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Appears in Collections:Literature and Languages Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Neo-Victorian Presence: Tom Phillips and the Non-Hermeneutic Past
Author(s): Ferguson, Christine
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Keywords: neo-Victorian
visual art
Tom Phillips
A Humument
Issue Date: 2013
Date Deposited: 5-Dec-2016
Citation: Ferguson C (2013) Neo-Victorian Presence: Tom Phillips and the Non-Hermeneutic Past. Australasian Journal of Victorian Studies, 18 (3), pp. 22-57.
Abstract: This essay reads Tom Phillips’s stunning and still in-process artist’s book A Humument (1966-) as exemplar of a non-hermeneutic vein of neo-Victorian textual production that stands as playful foil to the more familiar, suspicion-inflected appropriations of the nineteenth century that have come to dominate the mode’s nascent canon. It places A Humument, the product of a cut-up and OULIPO-esque constrained writing experiment built on an edition of W.H. Mallock’s A Human Document (1892), in a tradition which include Max Ernst’s Une semaine de bonté (1934), Iain Sinclair’s White Chapell, Scarlet Tracings (1987), and non-referential forms of contemporary steampunk performance. What all these examples share is a fascination with what I term, following Hans Gumbrecht, the presence effects of Victorian style and material cultures over their potential hermeneutic significance or value. A Humument not only thwarts the hermeneutic process, but also aestheticises its dislocation through its perpetually changing visual modification of its nineteenth-century original source text. I trace the work’s implications for current debates about the respective value of surface and depth-based approaches to the nineteenth-century text within Victorian studies, and demonstrate how A Humument models a form of non-hermeneutic engagement that retains a keen sense of ethical responsibility towards the past.
Rights: The copyright for articles in this journal is retained by the author(s), with first publication rights granted to the journal. By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use with proper attribution in educational and other non-commercial sectors.

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