In an interview with Derek Attridge, Jacques Derrida demonstrates how the question ‘what is literature?’ necessarily problematises the idea of literature in relation to itself and to other genres and modes. There is no essence of literature to define, Derrida suggests, and if it can be referred to at all, it would be to say that literature is that which exceeds or escapes the boundaries that have been erected to contain it. Derrida extrapolates on these themes in his essay, “The Law of Genre”, focusing more closely on the prohibitive forces that at once enable and restrict the evolution of genres. Here, Derrida proposes that the law of genre harbours within itself ‘a law of impurity or a principle of contamination’ and ponders the possibility that the very existence of the law might be predicated on the ‘a priori of a counter-law, an axiom of impossibility that would confound its sense, order and reason’. In his 1981 autobiography, the Australian novelist, Patrick White wrote: When literary people write on the subject of painting I find it altogether unconvincing and literary … This paper takes up White’s complaint as a challenge and draws on the genre theories of Jacques Derrida, Mikhail Bakhtin and Julia Kristeva, along with aspects of Gerald Murnane’s 1982 novel, The Plains, to examine the ‘landscape’ paintings of Australian artist, Philip Hunter, particulary The Landscape is a Building Site 1 (1994), Firestations (1994), Wimmera Plains (2001) and Central Districts # 2 (1999). This paper demonstrates how an understanding of Julia Kristeva’s construction of the semiotic and the symbolic and its relation to the genre theories of Mikhail Bakhtin and Jacques Derrida can, despite White’s misgivings, produce profitable readings of Hunter’s paintings.
|Keywords:||Genre, Psychoanalysis, Literature, Romanticism, Synaesthesia, Architecture, Australian Landscape Painting|
The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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