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The deaths of Thomas Lawrence & The bereaved writer: composing a language of sensations
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posted on 21.02.2017by Hanson, Peter Geoffrey
Through a novel, "The Deaths of Thomas Lawrence", and an exegesis, "The Bereaved Writer: Composing a Language of Sensations", this study explores the condition of bereavement from a materialist perspective, examines how grievers experience the world, and considers how they can render that experience in language. Rather than view bereavement as a purely emotional state induced by a significant loss, this study conceives of bereavement as a condition defined primarily by a physical disruption to a body’s sense of self: identity, sovereignty and conception of “meaningfulness”. This project contends that without a distinct subjective position from which to have personal experiences, and without stable conceptual schemas through which to interpret the world, the bereaved body connects more directly to the raw and impersonal materiality of its surroundings and has nonhuman intensities grafted onto it from those surroundings. Put differently, this project views what it terms the bereaved-body as what French poststructuralist theorists Gilles Deleuze (1925-95) and Félix Guattari (1930-92) call a ‘haecceity’: an amalgam of nonsubjectified intensities that consists ‘entirely of relations of movement and rest between molecules or particles, capacities to affect and be affected’ (A Thousand Plateaus 261).
Rather than a bereaved-body using language to present the experiences and judgements of a subjective and rational perspective, this project proposes that a bereaved-body can instead utilise an unorthodox writing style to intensively compose its desubjectified condition and to compose the transformative forces in its surroundings. A bereaved-body that produces such an intensive composition is what this study refers to as a bereaved-writer. This study also uses Deleuze and Guattari’s conception of the artist and their concept of ‘a language of sensations’ to inform these notions of a bereaved-writer and an intensive composition: Deleuze and Guattari view the artist as a ‘becomer’ who ‘goes beyond the perceptual states and affective transitions of the lived’ (What is Philosophy? 171); and the French theorists describe a language of sensations as a text in which the writer ‘twists language, makes it vibrate, seizes hold of it, and rends it in order to wrest the percept from perceptions, the affect from affections, the sensation from opinion’ (What is Philosophy? 176). Thomas Lawrence, a young man writing in a state of bereavement after the loss of his father in Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, is an example of a bereaved-writer or a “becomer”, and The Deaths of Thomas Lawrence, as the novel he narrates, is an example of an intensive composition or a language of sensations.