of the sensory child. Although various authors have addressed the child in film from a range of perspectives, including a psychoanalytic approach, this thesis will present the first sustained analysis of the sensory child from the perspective of an aesthetic of childhood. I argue that the call to ‘return to childhood,’ via these aesthetics of childhood and the images of the sensory child, can elucidate the continued significance of psychoanalytic narratives of the self from a perspective that considers both psychoanalytic and phenomenological approaches.
Beyond the Biogenetic Law: Organic Analogies in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis
From Presocratic analogies between individual history and cosmic history, the Pauline rendition of messianic time as a summation of chronological time, through to Nietzschean ideas of eternal return, the idea of recapitulation—of encapsulating the entire past in the present moment—has played a major role in the development of Western thought, establishing continuities between the minute and the expansive, the singular and the universal, the banal and the eschatological, and the most distant origin and its present pursuit. Today, the idea of recapitulation is best known by its nineteenth-century rendition as the ‘biogenetic law.’ Beginning in 1866, the German naturalist Ernst Haeckel proposed that ontogeny (or the development of the individual) recapitulates phylogeny (or the evolutionary history of the species), and used this biogenetic law to underwrite a wide-ranging attempt to popularise Darwinism in the German-speaking world and spread what Haeckel thought to be Darwinism’s most important implication—that there existed no fundamental discontinuity between not only animals and humans, but the natural world and the human mind. From its moment of inception, however, major questions surrounded the veracity of Haeckel’s law. Critics thought it a blatant refashioning of outmoded romantic ideas and the triumph of speculative rhetoric over empiricist restraint, and composed an ever-expanding list of what appeared to be clear-cut exceptions to a supposedly ‘fundamental law’ or Grundgesetz. If these efforts hoped, and failed, to reverse the biogenetic law’s swift ascendancy in the scientific world, they nevertheless impelled Haeckel to introduce a means of infinitely deferring any final determination as to its truth or indeed falsity—a move that not only kept the law’s adherents on a never-ending hunt for the definitive proof of its universality, but helped ensure the law’s widespread (and often unconscious) uptake outside of biology subsequent to its eventual scientific obsolescence at the turn of the twentieth century. This thesis treats the scientific failure of the biogenetic law less as evidence of the poverty of the idea of recapitulation so much as a symptom of the myopia of Haeckel’s supposedly universalist rendition. It counters the traditional treatment of the biogenetic law by examining major philosophical and psychoanalytic recapitulationisms either side of Haeckel’s own—those of J. G. Herder, Immanuel Kant, F. W. J. Schelling, and Sigmund Freud—and the attempts by these thinkers to bring their own textual exposition within the purview of their recapitulationism. In tracking the development of this textual strategy over the course of some 150 years, I show that these recapitulationisms differ from that of Haeckel’s by utilising the analogy between the mode of exposition and the object of this exposition as a means of testifying to the reality of their recapitulationism. The purpose of this thesis is thus to subtly redirect the historiography of recapitulationism, encouraging its movement ‘beyond’ the biogenetic law by fostering a sensitivity to this performative textual strategy, and laying bare the immense significance of what are all too easily dismissed in these thinkers as incidental parallels, rhetorical flourishes, or ‘mere’ speculation.
Museums as assemblage: practice and potentiality
In this dissertation, I explore the emergence of the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona). In contrast to the voluminous media reports on its ground-breaking and radical entry into the museum world, I set out to situate this museum within a wider historical and theoretical framework. I introduce the key concept of assemblage systems theory to illustrate contemporary museum practice through a philosophy of openness, rather than fixed-chronological or fixed-institutional approaches. A key aim of this body of work is to provide a new critical framework for understanding contemporary museum practice, using assemblage systems theory, before applying this method to a case study of Mona. This thesis is divided into three sections. Section one (chapters one to three) serves to map out the field and provide a method of reframing. Chapter one maps a genealogy of museums, while chapter two explores key threads of institutional critique. These provide a contextual grounding for my argument that current museum practice is best understood through multiple, non-linear narratives. In the third chapter, I develop my methodological approach and conceptual framework, drawing on Manuel DeLanda’s (2006) extension of Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s (1986) concept of ‘assemblage’, Conal McCarthy’s (2015) outline of ‘museum practice’ and Duncan Grewcock’s (2014) ‘critical reflexive visitation’. I argue that by tracing the interactions occurring between components of a variety of museums understood as ‘assemblages’, we can identify four ‘common notions’, the ‘normative’, ‘responsive’, ‘affective’ and ‘emergent’. In section two (chapters four to seven), I explore each of these common notions in turn, illustrating their processes of territorialisation and de/reterritorialisation. Section three (chapters eight and nine) serves as my primary case study and concluding reflection. In chapter eight, I undertake a sustained engagement with Mona to crosscheck its practices against the assemblage systems theory framework outlined in the preceding chapters. I argue that the interactions at Mona are constituted by an elaborate and dynamic interplay with a larger cultural framework and visitor agencies, problematising the idea that Mona fits within a linear history or a typological set of museum practices. I conclude with a reflection on potentiality, arguing that by releasing the function of theory from its authoritative and structural foundations, we liberate both conceptualisation and practice.
Nostalgic Tele-Visions: Male Nostalgia and Failure in Contemporary Quality TV
The first decade of the twenty-first century saw a proliferation of masculine-centred dramas within US television labelled under the discursive rhetoric of ‘Quality TV’. This thesis takes four such series: The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire. Through a study of nostalgia as an affective mood and a stylistic mode, this thesis posits that these four series all feature male nostalgia as a constitutive component. These four series all approach male nostalgia differently, both in its affective and stylistic dimensionalities but they ultimately demonstrate how male nostalgia poses a rupture to culturally normative ideals of white masculinities. I argue that nostalgia, most commonly conceived of as conservative and apolitical, here exposes the failure inherent within what Raewyn Connell terms ‘hegemonic masculinity’. Male nostalgia emerges as a result of the repressive dictums of hegemonic masculinity, in particular, it is a rupture of the unemotional facade of masculinised affective display. Given that emotions are performative and are constitutive components of gendered subjectivity, the male nostalgic is thus a ‘failed’ masculine subject in relation to the discursive construction of white masculinities. While male nostalgia can be productive in exposing and unpacking this notion of failure, the Quality TV form largely legitimates its claim to ‘quality’ through perpetuating patriarchal taste cultures. In particular, melodrama is effaced for its feminising potential. The emotionality upon which male nostalgia is hinged becomes subsumed within masculinist discourses that promote ‘prestige’, which curtails the affectively disruptive potential of male nostalgia.
The supremacy of decoration: the influence and legacy of the decorative practice of Frank Brangwyn in the Edwardian era
This study offers a new perspective on the practice of British artist Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) by establishing the aesthetic and functional ‘supremacy of decoration’ across his work of the first decades of the twentieth century. The term decorative was widely used in contemporary art discourse throughout Great Britain and Europe; yet a definition is elusive and problematic. The label is not, and has never been static, indiscriminately applied to a range of media and across different time periods. Focusing upon Brangwyn’s practice during the Edwardian era and its legacy, this thesis considers this concept through the formal and theoretical tenets of the mural and decorative painting movements, establishing the existence of a decorative formalism in the artist’s work and linking this characteristic directly with his critical and popular appeal. Furthermore, it traces the manifestation of this aesthetic approach outside of site-specific and functional sites of decoration to more autonomous contexts through examination of the artist’s intaglio prints – so called ‘painters’ etchings’ that were widely produced in England and Europe by the late nineteenth century. Through analysing Brangwyn’s role as a teacher in London and the circulation and impact of his prints outside of Britain in Australia, this study also shows that his decorative formalism was observed, admired and to varying extents, adopted by his younger contemporaries seeking to reflect a more modern perspective. The threads of British art explored in this thesis have rarely been linked with subsequent developments made by modern artists. Indeed the appeal of the decorative as a progressive formal strategy was short-lived and soon surpassed by other activities of the avant-garde. As this study reveals however, while Brangwyn was not a driving force behind modernism, his ‘decorative’ work of the Edwardian era anticipated many of the aesthetic concerns of modernity and is representative of one of the many unacknowledged ways in which artists began to articulate formal approaches to the picture plane in the early twentieth century.
Finding where the cuckoos sing: R. S. Thomas and the poiesis of birdwatching
This ecocritical study explores the poetry and prose of R. S. Thomas through the lens of his prolific career as a birdwatcher. This focus reveals a surprising unity in the way that Thomas uses birds in his poetry, and the way that birds and birdwatching inform his thinking and its significance in today’s cultural moment of ecological concern. In particular, while Thomas is usually studied within the context of his two competing careers as a Welsh nationalist poet writing in English, and an Anglican priest of the Church in Wales, the third – birdwatching – perhaps gets closest to the hermitic, self-proclaimed “nature mystic” and his enduring, spiritual connection to the Welsh landscape. Birdwatching is central to Thomas’s identity as a Welsh bard and priest; it is the calling that ties together his other vocations and poetic themes. Thomas’s interrelated thought and poetry is explored through what this thesis calls the “poiesis of birdwatching,” which reflects the essential eco-spiritual unity or “dwelling” for which Thomas strives. These terms are drawn from the work of Martin Heidegger, and they evoke the way that birds and birdwatching are caught up in – functioning almost as a kind of conceit for – Thomas’s encouragement of a way of seeing and being in which entities (birds, nature, the earth) reveal their unconcealed being and the unity of being. This stands against the way that for Heidegger, as for Thomas, modern technology conceals and enframes the natural world, interrupting that underlying unity and threatening the very ground of being. For Thomas, the “Machine” – and its capitalist, imperialist counterpart “England” – is a cultural, spiritual, and ultimately ecological threat. In this regard, the poiesis of birdwatching is also fundamentally active – and hence activist. It is a politicized way in which Thomas unites issues of nation and spirituality under an ecological banner.
Writing places: whiteness and the design of the built environment
The design of the built environment affects people. In Australia, designed spaces reflect specific ideas about nationhood that do not represent the reality of a diverse population. Instead, a white national identity pervades with unresolved issues of land often at the heart of such identity narratives. Whiteness, understood as a specific power structure, operates through landscapes and architecture in explicit and implicit ways. Indigenous cultural identities are also present within and against all of these expressions of whiteness. Such tensions arise in the first instance due to manifestations of whiteness in designed spaces being situated in Indigenous lands and Country while colonial histories and their associated violence, both symbolic and literal, remain largely unacknowledged. This thesis uses a mixed methodology to investigate a range of spaces, including demarcated national spaces, memorial sites, and places of exhibition, through the lens of critical race and whiteness studies to reveal how these identity tensions occur. Though the Australian context is the main focus of the study, an initial look to how similar issues are playing out in the US highlights the existence of transnational whiteness and the nature of the newly-formed relationship between the two nations at the time of Australia’s Federation. It is argued that the complicated relationship between these cultural identities affects the way landscapes and architecture are experienced, whether this is realised on a conscious level or not. Further, by using critical and reflexive modes of engagement, designers can gain deeper insights into place, see and feel their position in relation to these identity tensions, and understand how power is operating through them. This examination of the way cultural identities such as whiteness and Indigeneity are expressed through the design of national, memorial and exhibition spaces, allows a way into thinking about how the same tensions and power dynamics may also be taking place in more everyday spaces.
Tommy McRae: his cultural interaction with the colonial world
Tommy McRae: His Cultural Interaction with the Colonial World Andrew Sayers' landmark book 'Aboriginal Artists of the Nineteenth Century' was published in 1996. It revealed for the first time the extent of the art produced by Tommy McRae during the second half of the Nineteenth century and discusses in detail the context of the artist's works. With most of his drawings now held by public institutions, they are available for his audience to view and study. This thesis advances the understanding of McRae and introduces a novel iconography and chronological analysis of his works. It interprets the minutiae of posture, placement and engagement that the artist brought to his drawings in order to expand his narratives. Through careful evaluation they will be recognized for their pictorial appeal with their simplicity and fluidity of line, their complexity of detail, their humour and their honesty. The sensitivity and discerning qualities of his depictions are emphasized in his figures, both human and animal, whereby he communicated speed, agility, vigour and momentum, emotion and intent. The works of McRae should be seen as documents of historical significance by a highly perceptive man and a committed and accomplished artist, who was countering the words that were written at the time, by those outside his culture. McRae was born in Victoria's north-east in the 1830s, growing up through the turbulent years of Colonial expansion, the rush for gold and the resulting population explosions of invading settlers. He maintained his independence outside the formal government reserves and set up his base at Lake Moodemere, near Wahgunyah. The artist was heir to a heritage of images etched and drawn on rock faces, trees, bark and skins. He was first observed drawing in the mud and then encouraged to transfer his ideas using ink and paper. There are upward of 245 images on single sheets and in notebooks and sketchbooks from which to study the iconography that established his narratives of hunting, fishing, fighting, ceremony and celebration. His definition of attribute and decoration detail the elements that make up the different occasions. Through close examination of the spacing and the relationship that the artist created between his participants, the mechanics and sequences of the performances and activities can be understood. McRae's skill conveys the physicality in man, bird and animal, as well as the attitudes that drew his audience into his depictions and enlightens them to their demands and requirements. On paging through the sketchbooks, the evolving social climate to which the Aboriginal people were exposed is revealed, including McRae's response to the government's 'Half-caste Act'. The thesis explores gender within this social climate. From his earliest books until his death in 1901, there is a paucity of depictions of women at their traditional activities, except accompanying family groups in hunting for fish and game and as 'music-makers' at some ceremonial and celebratory events. It recognizes that McRae was drawing for predominately male patrons. Also, the census figures support the decrease of female numbers in the communities along the Murray Valley with a corresponding increase in those taking up residence in government reserves. His drawings thus focus on the pursuits of the Aboriginal men and their responses to the influences to which they became exposed by the new settlers; alcohol, social interaction and dress. Chronological sequences can be identified both within each book and between books. McRae introduced the William Buckley saga in 1885 to define that within the former. By illustrating the circumstances around the arrival of the Europeans on the shores of Port Phillip Bay which coincided with the artist's supposed birth in the mid-1830s, he developed the handkerchief waving motif to delineate those events and activities prior to and those after this occurrence. The source of the images is aligned with the published accounts, recognizing that he may have been able to access this information through his literate second wife. The iconography is juxtaposed with the analysis of his human and animal figures and the examination of McRae's depictions of the tree, the shrub and the ground as the chronological markers. The dissection of the evolving images of these features provides a sequence between his books. Across the years, the architecture of the trees becomes more complex, the main trunks develop a definition of bark and there is further transformation in the canopies. Varieties in shape and size extend to the middle and lower story shrubs, with the artist detailing a more intricate herbage underfoot. The development of these images is aligned with known commissioning dates, establishing a chronology into which can be inserted single sheets, notebooks and sketchbooks about which we have less information. This thesis, with its detailed and comprehensive analysis of each drawing, furnishes the audience of the Twenty-first century, with the knowledge of an Aboriginal Australian of the Nineteenth century, detailing his Aboriginality and his Cultural Interaction with the Colonial world.
Global SF in the twenty-first century: modernity and the other in Chinese and Anglophone SF
The twenty-first century has witnessed the rapid rise of non-Anglo-American science fiction. In this comparative study, I examine the ways Chinese science fiction is transforming the global field. I read Chen Qiufan alongside Paolo Bacigalupi, Xia Jia alongside Dan Simmons, and Liu Cixin alongside Arthur C. Clarke. By focusing on global science fiction’s generic innovations and thematic concerns, I show that this new generation of writers captures the new developments and problems of contemporary modernity, such as the rise of transnational corporations, the forming of a centerless “Empire,” ecological devastation and the cycles of e-waste, Islamophobia and xenophobia, among others. In taking up these thematic concerns, these writers not only reconfigure science fiction’s relation to modernity, but they also emphasize a dimension of the rhetoric of modernity that had previously remained implicit: these texts stage, in different ways, the encounter with the Other. I argue that new generic transformations in contemporary global SF serve to reveal the hidden faces of modernity, to think about modernity in relation to tradition and the past, to dismantle old myths surrounding the discourse of modernity.
Traces in stasis: a theory of enunciative trace in a comic, and material inertia in the work of Grant Morrison
In 'Traces en Cases', Philippe Marion conceives of the comic’s hand-drawn lines in terms of their opacitisation of the gestural enunciative act, and associates enunciative trace with a purely material quality to the line, a dimension in excess of any carried signification. This ascription of enunciative significance to the signifier’s underlying and ultimately meaningless material support can be further nuanced by turning to Jacques Lacan’s later work. By doing so, a theorisation of enunciative trace can be extended beyond the gestural quality to the line to encompass a broader range of material resonances, as facilitated by the comic’s status as a tabular multimodal sequence or significatory chain. The present work will associate enunciative trace with recurring or insistent material formations, or the extended series. This will be approached in terms of the inscription of a ‘signature’ material mark, and corresponding effectuation of a ‘cut’ in the significatory chain or narrative sequence. Following a theoretical outline, the work of comic book writer Grant Morrison will be approached in terms of a series of resonant material formations, which involve an equivocal use of, and opacitisation of, the comic’s formal elements, including words, captions, panels and balloons. The intersubjective mode of production will also be implicated, in order to establish an enunciative complexity.