Modernist objects / objects under modernity: a philosophical reading of Discrete series

Hercock, Edwin Henry Frederick (2015) Modernist objects / objects under modernity: a philosophical reading of Discrete series. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis is the first book-length treatment of the poems in George Oppen’s Discrete Series (1934), providing a counterbalance to critical readings of Oppen’s work which have to date focused on work published after his return to poetry (i.e. from 1962 onwards). It is a philosophical presentation of the work which argues that the poems are themselves philosophical presentations of objects, and by those objects and that presentation, of the historical circumstances of those objects and the poems themselves.

Its method is Adornian in three senses: first, it holds that literature is not only subject-matter for a (sub)subset of philosophy but a potential mode of participation within it; second, the philosophical writing with which the thesis puts the poems into dialogue is not a single authorship nor strictly aesthetic, but a broad range of writings by Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche (with a special emphasis on Hegel); and third, continual recourse is made to Adorno’s own writings on art and objecthood.

After a brief account of the pre-history of Objectivism, of Oppen’s connection with Ezra Pound, and the circumstances of the work’s production and appearance, the poems are analysed in depth alongside more thoroughly institutionally validated works by, among others, Pound and T.S. Eliot. The main focus of these readings is on the physical objects represented: their nature, type, consistency, and the fact and manner of their presentation. These objects are characterised by their resolute materiality – their distinctive hardness and their uniform impenetrable surfaces. These properties are analysed from literary-historical, historical and philosophical perspectives, i.e. in the contexts of modernist hardness and its precursors; industrial production and the individual; and the causes and consequences, in thought, of the experience of bare materiality that the poems present.

Finally it considers how the poems, as well as registering a particular mode of object experience, themselves seek to produce it.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0185 By period > PS0221 20th century
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0301 Poetry
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2015 13:31
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:49

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