Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Communications and Arts
Education and Arts
Dr Marcella Polain
‘Who is it that writes?’ is the central question of this thesis, which consists of a creative and a critical component. The creative work “Letters to Mark” is an attempt to address the questions, as similarly formulated by the poet Fernando Pessoa; who, really, am I? How many am I and, who is it that writes? It is a profoundly personal work, the origins of which reach back to my earliest days when I was first arrested by Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra. I have always wanted to ‘answer’ Zarathustra, that is, respond stylistically and address some of Nietzsche’s key ideas in that book which I read as a literary work. “Letters ...”, as Nietzsche would say of his book, is a work for everyone and no-one. It is a Gnostic work in that regard where, in my understanding, the Gnostics were writers in search of the origins of the ‘alien’ self thrust into a strange and hostile world. The exploration of style in “Letters...” is as important as content and is contingent upon my own exploration, over many years, of a range of literary styles developed to address the question of being. I use a diverse range of prose, diary, verse narrative and poetry in order to explore a spectrum of ‘otherness’, strangeness or alienation that appear to be features of many poets (particularly the three under investigation in this thesis) and with whom, in many ways, I can easily identify. The critical component looks at the works of several prominent poets that span over three centuries, through various histories and cultures. These poets have attempted to reconsider reified or ossified concepts of ‘self’ either consciously or unconsciously and have, thereby, created innovative ways of expressing received notions of subjectivity and of ‘self’. Several things have stood out in this research as a result of tackling the thesis question. The Writer (writ large) is situated in a physiological, geographical, weathered place where wind, stone, falling, sitting, smiling, howling, bleeding have always been, and will always be, the basic stuff of poetry. The notion of a fixed, empirical self is an anachronism based on cultural constructs and milieus, whereas the Writer / poet is in fact a differentiated being who accesses a range of selves derived from arenas such as a Lacanian ‘second self’ of the dark continent of the interior; physiology; cultural structuring; or a host of other prevaricating factors including historical and political forces. The Writer, in short, is not always who we think we see, know or experience and is not always that singular individual at every moment or location in time. Finally, this impermanent, plural, ‘malleable’ writer / self is situated in specific contexts and remains in a constant tension or negotiation with the ubiquitous symbols of world-time. The ‘new’ in the writer’s works is made possible through how the Writer attempts to make sense of their experience and in the creative ways they articulate those experiences and symbols. Because of the complexity of the thesis topic the author has chosen not to approach the poets in separate sections dedicated to each of them. Each poet has approached the notion of the ‘I’ in such similar, yet variegated, ways that an inter-textural analysis is invited and therefore the exegesis is delivered in a syncretised format rather than in sections.
Konrad, Christopher Karl, "Who is it that writes? : poetry and the plural self" (2010). Theses: Doctorates and Masters. Paper 444.