Funded PhD Project: Form, Matter, Truth: Thinking literary form through plasticity and performativity, University of Dundee (deadline Monday 5 October 2020)

About the project:

The writer to the critic: ‘…pure thought and the quest for truth per se can never aspire to anything but to the discovery of some kind of form’ (Valéry to Souday). We know form matters to the affective force of literature, even to its performance of a certain mode of truth-telling, but how does it do so? And how does this relate to the inherently plastic (formative, deformative, performative) nature of the literary work? And if all is form, and form is plastic, what, then is the relationship between literature and the claim for or performance of truth; the relationship between writer and critic? Recent work in critical theory (Catherine Malabou) and literary neuroscience (Maryanne Wolf) have demonstrated the importance of thinking about plasticity’s formal creative and destructive modalities for philosophy and memory studies – the performance of a mobile ‘truth’ of the brain, perhaps. However, even as literature is drawn upon as example in such discussions of plasticity, little attention has been paid to the operations of the matter of literature – its essentially plastic and transformative qualities – itself. We invite proposals for doctoral research which engage with any aspect of the formal and performative potential of literary plasticity; which seek to link the matter of literature to the performance – or formation – of truth.

This project is primarily associated with the Centre for Critical and Creative Cultures ( within the School of Humanities.

The successful applicant will be entered into a competition for a studentship with the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH). If awarded a studentship, those who meet the UK residency requirements would receive funding for fees and a stipend at UKRI level, while applicants from EU countries may be eligible for a fees-only award. Additionally, the SGSAH offers a core training programme to support research skills development, and opportunities for international study and placements. For more information about the SGSAH studentship, please visit

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Heather Yeung (
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

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