Media @ McGill

"Medial Representation and Relationships Between Visual Arts and Literature"

Submitted by Media@McGill on



Jacqueline Atkin


In my MA thesis, I will investigate theories of representation in media by exploring the relationships between the affordances and limitations of a given medium’s structural application that inform the capacity of the artist to convey meaning.  By employing a critical analysis of representation through the lenses of Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism, I will examine the various processes by which the image symbol may gain signifying value in relation to the presented visual subject.  In carrying this analysis forward, I intend to consider the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso.  Influenced in part by Stuart Hall’s theory of signification, as well as Linda Hutcheon’s approach to adaptation, I will investigate how these particular case studies render their respective subjects present through both constructing and deferring meaning.  Further, I will propose that the breakdown of the traditional phenomenological eye’s perspective is rooted in a series of epistemological shifts that reimagine relationships among the self, the other, the environment, and the spectator that are realized through a structural modification of medial framework.

Using an interdisciplinary approach, these analyses of visual media will be coupled with an exploration of Modernist literary techniques that allow both the author and the reader to grapple with problematized conceptualizations of distance, time, relativity, and the unified utterance of multiple perspectives and/or narratives simultaneously.  To illustrate this point, I plan to examine structural modifications of the novel in the works of Virginia Woolf, as well as the problematization of the denotative function of language through an analysis of the writings of Gertrude Stein and James Joyce.  Ultimately, I hypothesize that the experimental processes of both media creation and reception are a conduit by which contemporary approaches to understanding the primary dimensions of the human’s phenomenological perspective and embodied identity may be actualized within the public sphere and, thus, be made accessible.

The principal questions I set out to address are:  To what degree does the particular art piece favour the traditional phenomenological eye in rendering its subject present?  How do the stages of breaking down the traditional phenomenological eye’s perspective open a work to multiple significations?  What conventions of representation are these medial experiments reliant on in order to make meaning through de-stabilization?  What epistemological frameworks are the underlying impetus behind such a motivation to reform a cultivated tradition?