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Title: Marguerite Yourcenar : authenticity, modernity and the political aesthetic
Author: Kapsaskis, D.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis explores the notion of authenticity and its existential, aesthetic and political determinations in the work of Marguerite Yourcenar. It aims to trace the desire for authenticity in Yourcenar's fiction and criticism and to assess the strategies employed to preserve the possibility of authentic representation. The investigation focuses on two aspects of the problematic of authenticity: subjectivity and politics. Both are discussed by Yourcenar in predominantly aesthetic terms. She argues that individual existence cannot be understood in its own uniqueness because it is entrapped within representational structures. The impasse of representation also affects the political self-constitution of nations and communities. Yourcenar's response to this problem is developed through her meditation on art and time. She observes that authenticity is not a question of original creativity, but one of accepting the perishing of all representations in time. She also understands realism as a critically aware choice to accept the limits of narrative representation. Yourcenar attempts to rescue the notion of authenticity for modernity by foregrounding difference and repetition. The thesis discusses this strategy in relation to de Man's thought on irony and history, Benjamin's writing on film and translation, and Heidegger's analysis of spatio-temporality. The last part of the thesis focuses on poststructuralist interpretations of Heidegger by Lacoue-Labarthe and Lyotard. It is argued that the model of political self-realization which Yourcenar proposes for post war Europe can be associated with Heidegger's vision of national identity in Nazi Germany. Yourcenar's Memoires d'Hadrien is used as a case study showing the ambivalence of her discourse on authenticity, a discourse which hovers uncomfortably between modern political aestheticism and the desire to overcome aestheticism at large. This conclusion helps to contextualize Yourcenar's work in relation to political and philosophical modernity. It also highlights the vicissitudes of the search for authenticity in twentieth-century Europe.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available