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Title: A nest of empty boxes : women and melancholy made visible
Author: Baillie, Rebecca Mary
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 8568
Awarding Body: University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis re-examines the idea of melancholy through the work of a selection of female artists. I argue that it is due to the neglect of the importance of women and also to the lack of attention paid to visual art that has generated a general obscurity around the term melancholy. In actuality, what has become an abstract idea originally had a physical cause: the initial severance from the mother's body. As result, the melancholic is fixated on a lost ideal -- on the umbilical connection that they once experienced and subsequently spend a lifetime trying to recreate. Following the introduction of maternity to our understanding of melancholy, it becomes necessary to expand and revitalise the list of symbols connected with this complex idea to incorporate womb-like and umbilical motifs. The first chapter discusses historical depictions of melancholy by Albrecht Durer and Francisco Goya, and theoretical texts by Julia Kristeva and Juliana Schiesari. Through the work of Frida Kahlo, the second chapter unites ancient melancholic emblems such as the angel, dog and distant horizon, with new ones including the bathtub, ribbons and hair braids. The third chapter considers the work of Francesca Woodman and the artist's melancholic's tendency to experiment with models, for example geometry, in order to embody the irrational intensity of thought and feeling. The fourth chapter reassesses the work of Kiki Smith as an anatomical investigation into the idea of melancholy, using the suggestion of physical pain and bodily leakage as revelatory of inner psychic torment. The fifth chapter, on Tracey Emin, demonstrates the alleviation of melancholy in ways other than the 'real' infant/mother dyad, such as, through fantasy and other relationships. The sixth and final chapter introduces the work of ',; .' . ';, t three lesser-known artists, Elina Brotherus, 'Klara Kristalova and Charlotte Lindsay; .. , their work, I maintain, reasserts the importance of historical examples to reintroduce an element of abstraction, while at the same time acknowledging the newfound bodily focus and explicability of melancholy, perhaps the more "feminine" contribution to the discourse
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available