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Violent signs: ecocriticism and the symptom

Matts, Timothy 2011. Violent signs: ecocriticism and the symptom. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis recommends that the ‘ecocritical’ turn in American Literary Scholarship be brought into contact with ‘symptomnal’ forms of ideology critique, namely after the post-Althusserian thinking of Fredric Jameson, Slavoj Žižek and Deleuze-Guattari. This recommendation is made on the basis that the ecocritical turn has neglected to apprise itself of a thoroughgoing prehistory; by bringing together the lessons of Marx and Lacan, post-Althusserian thinking enables us to address the disavowal of formal and theoretical concerns constitutive of first-wave ecocriticism, and to acknowledge this as symptomatic of North American cultural and political pluralism more broadly. Where such disavowal promoted a widespread rejection of poststructural theories of immanence in the Americanist milieu of the 1980s, I consider how it effectively blocked psychoanalytic and Marxist approaches to literary form and human subjectivity. Following an initial examination of ecocriticism after Althusser and Balibar’s thesis on ‘symptomnal reading’, my study goes on to reassert issues of subjectivity for ecocriticism. Žižek’s subjectivist approach to ideology critique enables a diagnosis of the legacy of modern epistemology and thereafter analysis of ecocritical motivations of sublime aesthetics. By pursuing broader, ‘valetudinary’ issues in relation to literary form, the latter half of the thesis exceeds the former’s emphasis on ideology critique, moving instead to engage the post-subjectivist, ‘schizoanalytic’ project of Deleuze and Guattari. Predicated upon an a-subjective philosophy of differential relations, schizoanalysis enables us to reappraise eco-literary and eco-philosophical concerns, chiefly after post-symptomatological analyses of the relationship between high modern literature, pre-personal affect and the ‘eco-social’ coding of desire. It is in this way that I assert the ‘body without organs’ as the privileged clinical figure with which to address eco-social organisation, and thus, exceed the subjectivist logic of the symptom.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Funders: AHRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2020 03:05

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