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Title: 'The scholar's copy book' and the 'blotting-book mind' : stratigraphic approaches to interdisciplinary reading and writing in the work of Vernon Lee
Author: Blackburn-Daniels, Sally
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 7695
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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This project examines Vernon Lee's (1856-1935) assimilation of contemporary models of scientific theory into her own textual output. It does so by bringing attention to Lee's writing practice as a development of her own understanding of the scientific theory of the mneme, and furthermore, the way in which this understanding then became a framework for her investigation of the mechanisms of textual allusion. The Vernon Lee archive at the British Institute of Florence holds over four-hundred and twenty works previously owned and read by Lee, many of which carry her annotations. These holdings are predominantly scientific works, and provide a bibliographic key to unlocking the references within Lee's essays, novels, novellas and short stories. This thesis utilizes these texts, and Lee's marginalia therein, to consider a) the ways in which Lee embraces and embeds scientific discourse within her work, b) her recognition of the evolution of scientific fields and the continuing presence of superseded theories, and c) the ways in which scientific discourse and praxis becomes stratified within Lee's reading. I argue that Lee's approach to scientific progression echoes her textual practice: one that charts the succession and development of a discipline in temporal layers within her own works, or in the construction of a hybrid theorem from a multiplicity of theories within a single or across disciplinary boundaries. The advancement of this practice is, I suggest, shaped by two subtly different paradigms, the 'scholar's copy book', and the 'blotting-book mind'. Each of these metaphors are textual in nature, but they exhibit two distinct approaches to memory: from a train of thought or chronologically ordered stratigraphic approach - as in the case of the scholar's book - to the presence of recollections from multiple layers of memory in synchronicity - as in the blotting-book mind. By unpicking the threads of association and textual fragments extant within Lee's work, I suggest that Lee's writing is in fact a negotiation between these two models. The disciplines selected for consideration embody different facets of the stratigraphic model: the first chapter engages with Richard Semon's idea of mnemic storage, and Semon's theory as an insight into Lee's writing practice. Archaeological and geological strata become the physical site for mnemic storage and recall in Chapter II, whilst the genealogical strata of the family tree are examined in Chapter III, with considerations of both Lee's personal family lineage, and the mono- or polygenic evolutionary origin and development of humanity. Chapter IV examines the way a framework of strata is used to render the surface of the face and coinciding substrata of psychological traits as a basis for understanding Lee's interest in, and refutal of, physiognomy. Chapter V focuses on the biological inheritance of physical and psychological traits, and finally, Chapter VI examines the stratified consciousness and the excavation thereof in psychoanalysis.
Supervisor: Bradley, Matthew ; Marsden, Simon Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral