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postgraduate thesis: Uncertain terms : creating, mediating and activating the portmanteau from Carroll to Vladislavić

TitleUncertain terms : creating, mediating and activating the portmanteau from Carroll to Vladislavić
Authors
Issue Date2015
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Webber, N. P.. (2015). Uncertain terms : creating, mediating and activating the portmanteau from Carroll to Vladislavić. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5435656
AbstractThis thesis explores the semantic and conceptual potential of the literary portmanteau word, with a view, more specifically, to examining the ways in which the term works to highlight questions of critical, ethical and disruptive activity. Formed from the combination of morphemes from two or more existing words (i.e., “human” + “document” = “humument”), the portmanteau word is a neologism that exists both within and beyond the frame of the authorised lexicon. Exploring this dynamic by way of three main areas of focus—“creating”, “mediating” and “activating”— this thesis adopts a thoroughgoing approach to portmanteau word functioning and logic, considering the term not only in relation to frame-stretching difference, semantic uncertainty and (potentially) mediative/ethical critical practice (as existing scholarship has tended mainly to do), but also with regard to the effortful and precarious activating of these concerns across different literary and geographical contexts. Up to now, academic work on the literary portmanteau word has generally considered the term in relation to two, largely non-overlapping sites of interest: Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871) and James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939)—a pair of texts that remain central here in developing a working theorization of the portmanteau (“creating”), and in the explication of a Wakean critical ethics (“mediating”). Through exploring different responses to both Carrollian and Joycean portmanteau words, the first of these focuses approaches the term in relation to the semantic and critical effects of frame-stretching difference, contingency and structural uncertainty. In the second, the possible mediative ethics of this uncertainty is considered with reference to the ethics of deconstruction and to an analysis of selected passages from the Wake. The extension in this thesis, though, into the writing of Édouard Glissant, Kamau Brathwaite and Ivan Vladislavić works to further interrogate and complicate this Carrollian-Joycean understanding of the portmanteau word, making it less (but still) a matter of structural uncertainty and mediative ethics, and more a question of effort, risk and resistance. With Glissant and Brathwaite, this “activating” of portmanteau uncertainty in the (post)colonial Caribbean translates in different ways into a form of hard-fought, aesthetic opacity, the effortful creation (and interpretation) of which requires an always precarious, (re)cyclical mediation between structure and difference, self and other. With Vladislavić, in (post)apartheid South Africa, this “activating” of the portmanteau expresses itself as a complicatedly material concern with the necessary folly (and urgency) of ethical (re)construction following the collapse of apartheid socio-political structures. It is the contention of this thesis, then, that it is through such contextual, mess-making, “activating” elaborations as these that we arrive at a richer, more resistant understanding of the portmanteau word (in both linguistic and conceptual terms), and that, in a manner not at all unlike the creation of a portmanteau word itself, we help to enact a frame-stretching move into new and uncertain exploratory frames.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectPortmanteau words
Dept/ProgramEnglish
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/209495

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorWebber, Nicholas Peter-
dc.date.accessioned2015-04-23T23:10:53Z-
dc.date.available2015-04-23T23:10:53Z-
dc.date.issued2015-
dc.identifier.citationWebber, N. P.. (2015). Uncertain terms : creating, mediating and activating the portmanteau from Carroll to Vladislavić. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5435656-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/209495-
dc.description.abstractThis thesis explores the semantic and conceptual potential of the literary portmanteau word, with a view, more specifically, to examining the ways in which the term works to highlight questions of critical, ethical and disruptive activity. Formed from the combination of morphemes from two or more existing words (i.e., “human” + “document” = “humument”), the portmanteau word is a neologism that exists both within and beyond the frame of the authorised lexicon. Exploring this dynamic by way of three main areas of focus—“creating”, “mediating” and “activating”— this thesis adopts a thoroughgoing approach to portmanteau word functioning and logic, considering the term not only in relation to frame-stretching difference, semantic uncertainty and (potentially) mediative/ethical critical practice (as existing scholarship has tended mainly to do), but also with regard to the effortful and precarious activating of these concerns across different literary and geographical contexts. Up to now, academic work on the literary portmanteau word has generally considered the term in relation to two, largely non-overlapping sites of interest: Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871) and James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939)—a pair of texts that remain central here in developing a working theorization of the portmanteau (“creating”), and in the explication of a Wakean critical ethics (“mediating”). Through exploring different responses to both Carrollian and Joycean portmanteau words, the first of these focuses approaches the term in relation to the semantic and critical effects of frame-stretching difference, contingency and structural uncertainty. In the second, the possible mediative ethics of this uncertainty is considered with reference to the ethics of deconstruction and to an analysis of selected passages from the Wake. The extension in this thesis, though, into the writing of Édouard Glissant, Kamau Brathwaite and Ivan Vladislavić works to further interrogate and complicate this Carrollian-Joycean understanding of the portmanteau word, making it less (but still) a matter of structural uncertainty and mediative ethics, and more a question of effort, risk and resistance. With Glissant and Brathwaite, this “activating” of portmanteau uncertainty in the (post)colonial Caribbean translates in different ways into a form of hard-fought, aesthetic opacity, the effortful creation (and interpretation) of which requires an always precarious, (re)cyclical mediation between structure and difference, self and other. With Vladislavić, in (post)apartheid South Africa, this “activating” of the portmanteau expresses itself as a complicatedly material concern with the necessary folly (and urgency) of ethical (re)construction following the collapse of apartheid socio-political structures. It is the contention of this thesis, then, that it is through such contextual, mess-making, “activating” elaborations as these that we arrive at a richer, more resistant understanding of the portmanteau word (in both linguistic and conceptual terms), and that, in a manner not at all unlike the creation of a portmanteau word itself, we help to enact a frame-stretching move into new and uncertain exploratory frames.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.subject.lcshPortmanteau words-
dc.titleUncertain terms : creating, mediating and activating the portmanteau from Carroll to Vladislavić-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5435656-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEnglish-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b5435656-

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