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Truth and subjectivity: explorations in identity and the real in the photographic work of Clemetina Hawarden (1822-65) and Samuel Butler (1835-1902) and their contemporaries

Barlow, H.G. (1994) Truth and subjectivity: explorations in identity and the real in the photographic work of Clemetina Hawarden (1822-65) and Samuel Butler (1835-1902) and their contemporaries. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86070) (KAR id:86070)


This study focuses upon Victorian photograph and in particular upon two bodies of photographic work which are, as yet, comparatively little-known - the work of Lady Clementina Hawarden and of Samuel Butler.

While the pairing may at first seem an odd one, since the connections between the two are not immediately obvious, it is in my view entirely justified; for in the work of both one finds a similar sense of unease at Victorian discourses of truth and the real, whereby the idea of the indivisible and a priori nature of reality and truth is enshrined and protected, and at the implications of such a conception for the identity of the human subject. Even more strikingly, both choose (entirely independently) to examine and challenge their discourses using remarkably similar photographic strategies.

It is argued that, taking subjects which are at times very different and at others startlingly similar, both use photograph as the means to explore a sense of the human subject, and the conception of truth/reality upon which is is based, as characterized by multiplicity, contingency and arbitrariness. Parallels are drawn with artists including Vermeer and Velazquez to support this reading, and their work is contrasted with that of other artists, both Victorian and otherwise, to demonstrate the degree to which their ideas diverge from the discursive norm.

The study builds towards the conclusion that, in the contingent and ambiguous nature of the photograph itself, both Hawarden and Butler found a medium capable of strengthening and confirming their resistance to the unifying and homogenizing structures employed by many of their contemporaries against the development of the modern decentred subject.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86070
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Uncontrolled keywords: Victorian photograph; Clementina Hawarden; Samuel Butler
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:27 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 08:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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