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The iconography of rural space: notions of "la terre" as visual and textual narratives of poetic dwelling in the art of Jean-François Millet (1814-75) and the prose of Richard Millet (1953-)

Cieszkowski, W.J.; (2010) The iconography of rural space: notions of "la terre" as visual and textual narratives of poetic dwelling in the art of Jean-François Millet (1814-75) and the prose of Richard Millet (1953-). Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

The key problematic of this study is located in the notions of le paysan, le pays and le paysage, and their representation in visual and textual modes. By linking one visual artist, Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), with one textual artist, the novelist and polemicist Richard Millet (1953- ), an ethos of symbolic and thematic fraternal consanguinity is established. In order to situate and contextualize these notions of rural space and to locate them in the wider implications of La France profonde, this thesis adopts a basic comparative approach in order to ground the analyses in an inter-medial, trans-epochal approach. The principal argument posits the iconography of rural space as a universal and atemporal constant and as a metaphor for the cyclical nature of existence, as an exploration of notions of the past, the nature of belonging, loss and exile. Each of the seven chapters in this thesis may be read to a certain extent as a selfcontained essay, as a meditation on the nature of seeing and decoding of the visual and textual space: the interpretation of art and text in the form of a discourse, a semiotic ‘map’. However, throughout the thesis there runs a linear argument and analysis which thematically and organically links all seven, seeking to widen notions of la terre in order to encompass an eco-awareness, a cosmic unicity of the human with the natural in terms of ‘poetic dwelling’. An opening examination of the theory and practice of iconographic recognition leads to a questioning of the narratives informing the reconstitution of the past and the essence of la terre as possession and belonging. It is then posited that the notional metaphysics of landscape imply a dualistic, semiotic reading of landscape as ‘inscape’ or ‘otherness’. The notion of the Other is then introduced as the female Other, which leads to an examination of the feminization of rural space. Finally, the life story of both Millets is posited as a via crucis (patterned by melancholia and a form of ‘perpetual mourning’) and the last chapter concludes with a metaphysical examination of the rural space as a locus of poetic dwelling. To dwell poetically implies a deep understanding and empathy with the natural: this study argues that the representation of the rural space, through the individual art of each Millet, is metaphysically and existentially consistent with the imperatives of a meaningful and purposeful existence.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The iconography of rural space: notions of "la terre" as visual and textual narratives of poetic dwelling in the art of Jean-François Millet (1814-75) and the prose of Richard Millet (1953-)
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of EU Langs, Culture and Society > French

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