"My Own Portrait in Writing"

In Grant’s earlier book, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh. A Critical Study (AU Press, 2014), he followed a practical-critical analysis of the letters that dealt with key patterns of metaphors and concepts. This volume is a complement to the first book and provides an effective, theory-based reading of the letters that brings them more fully and successfully into the domain of modern literary studies. Each chapter addresses some significant aspect of Van Gogh’s writing including a “reading” of the letter-sketches and their narrative dimensions, a deconstruction of the binaries used in Van Gogh’s writing and painting, observations of Van Gogh’s own understanding of the permeable boundary between words and visual art, and a discussion of the set of polarities apparent in Van Gogh’s discussions of imagination, fantasy, belief, and self-surrender. Consequently, as a whole and in each of its parts, this book offers a new, timely, and theoretically-informed interpretation of Van Gogh’s literary achievement.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover 1
CONTENTS 10
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 12
PREFACE 14
Introduction: The Dialogical Structure of Self-Fashioning 18
Van Gogh Old and New: Reading the Letters as Literature 18
What Is Literature Anyway? Cultural Codes and Timeless Truths 21
Bakhtin, Dialogue, and the Self Interrupted 24
Embodied Intentions: The Textual Dynamics of Self-Fashioning 28
Conclusion: Van Gogh’s “Double-Voiced Discourse” 30
1 The Painterly Writer 34
Dissolving Boundaries: Word-Painting and the Sister Arts 36
Ideal Space, Existential Time 42
Drawing and Painting: From Morality to Aesthetics 47
Thinking About Colour and Seeing Beyond It 59
Conclusion: Dialogical Means and Personal Ends 62
2 Binaries, Contradictions, and “Arguments on Both Sides” 66
Contradiction, Paradox, and the Shaping of Commitment 67
Half-Measures and Negative Contrasts 72
Deconstructing the Binaries 79
The Sower: A Dialogue of Life and Death 85
Conclusion: Contradiction and the Quest for Meaning 91
The Letter-Sketches and the Letters 94
3 Reading Van Gogh’s Letter-Sketches 94
Narrative Dimensions 102
Representing the Sacred 128
Homo Viator 143
Conclusion: Enhancing the Text 156
4 Imagination and the Limits of Self-Fashioning 160
Open Sea and Enchanted Ground: The Perils of Commitment 161
Imagination: “Impossible Windmills” 166
Imagination: “That’s Rich, That’s Poetry” 171
Safe Enough to Let Go: On Perseverance and Spontaneity 174
Conclusion: Managing the Dialogue 178
Conclusion: Envoi 180
NOTES 188
C 194
B 194
A 194
INDEX 194
D 195
E 195
F 195
G 195
H 195
M 196
L 196
K 196
J 196
I 196
N 197
P 197
R 197
S 197
Y 198
W 198
V 198
U 198
T 198
Z 198