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Transforming Violence through Artistic Practice in Cold War America, 1945-1975

Perrott-Webb, Oliver (2020) Transforming Violence through Artistic Practice in Cold War America, 1945-1975. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:81869)

Language: English
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This thesis seeks to argue that following the Second World War and the dropping of the atomic bomb, certain American artists understood that it was necessary to induce a profound change in how we present manifestations and languages of violence. Following the lead of Sacvan Bercovitch's writings on the 'simultaneity of violence and culture formation' at the heart of the United States, the thesis' primary research objective is to investigate how John Cage, Amiri Baraka, William S. Burroughs and Denise Levertov developed a deep engagement with violence through aesthetics in order to offer a potential transformation in established relationships with violence in the postwar period. In understanding, as Susan Sontag proposed, that 'the American faith in violence' is essential to its symbolic identity,2 the thesis argues that these artists seek to undermine the laws and hypotheses of America as Other, the American symbolic identity, those which come to bear on that violence. Whilst many critical works have discussed the intersection between violence and culture, much of the critical material focusing on that intersection in the Cold War period continues to lag behind the creative practices and innovations arrived at by these American artists. The thesis argues that these artists worked to transform violence through their practice by accepting instability and precarity as a condition of postwar politics, society and morality. Using the theoretical work of Jacques Derrida, Susan Sontag, Frantz Fanon, Sacvan Bercovitch and Jacques Lacan among others, the thesis aims to fundamentally reconsider violence in the postwar moment. Taking the defining aesthetic innovations of the artists in question as its points of departure-Cage's silence, Baraka's break, Burroughs' scansion, and Levertov's threshold-the thesis demonstrates that what such a reconsideration calls for is a renewed understanding of violence in the postwar moment. At the level of their defining innovations, what these artists thus enable us to formulate is a relation to violence that rejects its presentation in the laws and hypotheses of America as Other.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Herd, David
Uncontrolled keywords: violence, aesthetics, postwar, Cold War, Levertov, Baraka, Cage, Burroughs, facture, liminality
Subjects: P Language and Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2020 11:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2023 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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