Becoming plastic: modernist poetics, (neuro)psychoanalysis and the material object

Terry, L., 2020. Becoming plastic: modernist poetics, (neuro)psychoanalysis and the material object. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Becoming Plastic: Modernist Poetics, (Neuro)Psychoanalysis, and the Material Object is a creative-critical thesis comprising approximately 45,000 words of critical prose and a poetry collection of sixty pages. Through critical discussion and my own creative writing, the thesis explores the continuums between human subjects and nonhuman objects in poetry – arguing that there is a disturbance of ontological categories happening in the process of poetic composition which functions to involve readers in a radical reappraisal of the material world in which they participate.

The critical component of my thesis engages with the work of neglected modernist poets – such as Lola Ridge and the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven – alongside those who have received considerable attention from literary critics – including Amy Lowell, Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein – in order to examine the disruptive potential of the material object in modernist poetry. Arguing that these poets disturb the theoretical boundaries between subject and object via experimental poetic languages and forms, the three chapters of this thesis bring together studies in psychoanalysis (Freud, 1919; Kristeva, 1982), the nonhuman turn (Bennett, 2010), defamiliarization (Shklovsky, 1917), thing theory (Brown, 2004), and neuroscience (Malabou, 2004) to demonstrate the capacity for modernist poetry to interrogate what it is to be human or nonhuman in a world of things. Acknowledging the assemblages in which we participate, Chapter 1 reconceptualises the relationship between anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism in the texts of Ridge and Lowell. Demonstrating that the disruption of the human / nonhuman binary is accompanied by a disruption of genre, it argues that Ridge and Lowell accentuate the complex assemblages at work in the text. Building on this, Chapter 2 examines Loy’s poetry and artworks as that which actively transform both the nonhuman object and the literary text into abject things which interrogate assumptions about people, language, and objects. This chapter argues that Loy's compositions offer a reappraisal of the literary object as we know it – its customary spatial notations, typography, punctuation, and communicative language – heralding the possibility of a thingly poetics. Advancing this investigation into the physical and psychological continuums between human subjects and nonhuman objects in modernist poetry, Chapter 3 explores the literary experiments of Stein and the Baroness through the study of neuroplasticity. Offering the first plastic reading of a modernist poem, it argues that Stein and the Baroness's literary experiments articulate how the brain is physically and psychologically altered through sensory encounters with nonhuman objects. Synthesising studies in modernist literary cultures, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience, this thesis examines the vitality, potentiality, commonality, and plasticity of matter – contending that these poems ultimately challenge our understanding of both the modernist object and the limits of genre.

The thesis also draws on my own creative practice in order to interrogate the relationship between the material object, psychoanalysis and the limits of genre – to explore the extent to which the poem itself slips between ontological categories. Aiming to accentuate the synaptic connections between my chapters, between human subjects and nonhuman objects, between theorists, between modernist and modern poetic composition, and between creative and critical writing, the thesis includes a manifesto which outlines the principles and parameters of the plastic text. Furthermore, I present a collection of my own plastic compositions – 'Museum of Lost and Broken Things' – which explore the physical and psychological continuums between human subjects and nonhuman objects. These poems enact the theoretical principles and formal techniques examined in each chapter – consolidating the productive connections between critical and creative matter.

Item Type: Thesis
Description: Abridged version
Creators: Terry, L.
Date: October 2020
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the Nottingham Trent University Quality Handbook Supplement Requirements for submission of a research degree thesis September 2019 page 2 QHS11A information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 05 May 2021 08:17
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 15:03

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