PhD Thesis


Larissa May O'Muirithe



aesthetics twentieth century literature twenty first century literature aidan higgins irish literature art historiography cultural studies memoir philosophy of art art history modernism

Aidan Higgins's Fictions and Aesthetics (2020)

Abstract This doctoral thesis seeks to articulate how visual comparisons may help readers to understand the complexity of ways of seeing in Aidan Higgins's main fictions, Felo de Se (1960), Langrishe, Go Down (1966), Balcony of Europe (first published in 1972, then edited and re-issued in 2010), Bornholm Night-Ferry (1983) and Lions of the Grunewald (1993). In closing, the study also considers the presence of drawings and other visual images in Blind Man's Bluff (2012), Higgins's final publication in his lifetime. A guiding research objective is to counter a common argument in the critical discourse that Higgins's style is compromised by formal deficits. The true breadth and refinement of Higgins's visual descriptions are revealed in this thesis through comparative engagement with texts from art history and aesthetics. This is a significant intervention in the study of Higgins: no such study, integrating specialist knowledge of art historiography in analysing the author's fictional modes of vision, currently exists in the scholarship or criticism. The author was Samuel Beckett's mentee in the 1950s, but is a marginal figure in Irish Studies. His first novel, Langrishe, Go Down , was greeted with a flourish of critical attention and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1967. The subsequent, more stylistically experimental texts have been less commercially successful. Higgins's writing is inflected by a pan-European sensibility and international experiences. One of the reasons that Higgins's writing has been under-appreciated on a stylistic level is that his subject matter exceeds the socio-political perspectives that has dominated Irish Studies since the latter half of the twentieth century. Scholars are still catching up with the complex artistic moves of twentieth-century Irish literature. Of the existing scholarship, there is one monograph that heavily deals with Higgins's work: Irish Fiction and Postmodern Doubt: An Analysis of the Epistemological Crisis in Modern Irish Fiction (2004) by Neil Murphy. Aidan Higgins: The Fragility of Form (2010), an edited collection compiled by Murphy and the sole book to date that focuses entirely on Higgins's work, pays tribute to the delicacy of his style. However, much of the extant criticism has reproached his work for its lack of robust formal structuring devices. This doctoral thesis uses a wealth of archival sources, notably including the collection of Ussher's letters housed at the Manuscripts and Archives Research Library at Trinity College, Dublin, which provides original viewpoints that do not exist in any in-depth way in the current secondary literature on Higgins, and which also contains some of the burgeoning writer's juvenilia. Similarly, the inventory of fonds at the University of Victoria in Canada is an invaluable resource. In particular, Higgins's notebooks present an illuminating source for deciphering the emotions and aesthetic states that rest under his artistic proclivities. Relating Higgins's letter writing and his diary and notebook entries to references from art historical theories bolsters a framework for interpreting the wealth of manuscript material.
Collections Ireland -> Trinity College Dublin -> Russian & Slavonic Studies
Ireland -> Trinity College Dublin -> Trinity College Dublin Theses & Dissertations
Ireland -> Trinity College Dublin -> Russian & Slavonic Studies (Theses and Dissertations)
Ireland -> Trinity College Dublin -> Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin: Theses & Dissertations
Ireland -> Trinity College Dublin -> School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies

Full list of authors on original publication

Larissa May O'Muirithe

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