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Theory and practice: Towards a recuperation and rearticulation of the subject through art

Barrett, Estelle (1996) Theory and practice: Towards a recuperation and rearticulation of the subject through art. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The subject is a complex, multiple and heterogeneous process that is not solely constructed through social and symbolic codes, but is also realised through alternative non- discursive processes implicated in creative practices. Rather than returning to the so-called (albeit dubiously) “unified subject” of humanism, I am proposing the view of an actantdal, constantly emergent selfhood that is rearticulated and recuperated in various meaningmaking processes that involve both psychic specificity and agency. My analysis of such processes suggests that a reinsertion of the subject is crucial to theoretical accounts of social change.

Starting with an examination and critique of various poststructuralist theories that proclaim the death of the subject and of art, the thesis builds on Julia Kristeva’s elaboration of subjectivity as an ongoing process constituted in creative practices which involve an interplay between established social, symbolic and ideological codes and pre-symbolic processes related to bodily drives, affect and primary processes linked to perception. The operation of a ‘non-discursive’ code in textual practices is realised as transgressive effects that shift established discourses. This is illustrated in my analysis of visual and verbal texts in the final chapters. In reviewing a range of theoretical positions that emerge from social constructionist theories, I attempt to pinpoint and negotiate some of the scholastic ambiguities and impasses emerging from theories of subjectivity. Through an exploration of mind/body relationships, I argue that creative practices are underpinned by the impulse for growth. This is extended by an illustration of the significance of art in therapeutic practices. In my interpretation of a range of textual practices, I have combined Michael O’Toole’s model of semiotic analysis and Julia Kristeva’s model of semanalysis and have introduced what I term the “X Function” which permits the mapping of non-discursive elements through which alternative dimensions of subjectivity may be articulated.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): O'Toole, Michael
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