Inner and Outer Worlds
: Encounters with the Invisible

  • Jason Payne

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis and its accompanying practice component explore the place of imagination and subjectivity in context of visual research, whilst investigating the role of the sketchbook as a methodology. It asks how a concern with subjectivity and imagination might interface with the academic demands of the PhD and investigates the ways in which this could be seen to illuminate the collision between artistic and academic cultures in the emerging context of artistic research.

Methodologically, a cultural studies approach is utilised, in order to explore the way in which a number of common tropes are exhibited, firstly across a series of post-structural, and irrationalist philosophical perspectives, and secondly through a number of counter-cultural positions. It is suggested that these writing have overlapping heritages, and questions why it is only the latter that are deemed to have lower academic status. In a more discipline specific fashion, the project makes use of an autoethnographic sketchbook as a tool for investigating the culture clash between the arts and more positivistic modes of research, whilst foregrounding subjectivity and subjective forms of knowing. To this end, the sketchbook documents the experience of doctoral study in a manner that is highly specific to the visual arts, and which takes its cue from the autoethnographic dimension of the graphic novel.

Central to the enquiry are the questions of academic visibility and invisibility. The thesis explores four related contexts that are each deemed in some sense ‘invisible’ to positivistic research ideals – namely subjectivity (or interiority); counter-cultural research orientation; abductive imagination (or fabulation); and finally, metaphysical enquiry. These territories are investigated, firstly through a consideration of the autoethnographic sketchbook as a milieu for the construction and transformation of identity; secondly through a consideration of the importance of the grotesque and carnivalesque as a mode of abductive social critique; thirdly through an examination of the notions of abduction and semiosis, as a means of
differentially-relating positivistic and artistic ways of knowing; and lastly through a consideration of metaphysical enquiry as mode of paracosmic worldbuilding.

The graphical dimension of illustration facilitates a study of imagery and metaphor which serves as an important leveller in the context of cultural studies, enabling a comparative exploration of the academically ‘legitimate’ (Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, Carl Jung and Mikhail Bakhtin) along with a series of ‘heretical’ or more countercultural points of reference (Carlos Castenada, Terrence McKenna and John Lamb Lash).

In the context of this justification, the thesis addresses the perceived tension between the cultural concerns of subjects such as illustration and animation, and institutional approaches to research. In so doing it foregrounds the ensuing clash of values, and interests, whilst also identifying distinct areas of enquiry. The need for a mode of research that speaks to its own disciplinary community is deemed paramount, and the way in which this problem manifests with respect to both personal and institutional politics of research is investigated.

In this fashion, illustration, the comic form, the graphic novel, and more broadly, ergodic literature, are positioned as enabling novel enquiries into the nature of imagination and human subjectivity, along with a distinctive mode of critique. Accordingly, this would seem to offer subjects such as illustration and animation a unique subject matter, a unique mode of investigation, and a unique place in the context of academic research.
Date of Award21 Dec 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAnneke Pettican (Main Supervisor) & Monty Adkins (Co-Supervisor)

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