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"Creating the Senses": Sensation in the work of Shelley Jackson
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS).
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This monograph on the œuvre of contemporary American author and multimedia artist Shelley Jackson addresses the question of how literary works employ language to evoke sense impressions. Gilles Deleuze’s notion of aesthetic percepts is drawn on to develop a theory of literary phantom sensations which is then tested on the work of Jackson and related authors.  Although imperceptible as such, it is argued that percepts are made perceptible in art in sense-specific forms as phantom sensations. “Phantom” is not meant to indicate a pale shadow of real sensations but the intensely perceived realness of phantom limb phenomena, in accordance with Deleuze’s understanding of the virtual as real but not actual. For the sake of clarity, literary phantom sensations are divided into phantom smells, tastes, touches, sights and sounds, with a chapter devoted to each in turn. It is found that different phantom sensations serve different functions in Jackson’s work, correlated to the cultural history of the senses as outlined by recent sensory scholarship.  Phantom smells are associated with Deleuze’s concept of becoming due to their liminality. Phantom tastes contribute to an aesthetics of distaste in which shades of disgust are cultivated and drawn upon for literary effect. Phantom touch creates conceptual intimacy and invites the reader to handle words like toys in a game. Phantom sight is turned back upon itself in an anatomy of the eye. Phantom hearing is associated with forms of ventriloquism in which it is unclear who is speaking through whom and in which language itself throws its voice. However, it is also found that all phantom sensations similarly serve to create a material and affective connection between the body of the reader and the body of the text. Throughout the dissertation, Jackson’s work is read against and alongside that of other writers such as Djuna Barnes, Neil Bartlett, Brigid Brophy and Leonora Carrington. Together these form a trajectory termed minor writing for queers to come, which is meant to indicate that aesthetic and sexual-political  radicalism go hand in hand.  Furthermore, Jackson’s work is described as a form of body writing informed by feminist body art and écriture féminine. Specifically, Jackson takes her cue from early modern anatomical blazons and describes living bodies in pieces.  Her work is also described as object writing: a literary equivalent to surrealist object art.  A central method for making words more like things is to arrange her texts spatially rather than temporally, as exemplified by her electronic hypertexts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2013. , 253 p.
Umeå studies in language and literature, 18
Keyword [en]
Shelley Jackson, senses, literary percepts, body art, object art, hypertext, fantastic fiction, minor writing, écriture féminine, queer theory, feminist theory, phenomenology, Gilles Deleuze
National Category
Specific Literatures General Literature Studies Gender Studies
Research subject
English; Aesthetics; Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-65968ISBN: 978-91-7459-558-1OAI: diva2:605465
Public defence
2013-03-15, Humanisthuset, Hörsal F, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2013-02-18 Created: 2013-02-14 Last updated: 2013-02-14Bibliographically approved

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Solander, Tove
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