School of Culture and Communication - Theses
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Catching Feelings: Affect, Life Writing and the Sociality of Women’s Illness
In “On Being Ill,” Virginia Woolf declared that illness is “the great confessional”; however, she believed this confessional impulse to be isolating, limiting the sufferer to their individual plight. Instead, this thesis argues that the contemporary scene of women’s illnesses is undeniably social. By foregrounding elements of contagion in this thesis, I examine both the infectious capacity of illness, particularly mental, psychosomatic and contested illnesses, and the contagious quality of personal experience in order to consider how movement and sensation become gendered and pathologised. Works in the contemporary genre of infectious autobiography (or autobiographical illness narrative), which include life writing by Sylvia Plath, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Barbara Browning, Chris Kraus, and Leslie Jamison, configure illness as an affective environment, composed and sustained through relation. This project thus asks to what extent ill affects necessitate a shared experience, delineating what I call the sociality of illness, and in what ways this sharing encourages a post-critical and reparative structuring of the relationship between reader and text. For disorders which are primarily understood in terms of their emotional effects, these illnesses raise questions: if a person’s emotional state can be contagious, what, then, of the illness which informs and inflects that state? Does sharing feeling with someone experiencing such an illness approximate or even equate to the illness itself? And, perhaps most crucially, can like feeling transmute into pure feeling?
Seeing feeling, feeling seen: a reparative poetics of youth mental health in graphic medicine
This creative writing thesis explores the theory and practice of developing a reparative poetics of youth mental health in graphic medicine. It pertains to the design and development of a series of comics for use in a suite of online youth mental health websites, developed in collaboration with an interdisciplinary research team at Orygen Youth Health. The structure of the thesis moves iteratively between critical readings of published comics that present lived experience of youth mental illness and wellbeing, and chapters that tell a narrative of the comics we produced and the stylistic choices we made in terms of representation, characterisation, setting, story and metaphor. Despite the highly collaborative, interdisciplinary context of the research, the thesis situates itself firmly within the discipline of creative writing.
Taiwan in Their Hands: cultural soft power and translocal identity making in the New York Taiwan Academy
In 2011, Kuomintang (KMT) President Ma Ying-jeou created the Taiwan Academies as a cultural exchange initiative to enhance Taiwan’s soft power and introduce Taiwan’s culture to the world, while also competing against China for space in the realm of competing notions of Chineseness internationally. Three Taiwan Academy resource centres were established that year in New York, Los Angeles, and Houston. This thesis presents a historical case study analysis of the Taiwan Academy resource centre in New York between 2012-2014, in order to examine the context of production of soft power discourse and the empirical consequences within a specific program, among a target audience. To this end, it examines soft power from the perspective of translocality, in order to uncover the often-overlooked socio-cultural, relational, and spatial aspects of cultural strategies aimed at generating soft power. This study responds to two central research questions. First: what kind(s) of cultural messages were being produced and exported to New York by Ma's administration in Taipei? Second: how were these messages translated, interpreted and received in practice, in their implementation at the New York Taiwan Academy? To address these, this research first re-conceptualises a de-Westernised, localised framework for interpreting cultural soft power discourse under Ma’s KMT administration. It then considers Taipei’s strategy of generating cultural soft power through Taiwan Academy from two perspectives: from “above”, in Taipei, and “below”, in New York. From “above”, it evaluates Taiwan Academy as a political strategy, in relation to relevant domestic, cross-Strait, and international contexts. From “below”, this study conducts a grounded analysis of two Taiwan Academy cultural programs and the translocal processes and practices that re-/defined the role of Taiwan Academy in New York. The conclusion integrates these two perspectives in order to address the dynamics and limits of Ma’s use of cultural soft power within the Taiwan Academy. In doing so, this thesis aims to explicate the contingent, relational, and inherently translocal nature of soft power practice.
The Historical Formation of Chinese Contemporary Art and the Socialist Legacy
The subject of this thesis is the period in China from the 1950s to the 1990s, during which “contemporary art” (dangdai yishu) gradually emerged. This is part of a complicated historical narrative centered on the state. Existing understandings of this tumultuous period have been complicated by the fact that modern and contemporary Chinese art history has largely been written by critics—active protagonists—who have naturally promoted particular accounts. The thesis proceeds through an analysis of key debates and initiatives by artists, art critics and art historians inside China, drawing on primary research and interviews. The contention of this thesis is that contemporary art is not only an integral part of the culture that developed under the auspices of the state, but that Chinese contemporary art itself completely embodies the complexity and paradoxes of state culture.
“Difficult Objects”: Ideas of Disorder in the Poetry of Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens’ poetry is full of objects. These include a jar, some rocks, thirteen blackbirds, coffee and oranges, ice-cream, umbrellas, chocolate, pots and pans, flowers and fruits, a glass of water, rainbows, lions, chickens, tables, bowls, statues, boats, a turban, a monocle and a blue guitar. Yet there are few studies that inquire into the complexity, diversity or specificity of Stevens’ objects in themselves. Instead, the critical tendency is to view them as either fictional and abstract, or the inaccessible things of an inhuman reality. This thesis addresses this lacuna by attending to the peculiar difficulty immanent to certain of Stevens’ objects: the jar, trash, a pineapple and the rock. These objects, I argue, are difficult because they resist and exceed the taxonomies that we commonly apply to textual objects, in particular the conceptual dualisms between text and object, thing and idea, and matter and meaning. Far from conforming to the reality-imagination binary by which they have typically been understood, this thesis argues that they perform alternative ideas of order and even dis-order, each in a different but exemplary way: the jar comprises an indeterminate materiality that reorganises the difference between ideas and things; trash undermines the systems of value by which we not only make meaning but identify what it is to be human; putting a pineapple together undoes transcendental and representational poetics; the rock stages a recalcitrant margin from which meaning and matter emerge already entangled. These objects are Stevens’ unique responses to the modernist preoccupation with objects in that they experiment with reorientating W. C. Williams’ famous dictum: “no ideas but in things.” Because they call into question the categorical difference between the objective world and the text, whilst simultaneously resisting the collapse or flattening of this division, Steven’s objects are also examples of that difficult intersection between text and object that continues to cause problems for both new materialist and poetic ontologies. The aim of this thesis is not to resolve the difficulty of these objects but instead to pay attention to it, to the entanglements, infractions and free play that this difficulty articulates, and to the disorientations of the poetic object more generally. In this way, the thesis demonstrates the absolute importance of objects to poetry. It thereby contributes to the recent turn in critical theory towards the study of theoretical materialism, to the poetics of objects, and to our understanding of Stevens.
Lives and Afterlives: The print collection of Elizabeth Seymour Percy, 1st Duchess of Northumberland (1716-1776)
Prints formed a sizeable part of the diverse collections assembled by English collector, Elizabeth Seymour Percy, the 1st Duchess of Northumberland (1716-1776). Her print collection was dispersed at auction in 1951 and nine of her print albums — containing engravings predominantly by Flemish sixteenth-century printmaker/publishers, the Sadeler family — are now housed at the University of Melbourne, Australia. The duchess’s journals, notebooks, and her hand-written collection inventories also survive in the Archives of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England. These documents record the duchess’s acquisition, arrangement, and cataloguing of her print collection, and refer to the albums now in Melbourne. Remarkably, there have been no previous in-depth studies of the duchess’s print collecting based on these rich archival records, and few analyses that focus on extant prints and albums from her collection. This research is about the intersection of two sources of evidence — textual and material — and what these sources reveal about the actions and intentions of the duchess as a print collector: how she identified, acquired, assembled, and catalogued her collection. Early chapters examine archival records to investigate the duchess’s engagement with the eighteenth-century print market and her print acquisition activities. Next, her methods and motivations for the assembly and categorisation of her print albums are examined through physical analysis of two print albums in Melbourne, and through tracing the development of her print categorisation schema in notebooks and her print inventories. Drawing on auction catalogues and dealer records, her prints and albums are then studied as objects of cultural commerce in the twentieth century. The final chapter considers the complex meanings evoked when some of the duchess’s prints were transformed into statuary. The trajectory of the duchess’s prints and albums over time — their ‘lives’ and ‘afterlives’ — is the framework of this study. This study asks: what does archival evidence reveal about the duchess’s acquisition and categorisation of prints in the eighteenth century? How do the material features of the duchess’s albums in Melbourne help us understand the acquisition, assembly, and categorisation of her print collection? Why were some of the duchess’s prints translated into other creative forms?
A Gothic vision: the architectural patronage of Bishop James Goold in colonial Victoria
During his almost 40 years long episcopacy, James Alipius Goold (1812-1886), the first Roman Catholic bishop of Melbourne, laid strong foundations for the Catholic church in Victoria. The diocese of Melbourne counted only two churches and two chapels when he arrived in 1848, but, during his lifetime, clergymen claimed he laid as many foundations stones as Saint Patrick himself. After ten years spent as a missionary in New South Wales, Goold dedicated himself to the diocese of Melbourne. He established a firm administration, and was involved in several aspects of church building. He selected prominent locations and provided parish priests with suitable designs, he decided how to allocate Government funds and visited the building site whenever possible. His architectural patronage exemplifies the evolution of Gothic taste in Victoria. While earlier commissions encompassed Gothick churches, in the wake of the gold rush Goold had the resources to commission archaeologically correct Gothic Revival churches from the English architects Joseph and Charles Hansom. Over the years Goold developed a network including leading manufacturers in Europe and Australia to provide glass, furnishings and metalwork of the finest quality for the Gothic churches he was building. He gifted items to the parishes to dignify also the humble temporary buildings used for Sunday mass. In 1858, the English Catholic-convert architect William Wardell relocated to Melbourne. He had worked on about 30 church commissions in England, almost all of them in the Gothic Revival style faithful to AWN Pugin’s principles. Wardell was the man Goold needed to pursue his Gothic vision in Victoria. In the following decade, the bishop commissioned him to provide plans for at least a dozen parish churches ranging in size and refinement for city parishes and rural districts alike. His ambitious patronage culminated with the realisation of St Patrick’s Cathedral to Wardell’s grand design, a building rooted in French and English mediaeval tradition matching the size of European cathedrals. Bishop Goold played a remarkable role in shaping the built environment of the colony. His championing of the Gothic Revival style ascribes his name among the group of patrons who translated European culture to colonial Australia.
The Secret Object of Sacrifice after Luce Irigaray
This thesis studies the concept of “new sacrifice” in the work of Luce Irigaray. According to Irigaray, the patriarchal order is founded on the masculine subject’s hidden sacrifice of the woman-object—the secret object of sacrifice. She proposes that the emergence of a new sacrificial order requires the formation of a new sociality and economy, one which sacrifices the patriarchal order and in turn allows for the cultivation of the feminine. Critics argue that Irigaray’s vision is utopian and that she does not clarify the way in which a new sacrificial—theorists also use the word “nonsacrificial,” however for this thesis I use Irigaray’s own phrase “new sacrifice”—order may emerge. I argue that Irigaray’s account of a new sacrificial process of becoming occurs through a mystical encounter with abjection, where the object becomes (a new kind of) subject. To support this argument I turn to Kristeva’s theory of abjection, and Moten’s theory of Blackness in the preliminary chapters of this thesis. The differences and similarities between the work of these theorists and that of Irigaray allow me to identify a latency in Irigaray’s work in regard to the secret object of sacrifice, its transformation, and the emergence of a new sacrificial order. After comparing philosophical texts, I apply the theory I have developed to literature and film texts.
Dot, Circle And Frame: how Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Tim Leura, Clifford Possum and Johnny Warangula created Papunya Tula art
Forty years ago, Forty years ago, Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Tim Leura, Clifford Possum and Johnny Warangula were central to the constitution of contemporary desert art at Papunya. Standing out among an exceptional cohort, these four selected artists deployed their inherited iconography while exploring the new poetic possibilities offered by paint on canvas. This thesis addresses the question: how, and to what extent, did the artists’ intercultural experience affect their agency and creative processes? The answers to that question will contribute to a deeper understanding of a critical juncture in the nation’s art history, when the advent of Papunya Tula art redirected attention from the ‘European’ artists of the south-eastern seaboard and instead inaugurated a heterogeneous conception of Australia’s culture with Indigenous voices at its centre. This thesis will draw on social history and visual anthropology, as well as formal and technical artwork analysis to identify the diverse influences that contributed to Papunya Tula painting in place, and over time. Rather than commencing analysis in 1971, when Kaapa’s revolutionary paintings first came to public attention, the social and ontological context from which Papunya Tula art emerged is foregrounded. Central Australia in the mid-20th Century is examined to reveal how disparate peoples were drawn into a dynamically evolving contact zone. The novel visual forms produced at the Finke River Mission are shown to reflect the ongoing dialogic struggle between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ontologies in Central Australia. Moreover, it is argued that exchange between diverse Aboriginal groups, with markedly different life experiences, was critical to the development of contemporary desert art. The link between the Western Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira and the selected artists is substantiated and his influence evaluated. The importance of Namatjira’s ‘framing’ of Country as a subject for cultural exchange is highlighted. Papunya is located at the intersection of major cultural and linguist blocs. This thesis reasserts the role played by the selected Central Australian artists in the formation of the painting movement at Papunya. It challenges the conflation of Papunya Tula art with ‘Western Desert art’, an assumption that was cemented by the title of Geoffrey Bardon’s 1979 monograph. Critical pictorial innovations developed by each of the selected artists are identified, and their operation in picture-making is described. Digging deeper, formal qualities of the four selected artists’ paintings are examined, to identify evidence of their creative processes and individual sensibilities. In establishing the progression of formal elements within series of paintings, the significance of ongoing creative dialogue between these four artists is verified. The outcomes of their collaborations are presented as a narrative of studio practice in a desert environment. were central to the constitution of contemporary desert art at Papunya. Standing out among an exceptional cohort, these four selected artists deployed their inherited iconography while exploring the new poetic possibilities offered by paint on canvas. This thesis addresses the question: how, and to what extent, did the artists’ intercultural experience affect their agency and creative processes? The answers to that question will contribute to a deeper understanding of a critical juncture in the nation’s art history, when the advent of Papunya Tula art redirected attention from the ‘European’ artists of the south-eastern seaboard and instead inaugurated a heterogeneous conception of Australia’s culture with Indigenous voices at its centre. This thesis will draw on social history and visual anthropology, as well as formal and technical artwork analysis to identify the diverse influences that contributed to Papunya Tula painting in place, and over time. Rather than commencing analysis in 1971, when Kaapa’s revolutionary paintings first came to public attention, the social and ontological context from which Papunya Tula art emerged is foregrounded. Central Australia in the mid-20th Century is examined to reveal how disparate peoples were drawn into a dynamically evolving contact zone. The novel visual forms produced at the Finke River Mission are shown to reflect the ongoing dialogic struggle between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ontologies in Central Australia. Moreover, it is argued that exchange between diverse Aboriginal groups, with markedly different life experiences, was critical to the development of contemporary desert art. The link between the Western Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira and the selected artists is substantiated and his influence evaluated. The importance of Namatjira’s ‘framing’ of Country as a subject for cultural exchange is highlighted. Papunya is located at the intersection of major cultural and linguist blocs. This thesis reasserts the role played by the selected Central Australian artists in the formation of the painting movement at Papunya. It challenges the conflation of Papunya Tula art with ‘Western Desert art’, an assumption that was cemented by the title of Geoffrey Bardon’s 1979 monograph. Critical pictorial innovations developed by each of the selected artists are identified, and their operation in picture-making is described. Digging deeper, formal qualities of the four selected artists’ paintings are examined, to identify evidence of their creative processes and individual sensibilities. In establishing the progression of formal elements within series of paintings, the significance of ongoing creative dialogue between these four artists is verified. The outcomes of their collaborations are presented as a narrative of studio practice in a desert environment.
Young Adults, Mobile Messaging, and the Negotiation of (Un)Availability
With a mobile phone, a person can reach and be reached anytime, anywhere. As many scholars have noted, this creates mutual expectations of availability, particularly among young adults whose friendships typically involve high rates of mobile messaging. What happens, however, in the moments when young adults do not want to be available, or cannot be available, to their friends? How do they resist this logic of constant availability in order to make space for themselves or to attend to other tasks or priorities? This thesis engages with these questions by investigating how young adults negotiate unavailability in a contemporary mobile environment. In doing so, this thesis draws on interviews with 39 young adults and a historical comparison of availability etiquettes. The semi-structured interviews focus on young adults’ perceptions and experiences of mobile communication, namely, mobile messaging. Messaging is of particular relevance to the negotiation of unavailability because it is less disruptive to a person’s physical surroundings than calling and is thus often subject to higher expectations of responsiveness. It is also heavily used in many young adults’ friendships. In this context, negotiating unavailability is both particularly necessary and particularly challenging. On the basis of participants’ accounts, this thesis argues that young adults use the affordances of mobile devices and messaging apps to enact a range of nuanced practices for negotiating, limiting, and avoiding interactions. These include technical practices, which involve manipulating the features and qualities of mobile devices and apps; temporal practices, which involve the timing of messages; and discursive practices, which involve their written or visual content. To contextualise these practices, this thesis draws on a historical comparison with 19th century etiquettes for house visits and calling cards and mid-20th century etiquettes for domestic landline telephone calls. Through this historicisation, this thesis argues that participants’ experiences are often a continuation of earlier communication etiquettes, particularly their use of indirect techniques for negotiating unavailability. That said, some etiquette for negotiating unavailability in the context of mobile messaging is yet to stabilise, which can lead to conflict within friendships. Ultimately, this thesis concludes that mobile technologies mediate the negotiation of unavailability not just as material devices that shape actions through their materiality, but also as meaning-filled objects that are bound up in narratives about friendship and technology use.
'Once we had bread here, you gave us stone'. Food as a technology of biopower in the stories of Jack Davis, Ruby Langford Ginibi, and Alexis Wright
This thesis presents the first comprehensive study of food in the works of Indigenous Australian storytellers. It uses Foucault’s analyses of biopower as a grid of intelligibility through which to describe food’s various functions and effects as they are recorded, reproduced, refracted, and resisted in Jack Davis’s, Ruby Langford Ginibi’s, and Alexis Wright’s storytelling. The thesis reads food as a technology of biopower: a means by which life ‘passe[s] into knowledge's field of control and power's sphere of intervention’ (Foucault 1978, 142). Following a Foucaultian methodology, it presents close and contextualised readings of the ways that food is instrumentalised as a technology of biopower and the functions, effects, and networks of biopower that result in and through the storytellers’ works. The specific topics the thesis engages include accounts of rationing and food-centric resistance in Davis’s plays, food insecurity and obesity discourse in Langford Ginibi’s life stories, and food’s relationship with alcohol and imperilment in Wright’s stories. It traces continuities between the storytellers’ treatment of food as well as identifying the way food generates and is implicated in evolving configurations and networks of biopower. It explores various resistance strategies and their efficacy in and through their stories, as well as the new subjects, hegemonic relations, institutions, forms of government, and fields of power-knowledge that result.
On the Uses of Renaissance Genre
Scholars have long recognized that English Renaissance texts are marked by generic experimentation and ambiguity, but the implications that this carries for the category of genre itself have not been sufficiently explored. The broad contention of this thesis is that the productiveness that marked genre in the early modern period is a consequence of the different uses to which it was put by a variety of stakeholders. For these stakeholders – the playwrights, critics, playing companies, and printers of the early modern period – genre became a site where contests over commercial, pragmatic, and symbolic investments could be played out. Genre in this period thereby functioned as a crucible whereby different interests, themselves products of a changing set of material and social conditions, could vie for power within an arena characterized by commercial and pragmatic investments. Accordingly, this thesis focuses on the matter of use and on the user-groups who repurposed classical categories of genre as a way to extend their own interests. This thesis presents these matters outside the text, and the agents responsible for them, as explanations for the generative nature of Renaissance genre.