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Reading Berger, Responding to the Literary

Turney, Richard (2015) Reading Berger, Responding to the Literary. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis performs original close readings of a number of texts by John Berger, responding in particular to the work's literary qualities. It is the contention herein that the critical heritage has consistently failed to account for the richness and distinctiveness of Berger's work, attempting to place him within the context of Marxist thought and literature: both applying to the texts pre-exisiting models for writing and reading politically engaged work, and using the texts as illustrations of, and an opportunity to debate the merits of, Berger's own explanations for his work. This approach has consistently failed to account for the richest moments and works in Berger's oeuvre. In the course of the readings in this thesis, a number of hitherto underemphasised themes and qualities in the work are raised to prominence: Berger is a consistent and inventive writer of himself, both dramatising and referring to himself by naming characters 'John' and its etymological cousins, among other strategies. His fiction is also fascinated by representing the problems of searching, discovery and doubt. At its richest, the work contains within it both the impression of a search and the restriction of that search by the limits of what is knowable, readable, legible, or interpretable. He is an obsessive writer of animals. He is also a writer of patterns of figures that exist in an idiolectic vocabulary of symbols that shift and alter somewhat with every iteration. He is an inventive writer of dreams, and an original writer about sex, and a writer seemingly energised by working between genres and traditions, and by probing the spaces between various oppositions: the material and metaphysical, the present and the absent, life and death, historical and personal. This thesis is also among the first able to make use of the manuscripts and correspondence contained within the John Berger Archive in the British Library.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.666606
Depositing User: Mr Richard Turney
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2015 12:08
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:33
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9989

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