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Title: The historical present : notions of time, history and postmodern consciousness in the work of Richard Brautigan
Author: Schiller, Neil Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 2733 9215
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis examines the evolving intellectual agenda of Richard Brautigan throughout his artistic career, and through his engagement with the contemporary counterculture, towards a rationalisation of the very mechanisms of consciousness and awareness. His analysis of social precepts, the concept of moment within models of history and time, and the processes of concurrent perception encapsulate the social struggle for self understanding and identity inherent within his cultural environment. At the centre of his literary technique lies a dichotomy in which his attempts to transcend the restrictive infrastructures of narrative codification are constrained by the capabilities of a readership that can only receive information transmitted in a conceivable manner - adherent to those same codes and signifiers that he wishes to deconstruct. The following work seeks to explore this dichotomy and to assess how successfully the author managed to mitigate it. Brautigan's relationship to both the Beats and the emergent counterculture is explored as the genesis of his intellectual dissatisfaction with existing concepts of meaning and truth. From his appropriation of postmodernist techniques is drawn a hypothesis that the author sought to present a model of consciousness that accurately depicts its pro active construction of signification from a chaotic and limitless source of stimuli. By subverting time and history to the microcosm of the moment, Brautigan illustrates the latent power of the single point of awareness in defining its own reality. Once this has been established, the subsequent chapters of this work seek to examine the aesthetic methods the author uses to articulate his thesis. His utilisation of genre is explored with specific reference to the theories of Northrop Frye, his use of comedic constructs is analysed in light of their Surrealist content, and his appropriation of Zen Buddhist principles is examined with particular attention paid to his use ofHaiku and the fusion of Haiku with postmodernism. Central to each of these approaches is an application of Jungian analysis to determine Brautigan's use and subversion of archetypal images. The author's idiosyncratic presentation of autobiographical data is then investigated to assess how successfully he manages to reconcile the process of consciousness, and its potential to liberate, with his own identity. Finally, his engagement with gender politics is examined to illustrate the limitations of his hypothesis and the point at which it fails to satisfactorily apply. The crux of Brautigan's aesthetic agenda is therefore defined herein as the diagnosis of perceptual methods intended to promote enhanced self awareness and a more complete state of informed consciousness. This thesis strives to first establish this hypothesis contextually within the author's work, then to examine the methods utilised by Brautigan to expound upon it, and finally to apply the hypothesis to instances of self-representation and sociological issues apparent within the texts to ascertain how sound an intellectual proposition it is.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available