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Towards a poetics of criticism: Adornoian negativity and the experiential in the essays and musical marginalia of Virginia Woolf

Parker Dixon, Amy (2011) Towards a poetics of criticism: Adornoian negativity and the experiential in the essays and musical marginalia of Virginia Woolf. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Through an analysis of the work of Virginia Woolf and T.W. Adorno’s theory of the aesthetic, this dissertation seeks to develop a poetics of criticism that takes account of the philosophy of the non-identical in subjective experience. As the subversion of the positivist and subjectivist tendencies of identity thinking, Adorno’s negative dialectic is read here in parallel with Woolf’s work as an example of a discourse that preserves the particularity of experience. Much of Woolf’s writing about music is in the form of diary entries, letters and notes or jottings and is singularly unfinished. Her writing about music pushes her to the extremes of essayistic practice where she is forced to improvise and invent a musical-critical voice. This dissertation argues that subjectivity and aesthetic experience are constructed negatively in Woolf’s diaries, letters and essays and by reading her tendency to resist describing musical experiences as a resistance to the domination of conceptual subsumption, I hope to show that Woolf’s writing could offer a new perspective on criticism. The present work attempts to develop a three-fold thesis, the presentation of which will constitute a poetics of criticism. Firstly, Woolf’s attempts to write a critical selfhood actually serve as a critique of transcendental subjectivity and undermine the ideology of a priori subjectivity. Secondly, Woolf’s essays complement work done by Adorno on genre theory which asserts that contradiction remains essential to the critical essay, contradiction which secures the identity of negative dialectics and a contradiction that can simultaneously be read as fundamental to the architectonics of a modernist subjectivity. Woolf’s essays, therefore, will be read for their potential status as a means of critique. And thirdly, the technique of parataxis as a form of writing that Adorno thought best expressed the inaccessibility of objectivity will be shown to be decisive in analyzing Woolf’s fragments. What I hope to assemble, therefore, is a constellation of ideas that map several points ofconnection between Adorno and Woolf.By effecting a salvaging of Woolf’s musical marginalia this thesis argues that ostensibly ill-informed or naïve testimony can be given legitimacy within contemporary music criticism. In addition, this thesis presents all the references to music found in Woolf’s diaries and letters, and, as such, the appendices found at the back of the dissertation constitute not only the first attempt to bring this material together, but are also presented in such a way so as to reinforce the paratactical nature of Woolf’s writing about music. That is to say, structurally, the appendices appear as they appear in Woolf’s original texts, and this thesis has, self-consciously, tried to resist the conceptual overdetermination of these fragments. This structural consideration implies that this dissertation fulfils a performative, as well an analytical function.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: T.W. Adorno, Virginia Woolf, aesthetics, music, criticism, essayism, negative dialectics, modernism, subjectivity, aesthetic experience
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Goldman, Dr. J. and Butt, Professor J.
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Ms Amy Parker Dixon
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2338
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:53
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2338

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