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"My Own Portrait in Writing": Self-Fashioning in the Letters of Vincent van Gogh

"My Own Portrait in Writing": Self-Fashioning in the Letters of Vincent van Gogh (Paperback)

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Art historians, biographers, and other researchers have long drawn

on Van Gogh's voluminous correspondence-more than eight

hundred letters-for insights into both his personal struggles and

his art. But the letters, while often admired for their literary

quality, have rarely been approached as literature. In this volume,

Patrick Grant sets out to explore the question, "By what criteria

do we judge Van Gogh's letters to be, specifically,

literary?" Drawing, especially, on Mikhail Bakhtin's

conceptualization of self-awareness as an ongoing dialogue between

"self" and "other," Grant examines the ways in

which Van Gogh's letters raise, from within themselves, questions

and issues to which they also respond. Their literary quality, he

argues, derives in part from this "double-voiced

discourse"-from the power of the letters to thematize,

through their own internal dialogues, the very structure of

self-fashioning itself. Far from merely reproducing the narrative of

the artist's personal progress, "the letters enable readers

to recognize how necessary yet open-ended, constrained yet liberating,

confined yet unpredictable, are the means by which people seek to shape

a place for themselves in the world."

This volume builds on Grant's earlier analysis of Van

Gogh's correspondence, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh: A

Critical Study (AU Press, 2014), a study in which he approached

the letters from a literary critical standpoint, delving into key

patterns of metaphors and concepts. In the present volume, he provides

instead a literary theoretical analysis of the letters, one that draws

them more fully into the domain of modern literary studies. In his deft

and keenly perceptive reading, Grant deconstructs the binaries that

surface in both Van Gogh's writing and painting, discusses the

narrative dimensions of the letter-sketches and the recurring themes of

fantasy, belief, and self-surrender, and draws attention to Van

Gogh's own understanding of the permeable boundary between words

and visual art. Viewing the letters as an integrated body of discourse,

"My Own Portrait in Writing" offers a

theoretically informed interpretation of Van Gogh's literary

achievement that is, quite literally, without precedent.

Art, Fashion & PhotographyArt monographs, history & theoryArts: general issues & referenceArt, Fashion & PhotographyArt monographs, history & theoryHistory of art / art & design stylesEssays & WritingLiterary CriticismLiterary studies: generalEssays & WritingLiterary CriticismLiterary theory Publisher: AU Press Publication Date: 15/05/2015 ISBN-13: 9781771990455  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
Availability: To Order. Estimated despatch in 1-3 weeks.  

Patrick Grant, professor emeritus of English at the University of Victoria, is well known for his studies on literature and religion. In addition to The Letters of Vincent van Gogh: A Critical Study, he is the author of Imperfection, a study of the human aspiration to self-knowledge.

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