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Giving feeling form: B. S. Johnson’s literary project

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

This thesis assesses the novels of B. S. Johnson and, building on earlier socio-cultural readings, for the first time identifies affect, mood and space as key drivers of Johnson’s work. It suggests fresh interactions with the texts via the artistic practice and philosophical thought of the late twentieth to early twenty-first centuries and reveals what more we can gain from reading Johnson now. Rather than fix this author in a canonized literary past it presents Johnson as a writer with inter-disciplinary appeal and influence.
My reading champions the continued significance of Johnson’s work and endeavours to resist teleology; it dips in and out of the seven novels, at times circling back to key passages and episodes that can be assessed in multiple ways. The thesis thus follows Johnson’s practice and is palimpsestic, it is formed from multiple layers. Working with affective energies the chapters unfold to build upon each other but also stand to be read individually or even, in true Johnsonian style, at random. The reading moves in a range of directions exploring different nodes of an organic whole that constitutes the body of Johnson’s literary output. Any thesis must build momentum and therefore this thesis culminates in an extended conclusion which for the first time places Johnson at the vanguard of a spatial turn in the humanities.
My final analysis suggests that Johnson’s practice advances the novel towards a model of “creative research” or project work – a reflexive adventure peculiar to the making process. This model is concerned with possibilities and processes rather than final resolution and happily accommodates Johnson’s vision of a chaotic, unknowable world.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateApr 2016

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