Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


John Hawkes' novels can be seen as expressing a dialectic between the act of fictional ordering and the chaos of a "reality" which is potentially subject to the ordering process but which ultimately threatens to dissolve such designs as are present in created or fictional reality. Both Hawkes and many of his protagonists, particularly his first-person narrators, are determined to "create a world." As "creators" and "visionary artists," they manifest a need to transform or transcend those forces which oppress them and oppose their efforts to create self-contained worlds based on principles of order, design and clarity; as embodiments of an ordering aesthetic, they battle against the powers of anti-art and often a specific antagonist who represents these powers.;The worlds of such visionary artists are unstable; they reflect creative man's endeavors to impose meaningful order rather than the enduring strength of aesthetic imperatives. In Hawkes' earliest fiction, the artist-figure is stifled by external forces; anti-art in its various forms dominates the worlds of The Cannibal and The Beetle Leg. It is Hawkes himself, through linguistic and stylistic devices, through the structuring capacity, who exhibits the authorial (and authoritarian) need to impose a sense of order and coherence on a world characterized by random eruptions of violence and chaotic disturbances emanating from undefined and unacknowledged human motivations and impulses. From the constant authorial presence manifested in early novels, Hawkes becomes concerned, in his first-person narratives, with filtering a sense of authoritarian will through the visions of narrators who are intent on shaping their own worlds and utilizing the energies of the unconscious and their imaginative capacity. The artist comes to define himself through his thorough isolation from others and from external reality: his quest is for an artistic purity to which he obsessively dedicates himself.;As the worlds of these artists become more confining, they also become more problematical. Many of the concerns of the visionary artist reflect Hawkes' own fictional values. In novels like Travesty and Virginie Hawkes seems to be testing these values, exploring the ultimate reaches of a fictional aesthetic he has consistently expressed in interviews and essays throughout his career.



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