Bodies of work: B.S. Johnson’s pages, Alasdair Gray’s paragraphs, and interventions into the anatomy of the book

Trotter, Alan (2015) Bodies of work: B.S. Johnson’s pages, Alasdair Gray’s paragraphs, and interventions into the anatomy of the book. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is made up of five parts: a critical dissertation, a video essay, a novel and two short stories. The first part, the dissertation, is on what it terms body texts: literature that makes deliberate, creative use of its form. This is literature that can’t be considered as simply (to use Genette’s definition of a literary work), ‘a more or less long sequence of verbal statements, more or less endowed with significance,’ [Paratexts, p1] but is inseparable from its incorporate existence, whether that existence is physical or digital.

Using the work of B.S. Johnson and Alasdair Gray – as authors who have creatively occupied typesetting and production to create fiction that extends beyond the purely verbal – the dissertation considers the antagonistic responses that can often attend to formal devices (such as Johnson’s) and how small departures from convention, for example the formatting of paragraphs (in the work of Gray), can have a meaningful aesthetic impact on the work. It considers the difficulties that can accompany attempts by the author to occupy the paratext of their work; how the rise of digital reading environments both encourage formal experimentation, by introducing new capacities to the work, and discourage it, by creating a marketplace in which a work is expected to be disembodied and transposable; and it argues for the pleasures of the body text. It also positions these concerns in the context of my own creative work, including in some of the fiction included in the thesis.

There is then a video essay, B.S. Johnson vs. Death, made using footage from Johnson’s film work. Following this is the novel, Muscle, and the two short stories: ‘Shark’ and ‘The Brain Drawing the Bullet’, a digital short story created to be read in a web browser.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Keywords: Alasdair Gray, B.S. Johnson, 1982 Janine, Albert Angelo, William H. Gass, Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife, paratext, Gerard Genette, creative writing, fiction, electronic literature, digital literature, body texts
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Schmidt, Professor Michael and Coyle, Dr. John
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mr Alan Trotter
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-6852
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2015 08:27
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2015 09:58
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