Marina Leslie, Elizabeth M. Dillon
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Department of English
English literature, rhetoric, closure, culture, early modern, manuscript, non-finito, unfinished
English Language and Literature
This dissertation attends to the problems of the practice of writing in the early modern period and more particularly in the works of the seventeenth-century poet and prose writer Thomas Traherne (ca. 1638-1674). His works, which were discovered for the first time during the end of the nineteenth century and have been emerging in a series of chance discoveries throughout the twentieth century, are only now being read more fully for the first time. The dissertation, which takes into account the unfinished status of Traherne's manuscripts, focuses on Traherne's practice and method of generative writing in the context of seventeenth-century theories of discourse. It draws attention to the unfinished state in which the manuscripts have come to us and argues that these texts are informed by the physical and immediate practice of writing, rather than by prevalent theories of discourse or rhetoric, still less by any mystical imperative. In addition, the dissertation outlines the features of the genre of the non-finito work. Chapter 1, "The Problem of Exhaustible Writing," outlines the problem of writing exhaustively and explaining everything thoroughly; it argues that for Traherne, the project dissipates because exhaustibility becomes associated with death and sin. Chapter 2, "Traherne's Non-finito Closures: Rhetorical Moves, Syntactical Structures, and Typographical Markers," examines the formal features of closure and resistance to closure and argues that closure is continually rewritten as a new beginning in Traherne's work. Chapter 3, "Ways of Centrifugal Writing," establishes the connection between centripetal forces of writing and the topoi of natural images and argues that the generative forces of nature permeate the process of writing, leading to an energizing condition of non-closure. The final chapter, "Unsystematic Trajectories: The Flow of a Non-Systematic Procession," extends the discussion in the previous chapter by pointing to the paradox of arche, telos, and the writing of anti-closural texts, where the practice of writing is not preceded by a theory of writing.
Zhelezcheva, Tanya, "The poetics of the incomplete in the works of Thomas Traherne (ca. 1638-1674)" (2011). English Dissertations. Paper 10. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20002122
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