The authenticity of ambiguity: Dada and existentialism

Benjamin, Elizabeth Frances (2015). The authenticity of ambiguity: Dada and existentialism. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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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: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Modern Languages
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures


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