Remains to be seen : a study of unfinished projects

Harle, Matthew (2016) Remains to be seen : a study of unfinished projects. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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This thesis considers the imprint of unfinished work upon cultural history. It asks how one might record, interpret and situate abandoned and unfinished works within critical discourse. It explores the various opportunities they present to both disrupt and imaginatively develop existing perspectives on cultural production, the creative process, and the intellectual construction of everyday life. Discussing a range of unfinished projects from literature, film and architecture kept in public archives, this study attempts to find a renewed poetics of abandoned work that can displace the melancholy selectivity that pervades the topic. In addition to this, the project hopes to contribute to growing discourses on archives, ruins and fragments, where a consideration of the remains of unfinished work would broaden and problematise these conversations. The introduction considers the critical and cultural history of leaving work unfinished, identifying various critical motifs and absences that this project can address. The first chapter examines the legacy of an unfinished socialist city planned and partially built in 1914 called Llano del Rio; exploring how the abandoned settlement is mediated through its archival collection and material remains on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The second chapter then delves into the National Archives to investigate abandoned plans for London in the 1960s, demonstrating how unbuilt plans possess an under-researched intertextual and cultural function in their abandoned state. The third chapter traces a set of texts through literary and cinematic archives, charting the abandonment of Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey’s unfilmed Proust Screenplay. It maps the project’s afterlife and its contemporaneous relationship with the decline of cinema theatres in the 1970s, tracing the concomitant processes of unfinishing work and ruination. The fourth chapter looks at the papers of Muriel Spark and B.S. Johnson, considering their unfinished work and project proposals, from Spark’s brief narrative sketches to Johnson’s rejected ideas for television programmes. It sees corresponding tactics taken by the two writers, both authors using their unfinished work as a resource to reuse and recycle for texts that are eventually completed. Alongside this discovery, it reads unfinished work as a form of life writing, skirting autobiography and creative output. The conclusion draws these findings together and considers the potential for unfinished work to form its own critical rubric in the context of broader academic discourse.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: This thesis is not currently available for public use
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Arts > English & Humanities
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2016 12:53
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 12:47

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