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Title: The writings of John Berger : experience, cultural production and critical practice
Author: Harkness, Allan W.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1990
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This thesis is a study of the entire range of John Berger's writings, and an examination of the integrated nature of his discursive project which is the transvaluation of experience under corporate capitalism. It is an attempt to uncover the mode of existence of a specific discourse, situating it within the intersection of political action, cultural production, ontological investigation (experience) and language. In it, I make the claim that his work indicates a dialectical third category of intellectual production in the interaction of residual senses of the author, the writer and traditional intellectual and the emergent senses of cultural producer and organic intellectual. The long opening chapter charts 'theory' and 'experience' in the context of Berger's part in a cultural-structural moment marked by broad challenges to dominant empirical-idealist categories and forms of knowledge. Berger's discourse is seen as an extension and development of the critique of determinist enclosures of human subjectivity. The chapter on Permanent Red charts the early formation of a materialist aesthetic, probing his project as one of countering formalism in art while re-negotiating realism and contemporary historical forces. The chapter looks at seeing, gauged in terms of being and experience rather than enlisted to the cause of aesthetic experience. E.P. Thompson's Natopolitan ideology', the Artists International Association, Third World artistic achievement and the critical articulations of Berger's work are all significant elements here. Following on, chapter three investigates a potential dialectical realism in Berger's first novel A Painter of Our Time, a novel which testifies to the difficult necessity of revolutionary experience. Again, the critical reception of the work is part of the focus, in raising the importance of the role of Encounter in its early censorship and, in contrast, by attending to more recent socialist activations of its discursivity. Chapter four, 'A Constellation', traces Berger's anti-imperialist and anti-positivist transvaluative labour across novels, filmscripts, television work, poetry and essays, focusing upon G. as a nerve-centre of interests in revolutionary passion, sexual passion, time, memory, wholeness and freedom: G. is seen as a conjunctural essay upon historical being and sexual being. The relation of Walter Benjamin's work and ideas to Berger's cultural production and critical practice is a constant interest. Chapter five covers Berger, Benjamin and Barthes' interrelated work on word and image. Montage, memory and historical experience link its concerns to those in other chapters. Chapter six draws together earlier matters raised concerning Berger's involvement with the lived experience of the peasantry and his faith in the ability of story to handle the major contradictions of contemporary historical experience. Last, I have ended with an interview which helps to bind many of the major strands of the thesis. It is deliberately rescued from being an appendix: it 'unifies' by reopening the major issues, and complements what has gone before in its mode of existence as interview.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available