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Title: Haptic relations with built environments in the writings of Rebecca West, 1909-1941
Author: Kielty, Daniel
ISNI:       0000 0004 6494 6663
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis examines representations of haptic relations with built environments in the writings of Rebecca West from 1909-1941. I explore the ways that depictions of this aspect of bodily engagement with the world significantly enables and shapes her public voice, with which she thinks through the situation of the modern subject. My project demonstrates that West’s portrayal of haptic experiences frame her approach to a range of modernist concerns and highlights the contexts which inform this. My first chapter examines how her depictions of painful experiences in the prison cell and reservoir critique representations of transformative suffering in suffragette fiction and modernist magazines. The second chapter considers how representations of tactile practice are used to subvert principles of aesthetic practice defined by Henry James’ ‘house of fiction’ and theories of the ‘house beautiful’. My third chapter explores how portrayals of ‘global touch’ in private and public structures frame West’s attempt to express a sensitive female awareness of patriarchal and celebrity culture. The fourth chapter traces how renderings of aesthetic empathy in the built environments of Paris and London shape her theory about the socially orienting and disorienting power of art. My fifth chapter maps how depictions of reach-touch in religious architecture elaborate West’s interest in ritual actions that transcend the influence of religious doctrine on subjectivity. I approach each of my chosen texts using a range of phenomenological theorists, supported by engagements with West’s journalism, archival materials and the work of other modernists. Each chapter uses an analysis of the haptic to situate West’s writings in relation to scholarship which addresses modernism’s relationship with violence, bodily confrontations with technology, sensuous geographies, empathy, aesthetic experience and religion. The project provides an extensive reading of haptic relations with built environments in West’s writings and asserts that this provides a richer understanding of her representation of modern subjectivity.
Supervisor: Brown, Richard Sponsor: University of Leeds ; Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available