The User, the Reader, and the Pocket Cathedral: William Morris's Arts and Crafts Aesthetic and the Decorated Book

Author/s: Brandiann Molby, PhD
Availability: Open Access
Type: Dissertation
Year: 2018
Category: Technology

Abstract: In an expansion of Jerome McGann's claims for a "materialist aesthetic" as the defining feature of William Morris's Kelmscott Press books, this dissertation maintains that Morris's book designs are the fullest expression of an Arts and Crafts interpretive model that Morris established over his career as a designer and a craftsman and that decisively intervenes in traditional theoretical discussions of the distinctions between the visual and verbal arts. This dissertation demonstrates that Morris's book designs are predicated on the user's interpretive engagement with the material object to bring together word and image, form and function, and decoration and design in terms of Morris's Arts and Crafts model of interpretive use. By reframing our understanding of text and image in Victorian interpretation, this dissertation provides a means of unifying critical understanding of Morris's wide-ranging oeuvre, reveals his contribution to Victorian aesthetics, and expands our theoretical understanding of the interpretive relationship between word, image, and the reader.

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