Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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To Sit is a Verb: Incoherence and Contemporary Conceptual Writing

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posted on 2021-12-08, 20:25 authored by Fenton, Emma

This thesis reconceives the productive possibilities of incoherence in four works of contemporary conceptual writing. Despite a pervasive ‘recognition’ of incoherence in literary criticism, we find little formal theorisation of its structure. Against existing evaluative and mystifying impressions of incoherence in literary analysis, I propose a revised concept of incoherence. This is equivalent to the existence of a contradiction (A and not-A) in a work that problematises the work’s identity. I test this concept in four recent works of conceptual writing: Expeditions of a Chimæra by Oana Avasilichioaei and Erín Moure (with interruptions by Elisa Sampedrín); An Arranged Affair by Sally Alatalo; The Happy End / All Welcome by Mónica de la Torre; and Hu Fang’s Garden of Mirrored Flowers, translated by Melissa Lim. Each of these works extends the illogical permissibility of early conceptual thought, re-shaped by contemporary concerns. As a result, these works explore alternative representational possibilities inaccessible to the coherent arrangement. The work of these texts is self-reflexive—in respect to their own identity within a context. Consequently, we observe the ways in which incoherent texts map misalignments and contradictions in the literary system itself; drawing attention to associative constellations misconceived as causal and the uncertain divide of representation and real.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

English Literature

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Jackson, Anna