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The authenticity of ambiguity: Dada and existentialism

Benjamin, Elizabeth Frances (2015)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

Dada is often dismissed as an anti-art movement that engaged with a limited and merely destructive theoretical impetus. French Existentialism is often condemned for its perceived quietist implications. However, closer analysis reveals a preoccupation with philosophy in the former and with art in the latter. Neither was nonsensical or meaningless, but both reveal a rich individualist ethics aimed at the amelioration of the individual and society. It is through their combined analysis that we can view and productively utilise their alignment.

Offering new critical aesthetic and philosophical approaches to Dada as a quintessential part of the European Avant-Garde, this thesis performs a reassessment of the movement as a form of (proto-)Existentialist philosophy. The thesis represents the first major comparative study of Dada and Existentialism, contributing a new perspective on Dada as a movement, a historical legacy, and a philosophical field of study. The five chapters analyse a range of Dada work through a lens of Existentialist literary and theoretical works across the themes of choice, alienation, responsibility, freedom and truth. These themes contribute to the overarching claim of the thesis that Dada and Existentialism both advocate the creation of a self that aims for authenticity through ambiguity.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Forcer, Stephen
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of Modern Languages
Subjects:B Philosophy (General)
NX Arts in general
PQ Romance literatures
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:5600
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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