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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The inward continuities : aesthetics, crisis and The anathemata of David Jones Li, Victor Paw Hoon


The purpose of this thesis is to show the interrelationship between David Jones's writings on aesthetics, his expressed concern over the threat technology presents to the practice of art, and the compositional problems of The Anathemata. David Jones's aesthetic concepts appear idiosyncratic and strange to many of us because we no longer understand the language of poiesis and signs in which he speaks. Hence the language of his aesthetics needs to be translated, his aesthetic concepts defined. Accordingly, the first three chapters explore Jones's writings on art and attempt to define and explain certain key terms in his aesthetic vocabulary, terms such as poiesis, sign, sacrament, anamnesis, 're-present,' materia poetica, and so on. The fourth chapter investigates David Jones's contention that the arts are in a state of crisis in our technological epoch. The dominant utilitarian ideology of our technocracy, Jones argues, threatens the 'extra-utile,' gratuitous nature of artistic activity. Consequently, he believes that a modern aesthetic must be based on anxiety. This chapter also discusses how Jones's aesthetic views presented in the first three chapters furnish at once a critique of modern technological trends and an aesthetic valid for our epoch. In the fifth chapter, The Anathemata is examined in the context provided for it by the preceding chapters. In particular, this chapter examines the problems (especially of a structural nature) faced by David Jones in composing a long poem like The Anathemata. It also argues that Jones successfully solves the problem of unity in The Anathemata by adopting a flexible structure which not only accommodates a multiplicity and variety of allusions, ideas, and themes, but, at the same time, manages to conjoin them into an ordered whole. Finally, the thesis concludes that the central principle which informs David Jones's writings is his belief in the interrelatedness of all things, a belief supported by his practice as an artist and his faith as a Catholic.

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