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Issue Details: First known date: 1980... 1980 Martin Boyd : The Aesthetic Temperament, a Critical Study
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'The claim of this thesis is that Martin Boyd is a writer of aesthetic inclination whose fundamental concerns and values, while they emerge in a highly individual manner and with the complicating orientation of a religious view of the world, have clear affinities with the fin de siecle celebration of beauty and pleasure as the goal of life. Section I concentrates on the milieu into which the novelist was born, its aim being to investigate the presence of late Victorian ideas in this environment. Attention is given to the role of the a Beckett- Boyd family as a shaping force in the novelist's formative background, with particular emphasis on the cultural interests of Boyd's own parents, painters associated with the flowering in Australia of an art that has been labelled 'Impressionist.' Both the European and Australian nineties are considered for their alternative and, at times, complementary contributions to the general cultural atmosphere affecting the novelist's upbringing. The part played by Boyd's schooling is also considered. Section II examines Boyd's theoretical notions as these are developed in a discursive work of the writer's mature years, Much Else in Italy, A Subjective Travel Book. The idea of the primacy of beauty, a central concept in nineteenth-century aestheticism, is revealed as vital to Boyd's exploration of the marriage of Classicism and Christianity in Western civilization. In this way his vision is linked with the Hellenizing impulse of the late Victorian imagination. Section III, comprising chapters three to seven, sets out to show that the aesthetic view of life, expressing itself as a vision of pleasure, dominated the novelist's imagination from the outset and continued as a major preoccupation of his fiction. Chapter three discusses the lesser fiction, where a theme of pleasure is often mechanically presented. Chapters four, five and six analyse its more sophisticated treatment in the better fiction: The Montforts, Lucinda Brayford and the Langton novels. In the case of the Langton books, my concern is with The Cardboard Crown and Outbreak of Love as the two novels in the series most preoccupied with evoking those aspects of life which reveal themselves as 'the face of pleasure.' In these novels Boyd concentrates on what he terms 'the Greek story' in his portrayal of a number of searching individuals who are afforded at least a partial experience of a life of beauty and enjoyment. Chapter seven is a transitional chapter discussing the system of values underlying Boyd's division of his characters into the categories of aesthetes and puritans. The idea of a spiritual contest focuses Boyd's need to reconcile his vision of a life of pleasure with his awareness of moral evil and initiates a discussion of his approach to the graver issues of life. Section IV, comprising chapters eight to ten, discusses the treatment of the suffering hero in four novels, Lucinda Brayford, Such Pleasure, A Difficult Young Man and When Blackbirds Sing, in which Boyd seeks to portray a transcending of the aesthetic vision and to offer a view of life able to give a positive interpretation to the fact of pain and sorrow. A variety of approaches is revealed: the rather abstract provision of the framework of Christian myth in the story of Stephen Brayford, the discursive argument of Such Pleasure, the entirely aesthetic evocation of 'the face of sorrow' in A Difficult Young Man, and, finally, the presentation in When Blackbirds Sing of a double world, the symbol of a personality divided against itself. In each case, we witness the novelist's search for a resolution to the apparent conflict between the pleasure-loving personality's desire for fulfilment and his knowledge of evil. Significantly, the values important to Boyd's aesthete characters are not rejected but are gathered up in the appreciation of a higher kind of moral beauty, that of sacrificial love. Section V discusses Boyd's aesthetic impulse from the point of view of a technique of Impressionism he shares with a number of other writers and which, in his case, owes something to his background of a family of painters. The early novels are examined for elements which anticipate major developments in the mature fiction. The implications of an Impressionist approach for the form of the novel - its handling of narrative, plot and character - are considered in detail. An Appendix is included with the aim of highlighting both fin de siecle and Impressionist developments in Australian art at the turn of the century.' (Thesis description)


  • Thesis (PhD).

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

      1980 .
      Extent: 325, xxxiiip.p.
      • Includes bibliography.
Last amended 25 May 2020 13:02:50
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