Birthing Attila

  • Jacob Oliver

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


I have termed Birthing Attila a creative-critical project since it is not only a collection of poems, or a critical compendium of methodologies and theories, but an alignment of the two in a mutually illuminating process. My creative work informs my critical, and, reflexively, my critical informs my creative. The Birthing Attila project engages with orthodox narratives of history and ideology, critiquing them, working against linear expectation, and identifying and dramatizing margins of society that are often subordinated or neglected in such discourses. By engaging with New Historicist theory as a creative impetus (see Chapter Three) and exploring other theoretical debates chiefly within feminism and post-colonialism, my poetry is drawn into line with a critical praxis. This critical-creative contact locates Birthing Attila at the confluence of recent work on the “interfrictions” between theorized inquiry and creative practice. The poems themselves seek to encourage today’s readers to look internally and at the world around them, all viewed through a “time-slipped universe” that adopts three “worlds” inextricably intertwined—the fall of Rome, the 1980s, and contemporary society. Through the use of a time-slipped space in the creative pieces, fault lines, fractures, and permutations of perception across and embedded within history are explored within poems as well as between them. Birthing Attila fuses time together where clean distinctions between periods and events, and the ability to identify a clear chronology beyond the characters’ narrative arcs, are, as with the separation of critical and creative practice in the construction of the project, rendered impossible.

Chapter One (Reflections and Influences) explores the range of literary influences on the project and the genesis of the idea of a time-slipped space as a means of critique, focusing principally on the four most central literary figures to the poems’ generation: Bret Easton Ellis, Tiffany Atkinson, Charles Bukowski, and Wallace Stevens.

Chapter Two (Negotiating Borders and Boundaries) introduces cultural cartography and the ways in which the delineation of borders, boundaries, and “the other” shape notions of identity, and how, consequently, these often artificial distinctions may be misappropriated for use in nationalist and imperialist dogma in the dominant discourse, particularly as it pertains to the West.

Chapter Three (New Historicism and Creative-Critical Practice) seeks to firmly situate the Birthing Attila project along a creative-critical axis and expounds on the reflexive exercise of creative-critical writing. This chapter also explains the decision to employ Marjorie Levinson’s New Historicism as a creative springboard, as opposed to viewing New Historicism through a purely critical lens.

Chapter Four (Gender and Space) expands on the mapping of the body politic, engages with post-colonial and feminist theory, and investigates notions of time, space, and linearity. Perhaps most crucially, this chapter also explains the role of women in the collection and the choice to consciously exclude them from the poems as a means of critique.
Date of Award22 Feb 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorMatthew Francis (Supervisor) & Richard Marggraf Turley (Supervisor)

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