This thesis is a study of the entire range of John Berger's
writings, and an examination of the integrated nature of his discursive
project which is the transvaluation of experience under corporate
capitalism. It is an attempt to uncover the mode of existence of a
specific discourse, situating it within the intersection of political
action, cultural production, ontological investigation (experience)
and language. In it, I make the claim that his work indicates a
dialectical third category of intellectual production in the interaction
of residual senses of the author, the writer and traditional
intellectual and the emergent senses of cultural producer and organic
The long opening chapter charts 'theory' and 'experience' in the
context of Berger's part in a cultural-structural moment marked by
broad challenges to dominant empirical-idealist categories and forms
of knowledge. Berger's discourse is seen as an extension and
development of the critique of determinist enclosures of human
The chapter on Permanent Red charts the early formation of a
materialist aesthetic, probing his project as one of countering
formalism in art whilst re-negotiating realism and contemporary historical
forces. The chapter looks at seeing, gauged in terms of being and
experience rather than enlisted to the cause of aesthetic experience.
E.P. Thompson's 'Natopolitan ideology', the Artists International
Association, Third World artistic achievement and the critical
articulations of Berger's work are all significant elements here.
Following on, chapter three investigates a potential dialectical
realism in Berger's first novel A Painter of Our Time, a novel which
testifies to the difficult necessity of revolutionary experience.
Again, the critical reception of the work is part of the focus, in
raising the importance of the role of Encounter in its early
censorship and, in contrast, by attending to more recent socialist
activations of its discursivity.
Chapter four, 'A Constellation', traces Berger's anti-imperialist
and anti-positivist transvaluative labour across novels, filmscripts,
television work, poetry and essays, focusing upon G. as a nei~ve-centre
of interests in revolutionary passion, sexual passion, time, memory,
wholeness and freedom: G. is seen as a conjunctural essay upon
historical being and sexual being. The relation of Walter Benjamin's
work and ideas to Berger's cultural production and critical practice is
a constant interest. Chapter five covers Berger, Benjamin and Barthes•
interrelated work on word and image. Montage, memory and historical
experience link its concerns to those in other chapters.
Chapter six draws together earlier matters raised concerning
Berger's involvement with the lived experience of the peasantry and his
faith in the ability of story to handle the major contradictions of
contemporary historical experience. Last, I have ended with an
interview which helps to bind many of the major strands of the thesis.
It is deliberately rescued from being an appendix: it 'unifies' by
reojxjning the major issues, and complements what has gone before in
its mode of existence as interview.
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