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Ford Madox Ford

Vision, Visuality and Writing


Laura Colombino

This book spans the most significant phases of Ford’s literary production, from his art criticism to his main modernist novels: The Good Soldier, Parade’s End, The Rash Act and Henry for Hugh. The aim is to explore the uncharted territory of Ford’s interest in the scopic field, claiming that his investigation of the optical unconscious is his most original contribution to the modernist concern for the stream of consciousness.
This is the first in-depth study of Ford’s interest in the gaze and how it is related to writing, painting, music, sculpture, visual technologies and forms of popular entertainment. Undermining the clichéd critical vision of Ford as the last Pre-Raphaelite or proto-Futurist, this study analyses Ford’s fascination with the visual avant-garde and his response to the revolution of photography and (proto-) cinematographic forms from the specific angle of the scopic drive. Part history, part theoretical discussion embedded in the close reading of the texts, this book is also concerned with Ford as a great stylist whose writing strives to project an image of itself and its structures in the reader’s eye. Drawing inspiration from psychoanalysis and art criticism, the author capitalises on the theories of Jacques Lacan, Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster, Jonathan Crary, and Norman Bryson to disclose the fascinating and baffling universe of Ford’s gaze.
This is a revised and extended English translation of the original book Ford Madox Ford: Visione/visualità e scrittura.
Contents: Melancholy and eccentricity – The primacy of form and experimentation – Gaze and glance – Avant-garde and seriality – Modernist visual grids in writing – Horror vacui – Musical and visual counterpoints – The seduction of the text – The Other’s gaze – Ford’s kaleidoscopic conscience – Primitivist myth as delusion – The return of the Real – Lacan’s split between the eye and the gaze – The Imaginary and the Symbolic – Anamorphosis in painting and writing – Barthesian jouissance in Ford – Ford’s interest in Holbein, Whistler, Seurat, Cézanne, Matisse, Vuillard, Degas, Picasso, and Surrealism – Ford’s fascination with Schubert, Bach, and Couperin – The use of the camera eye – Nineteenth century theories of colours – Pointillist techniques applied to writing – The use of stereoscopic visuality – The gaze and the esprit de corps – Vision as trauma – The use of tragicomedy and parody – The representation of the shapeless subject – Tietjens’s similarities with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton – The influence of E. A. Poe’s The Purloined Letter.