Writing a material mysticism: H.D., Helene Cixous and divine alterity

Anderson, Sarah Elizabeth (2011) Writing a material mysticism: H.D., Helene Cixous and divine alterity. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2940234


The thesis begins with an exploration of the conversational mode of reading, modelled by Cixous, with which I bring Cixous‟s and H.D.‟s texts into dialogue. A crucial point of contact between H.D. and Cixous is their exploration of the sacred in relationship to creativity and materiality. This project is situated in the context of critical studies of H.D. as a visionary poet, while I foreground her religious sensibilities through an exploration of the religious syncretism of her writing from the Second World War. The discussion of critical context leads to an outline of the theoretical tools employed through the project, which include trauma theory‟s engagement with the categories of testimony and witness, performance approaches to ritual theory and Paul Ricoeur‟s work on metaphor, imagination and ways of being in the world. This chapter presents my thesis that Cixous and H.D. write a material mysticism through their engagement with alterity, the sacred and the materiality of writing as a creative practice.
Chapter Two examines the ways the voices of the dead function in H.D.‟s autobiographical novels, or „spiritual autobiographies‟, The Gift and The Sword Went Out to Sea. In these texts, H.D. draws upon her personal vision and experiences of spiritualism and Moravian history for the resources for a creative and spiritual response to the traumas of war. The chapter draws upon trauma theory‟s elaboration of testimony and witness as a way of speaking the unspeakable, of giving voice to trauma and providing the support and receptivity to allow testimony to emerge. Chapter Three explores the complexities of H.D.‟s religious syncretism through the lens of ritual. It uses performance approaches to ritual to consider the productive meaning-making dynamic of Greek drama and ceremonial processions in The Sword, Moravian litany in The Gift, and Hermetic alchemical ritual in Trilogy. The literal transformation of words in Trilogy links the activity of ritual to that of language. This leads to a discussion of H.D.‟s and Cixous‟s emphasis on writing itself as a ritual. Chapter Four draws upon Paul Ricoeur‟s understanding of metaphor as mobilised by the internal dynamic of sameness and difference to examine the ways in which Cixous and H.D. deploy the images of the orange and the bee. The proliferation of these images across Cixous‟s and H.D.‟s writing allows creative explorations of how spirituality and creativity inheres in encounters with others, subjectivity and embodiment. Chapter Five considers the spatial context of Cixous‟s and H.D.‟s attention to writing as a mode of creative transformation. I explore two spatial metaphors in Cixous and H.D.; the garden, with the associations of grounded, particular places, and flight, as the movement between places.
The conclusion recapitulates the concerns of the thesis and considers ancient wisdom as a locus for understanding H.D.‟s texts and a resource for approaching the role of the imagination in literary Modernism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from AHRC.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Walton, Dr. Heather
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-3548
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2012
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2018 11:23
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3548

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