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The Aesthetics of Escapade: Virginia Woolf, Dora Carrington and Asta Nielsen Contesting Gender in Life and Art

DHAMANITAYAKUL, CHEUNSUMON (2018) The Aesthetics of Escapade: Virginia Woolf, Dora Carrington and Asta Nielsen Contesting Gender in Life and Art. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis focuses on the life and work of three Modernist women artists: an English literary icon Virginia Woolf; an English painter, Dora Carrington; and a German film star of the Weimar years, Asta Nielsen. In particular, it looks at their approach to presenting, performing and publicising gender, taking each artist in turn as representative of the mobility and independence afforded to women at the beginning of the twentieth century. Each woman “performs” and “publicises” the construction of a convention-defying gender identity in their own way but they share a similar tendency towards the theme of escapade. This thesis explores modes of life and distinct artistic preferences that animate each life and bring together notions of objectifying and objectification. It examines how these three women deploy the available cultural resources, or technologies of publicity as a means of playfully claiming their personal emancipation and/or to define and represent female subjectivity in way different from what was conventionally understood and practised at the time. In discussing how Woolf, Carrington and Nielsen both register the influence of the dominant social forces by which they are surrounded and disrupt the usual practices of female self-inscription of their moment, this thesis is informed by Michel Foucault’s theoretical focus on the process of subjectivation: the technologies of the self. As a backdrop to my analysis, I situate Woolf, Carrington and Nielsen in the historical conjunctures of interwar England and Germany (from the 1910s to 1930s). In a social and political climate of uncertainty and complexity the blurring of traditional gendered roles in the public sphere offered many women, particularly the women of my selection, a hitherto unimaginable latitude and independence. However, I take these artistic figures not as directly symptomatic of their moment, but rather as conspicuous and hyperbolised expressions of a broader cultural impulse that did have a larger currency in this period.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 13:27
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2019 13:27
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23987

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