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The monstrous subject in the sixteenth century: the importance of The Twelve Articles of the Upper Swabian Peasants for reconciling the contemporary image in politics

Trayner, J. (2019) The monstrous subject in the sixteenth century: the importance of The Twelve Articles of the Upper Swabian Peasants for reconciling the contemporary image in politics. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This practice-based PhD is presented in two parts; a written thesis and a series of artworks. The thesis involves an examination of the 16th century German pamphlet The Twelve Articles of the Upper Swabian Peasants, with the aim of uncovering the potential relevance of this material for understanding the wider relationship between art and politics. The artworks are presented as an opera performance based on Thomas Munzer Berta Lask's 1925 play about the Peasants' War. The opera is accompanied by a series of relief prints that illustrate the libretto; the music and images present the peasants of 1525 as robots in an exploration of the question of emergent political subjectivity in a potential, future, servile underclass. This is a parallel enquiry, presented in two separate volumes, addressing ideas of political and aesthetic agency. These concepts are explored and tested in the distinct methodologies of art/historical discourse and art production, in direct response to my research question: Can the emergence of dissensual political subjectivity be articulated visually? Unlike other previous studies of The Twelve Articles the thesis concentrates on the frontispiece illustrations, and the other visual qualities of the pamphlet. These illustrations are compared to the Bundschuh banners of 1500-20, and the distinctive costume of the mercenary Landsknechte who shared a socio-economic background with the peasants whose demands formed the basis of The Twelve Articles. This material is discussed using the aesthetic theories of Jacques Ranciere, Felix Gauttari, and Mikhail Bakhtin, and the idea of universalising signifiers proposed by Ernesto Laclau. The audience and readership, layout, and typography of The Twelve Articles are all analysed before the three main types of frontispiece are discussed: demonstrating the conclusion that the various editions of the pamphlet were an important expression of the peasants' agency and their emergence as a political subject.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Russell, J. and Parish, H.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Arts and Communication Design
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Fine Art
ID Code:85600

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