The Imperative Commands: the poetics of imperatives and assertions in everyday life

Melville, Nicholas James (2018) The Imperative Commands: the poetics of imperatives and assertions in everyday life. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Imperative Commands: the poetics of imperatives and assertions in everyday life.

The Imperative Commands is an interdisciplinary creative writing PhD in two parts: (a) a poem-object of 365 pages, which is an original engagement with found everyday instructional language, reimagined in an experimental/visual format; (b) ‘Appropriate Language,’ a critical and theoretical afterword exploring the inspiration, themes and methods of the poem.
The premise of The Imperative Commands is to investigate current institutional and corporate language and appropriate it as poetry. It is a collagistic arrangement of found imperatives and assertions, harvested from the language of state institutions and corporate bodies that hail people on a daily basis. To create this long poetic work I set myself the initial constraint of harvesting found language during the course of a calendar year (May 1st 2014 to 30th April 2015). During this time I collected found imperatives, assertions, naturalizations of contestable information as fact, and other forms of overt and tacit instruction. The material was then transcribed, organized and rearranged in a variety of forms, using both chance and editorial interventions to make deviant collocations, stochastic juxtapositions, concrete-visual constellations and lyrical expression.
‘Appropriate Language’ breaks into several forms of afterword. The introduction outlines the general architecture and aims behind The Imperative Commands, as well as key influences on my practice and what inspired the thesis. Its main purpose is to explore ideas around how society is manipulated by language and ideology by, and for, the various institutions that seek to influence us. To do this it focuses on the writing of two thinkers: (1) the so-called ‘father of public relations’ Edward Bernays (1891-1995), who was instrumental in developing PR in the 20th century; and (2) French philosopher Louis Althusser (1918-1990) and his theory of Ideological State Apparatuses—which form and inform the essential structure of society outside the state—and interpellation, whereby individuals become ‘subjects’ through the ways in which they are hailed by ISAs and ideology.
The second purpose of ‘Appropriate Language’ is to consider the affinities and differences that The Imperative Commands has with Conceptual Writing, with a particular focus on the work and ideas of poet Kenneth Goldsmith (b. 1961). My research into Conceptual Writing, and its claims of unreadability, helped to remind me of the importance of readability that I feel about my own work. That the organization of the found texts should be a readable, though idiosyncratic, book is crucial to The Imperative Commands.
The harvested material when reorganized to make the poem reveals aspects of the life of a subject during a specific period of time, with disparate facets of social control brought into focus through the various language forms that constitute everyday life. The poem-object, that is also a social document, explores ways of uniting the notion of ‘concept’ and experimental writing—particularly within some of the methodologies of Conceptual Writing—with ways of maintaining and supporting a ‘self’ that is both lyrical and political.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Propaganda, Edward Bernays, ,Louis Althusser, Kenneth Goldsmith, Conceptual Writing, social control, the self, ABBODIES, nick-e melville, constraints, the everyday, post-conceptual writing, poetry.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Funder's Name: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Goldman, Dr. Jane and Kolocotroni, Dr. Vassiliki
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Nicholas J Melville
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30624
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2018 10:37
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2018 10:37

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