Writing the self: case studies in phenomenology and fiction

Venkatachalam, Shilpa (2007) Writing the self: case studies in phenomenology and fiction. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

Writing the Self: Case Studies in Phenomenology and Fiction explores the way in which the notions of self, being and consciousness find expression in works of literary fiction and philosophical texts. It raises the question of whether there are paradigmatic features that are distinctive to philosophy and imaginative literature in their engagement with ontology. Whilst discussing various works of imaginative literature and philosophy, this thesis concentrates on aspects of Husserlian phenomenology and Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1962) from the philosophical tradition and focuses on three selected works of post-1900 literary fiction: Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1902), Virginia Woolfs The Waves (1931), and Saul Bellow's Dangling Man (1944).

In an essay on "Literary Attestation in Philosophy", Robert Bernasconi asks, "Literary texts have a certain autonomy, but what happens to them when they are submitted to philosophically inspired readings?"(Bernasconi in Woods 1990: 24). This thesis argues that literary texts need not be "submitted" to philosophically inspired readings. Bernasconi makes an error by using the word "submitted". The texts themselves are not written with a view to supporting the philosophical claims made in a philosophical treatise. This is how both philosophy and literature retain their autonomy. This thesis will demonstrate how autonomy functions differently from insularity purporting that such a distinction is often overlooked. What is not being investigated in this thesis is whether or not philosophy can be used to prove fiction as an application of philosophical ideas. Rather, what is intended is to read them both as different enterprises but at the same time together. Coming together is not to be understood in the same way as dissolving the differences that exist between the two. Nor are the two fields to be understood as mutually dependant. Literature does not derive its conception of "literature" in opposition to the conception of philosophy nor vice-versa.

Chapter I of this thesis is a discussion of the theoretical foundation upon which the remainder of this thesis will rest. Through the discussion of selected works of philosophy and literary fiction, this chapter will lay down the theoretical parameters of the issues under examination in the chapters that follow. In chapter II Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1902) is studied in conjunction with Heideggerean and phenomenological thought. Chapter III takes as its point of departure the question of essence and existence in The Waves (1922) in order to examine the exploration of the Heideggerean notions of the ontic and the ontological. Chapter IV focuses on Bellow's Dangling Man (1944) and examines the way in which the protagonist's struggle in it is explored as a battle between the particular and the universal, and consequently as a strife between notions of essence and existence and ontic and ontological. The conclusion to this thesis endeavours to provide a premise within which ontology and hermeneutics may be understood in imaginative literature and philosophical writing.

The intention is never to prove that a work of fiction is phenomenological or Heideggerean but rather to highlight the treatment of Being, Consciousness and the Self in literary fiction and philosophical enquiry. This thesis aims to understand the manner in which the concepts of the ontic and the ontological are expressed in literary fiction and philosophical texts, and does so by raising the question of whether in fact the literary enterprise as opposed to the philosophical one is more adept at expressing either of the two concepts. Based upon such an examination, this thesis, strives to examine whether or not philosophy and literary fiction exist as two separate enterprises by traversing both the similarities and discrepancies that exist in the two fields.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Daly, M.M.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures
ID Code:2603
Deposited By:Ms. K EVANS
Deposited On:01 Jun 2012 09:51
Last Modified:01 Jun 2012 09:57

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