"I do write, I think, from the eye": The peculiar aesthetic of Elizabeth Bowen

PhD Thesis


Hirst, D. 2021. "I do write, I think, from the eye": The peculiar aesthetic of Elizabeth Bowen . PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Humanities and Educational Studies
AuthorsHirst, D.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy
Abstract

The style of the novelist Elizabeth Bowen is often found perplexing. As a schoolgirl and young woman she had aspired in turn to be an architect, a visual artist or a poet, and by viewing her fiction from those perspectives I attempt to unravel some of the complexities of that style. In each of her ten novels, she adapts the techniques of the visual artist and the draughtsman, drawing on an eclectic and evolving range of genres. Both place and atmosphere are of primary concern to her, as is the light which she uses to illuminate the setting, something she derives from Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. The principal techniques adapted from genres dealing with perspective and fragmentation (Cubism, Collage, Futurism and Surrealism) are a form of literary collage and a fracturing of her syntax, which I term dyslocution. Within her syntax rhythm, half-rhyme, assonance and alliteration are among poetic techniques to be found: thus she creates a form of poetry.

Her literary collage, sometimes amounting to palimpsest, is arrived at by ‘pasting’ into her text literary references from various English, Irish and French writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This is often done in a playful way, resembling a game of literary ‘Hunt the Thimble’: the reader who discovers ‘thimbles’ will find that they enhance the text. Through her collage she seeks to pay tribute to her predecessors, something of increasing importance as she grows older.

Bowen depicts the human condition, in particular the feminine condition, with the forensic, yet compassionate, detachment of a surgeon. Lurking behind the fractured syntax there is always an awareness of the desire of her characters to fall into a pattern: they find themselves in predicaments, puzzles which they attempt to solve from disparate pieces, but they are often thwarted or left in liminal situations.

KeywordsElizabeth Bowen; Female novelists; Women writers; English writers; Irish writers
Year2021
File
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File Access Level
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Publication process dates
Deposited24 Jun 2022
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/9151w/-i-do-write-i-think-from-the-eye-the-peculiar-aesthetic-of-elizabeth-bowen

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