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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh: A Critical Study

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Book Series: Cultural Dialectics ISSN: 19158378 ISBN: 9781927356746 9781927356753 9781927356760 Year: Pages: 254 DOI: 10.15215/aupress/9781927356746.01 Language: English
Publisher: Athabasca University Press
Added to DOAB on : 2014-08-04 17:04:53
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When he died at the age of thirty-seven, Vincent van Gogh left a legacy of over two thousand artworks, for which he is now justly famous. But van Gogh was also a prodigious writer of letters - more than eight hundred of them, addressed to his parents, to friends such as Paul Gauguin, and, above all, to his brother Theo. His letters have long been admired for their exceptional literary quality, and art historians have sometimes drawn on the letters in their analysis of the paintings. And yet, to date, no one has undertaken a critical assessment of this remarkable body of writingÑnot as a footnote to the paintings but as a highly sophisticated literary achievement in its own right. Patrick Grant's long-awaited study provides such an assessment and, as such, redresses a significant omission in the field of van Gogh studies. As Grant demonstrates, quite apart from furnishing a highly revealing self-portrait of their author, the letters are compelling for their imaginative and expressive power, as well as for the perceptive commentary they offer on universal human themes. Through a subtle exploration of van Gogh's contrastive style of thinking and his fascination with the notion of imperfection, Grant illuminates gradual shifts in van Gogh's ideas on religion, ethics, and the meaning of art. He also analyzes the metaphorical significance of a number of key images in the letters, which prove to yield unexpected psychological and conceptual connections, and probes the relationships that surface when the letters are viewed as a cohesive literary product. The result is a wealth of new insights into van Gogh's inner landscape.

My Own Portrait in Writing: Self-Fashioning in the Letters of Vincent van Gogh

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Book Series: Cultural Dialectics ISSN: 19158378 ISBN: 9781771990455 9781771990592 9781771990608 9781771990585 Year: Pages: 220 DOI: 10.15215/aupress/9781771990455.01 Language: English
Publisher: Athabasca University Press
Subject: Languages and Literatures
Added to DOAB on : 2016-08-09 23:10:55
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Art historians, biographers, and other researchers have long drawn on Van Gogh’s voluminous correspondence—more than eight hundred letters—for insights into both his personal struggles and his art. But the letters, while often admired for their literary quality, have rarely been approached as literature. In this volume, Patrick Grant sets out to explore the question, “By what criteria do we judge Van Gogh's letters to be, specifically, literary?” Drawing, especially, on Mikhail Bakhtin’s conceptualization of self-awareness as an ongoing dialogue between “self” and “other,” Grant examines the ways in which Van Gogh’s letters raise, from within themselves, questions and issues to which they also respond. Their literary quality, he argues, derives in part from this “double-voiced discourse”—from the power of the letters to thematize, through their own internal dialogues, the very structure of self-fashioning itself. Far from merely reproducing the narrative of the artist’s personal progress, “the letters enable readers to recognize how necessary yet open-ended, constrained yet liberating, confined yet unpredictable, are the means by which people seek to shape a place for themselves in the world.”This volume builds on Grant’s earlier analysis of Van Gogh’s correspondence, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh: A Critical Study (AU Press, 2014), a study in which he approached the letters from a literary critical standpoint, delving into key patterns of metaphors and concepts. In the present volume, he provides instead a literary theoretical analysis of the letters, one that draws them more fully into the domain of modern literary studies. In his deft and keenly perceptive reading, Grant deconstructs the binaries that surface in both Van Gogh’s writing and painting, discusses the narrative dimensions of the letter-sketches and the recurring themes of fantasy, belief, and self-surrender, and draws attention to Van Gogh’s own understanding of the permeable boundary between words and visual art. Viewing the letters as an integrated body of discourse, “My Own Portrait in Writing” offers a theoretically informed interpretation of Van Gogh’s literary achievement that is, quite literally, without precedent.

Reading Vincent van Gogh: a Thematic Guide to the Letters

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ISBN: 9781771991872 9781771991889 9781771991896 Year: Pages: 198 DOI: 10.15215/aupress/9781771991872.01 Language: English
Publisher: Athabasca University Press
Subject: Languages and Literatures
Added to DOAB on : 2017-03-06 23:15:47
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Soon after his death, Vincent van Gogh’s reputation grew and developed through the remarkably symbiotic relationship evident between his paintings and letters. However, the sheer bulk and complexity of Van Gogh’s complete surviving correspondence presents a formidable challenge to those who wish to read and analyze the whole text as a literary work.Reading Vincent van Gogh is at once an interpretive guide to Van Gogh’s letters and a distillation of the key themes that reoccur throughout his collected letters—foremost among them the motifs of suffering, love, imagination, and the ineffable. In this indispensable, synoptic view of the letters, Patrick Grant makes the main lines of Vincent van Gogh’s thinking accessible and displays the arresting vividness of the well-known artist’s writing.

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