The Gesture of Rage in the Garden of Eden: Cliché and Catastrophe in Anne Carson’s ‘Variations on the Right to Remain Silent’, ’Just for the Thrill’ and The Beauty of the Husband

  • Pey Pey Oh

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This thesis uses three significant texts by Canadian poet Anne Carson: ‘Variations on the Right to Remain Silent’, published in Nay Rather (2013), ‘Just for the Thrill’, published in Plainwater (1998), and The Beauty of the Husband (2001), in order to examine Carson’s imaginative and conceptual use of the terms 'cliché' and 'catastrophe'. These two concepts are central to Carson’s poetics and they are profoundly interrelated.

    The introduction explores how, in this challenging contemporary poet’s creative oeuvre, cliché is a screen that distorts the way of seeing the artist/translator’s work. It investigates this conventional narrative as a way “of seeing the world without looking at it”, and recognises that Carson’s method of catastrophe disrupts the assumptions cliché creates (Carson, Nay Rather 18).

    In Chapter one, Carson’s poetic method is discussed through the lens of translation, in order to explore the transformation of language and its interdependence on the untranslatable silence that surrounds it. I address how Carson turns to the poetic use of the gap or space that is produced when cliché is subverted, and how this enables her to push the work towards the limits of language; a sensation of catastrophe that is freeing.

    Chapter two focuses on the personal language of the writer/lover that is easily miscommunicated – by the distortion of clichéd screens – to the intended reader/beloved. The difficulties involved in chaos and confusion that mimic the sensation of catastrophe can, however, be translated into new meaning.

    Chapter three examines how, in a subversive portrayal of marriage, the cliché of desire entangles itself with beauty (cliché) and truth (catastrophe), and illuminates how, for Carson, cliché and catastrophe have metaphorical as well as technical implications for her writing and its language.

    This study concludes that Carson’s art is a series of free marks that is needful from the artist – if a reader is to grasp this, they must “extinguish the usual relation” to seeing the world through the conventional narrative (NR 14).
    Date of AwardMay 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPhilip Gross (Supervisor) & Alice Entwistle (Supervisor)

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