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Conference Papers Year : 2015

In the Meanders of Mind and Matter”: The Case of Elizabeth Madox Roberts

Gisèle Sigal


For Elizabeth Madox Roberts (1881-1941), mind is immaterial and transcends thoughts while flowing from thoughts in its materiality process, and such porosity clearly settles the permeability between mind and matter. “Writing seems to be into the fibers of my being”, she writes in her notes. The emergence and materiality of writing is a matter of fact and the only way to live in that world, and to “survive in the chaos of sensations out of the vapors of the mind”, she adds in her letters. Such a calling becomes a natural drive and is a fundamental process to exit self-absorption and to maintain her original integrity. In a double determination which is to exist and to write, the materiality of her art allows her to overcome all obstacles. It is a vital and creative dynamism exacerbated by the daily ordeals in life. Underpinned by a strong belief in the materiality of nature, Roberts’ praxis shapes the emergence and persistence of man in his social cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions. The writer’s aim, both personal and artistic, is, according to her personal notes: “to focus on those points where mind and matter, idea and sensation, vision and fact, intermingle, shape, and are shaped, and conjointly produce a flood of identity within the perceiving spirit, wherein the outer order is creatively absorbed and the world of the mind comprises a new universe”. This, she believes, is the area where her art can operate most effectively, where the artistic symbol, itself a fusion of idea and thing, can communicate what cannot be communicated by any other means. In her notes, she observes that the organic feature of matter or matrix/mother helps her: “bring the physical world before the mind with a greater closeness so that mind rushed out to the very edge of sense, then mind turns about and sees itself mirrored within itself”. Living on the fringe of the family system, Roberts has no talent for human contacts and is plagued by frequent agonizing migraines. “My soul slides through my wound”, she declares in her notes. Focused on her inner self, she gives expression to it and fulfills it with artistic inspiration drawn by her acute sensitivity to people and places. Thence, materiality becomes a way to account for and to re-establish the awareness and the reconsideration of time and of space in a culture in transition, caught between tradition and innovation at the beginning of the twentieth century. In this presentation, we will first examine Roberts’ determination and devotion to matter which comes with an acknowledgement of childhood memories and of Kentucky’s natural beauties. We will then consider her mission which is to expose odysseys of self-discovery where mind and matter interact in a quest for unity so as to find out the meeting point between the inner and the outer world. Eventually, the heart and soul commitment to her art will be studied through the prism of legacy.
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hal-02326857 , version 1 (22-10-2019)


  • HAL Id : hal-02326857 , version 1


Gisèle Sigal. In the Meanders of Mind and Matter”: The Case of Elizabeth Madox Roberts. 17th Annual International Elizabeth Madox Roberts Conference, Pr/Dr Harry Stoneback SUNY New Paltz, Apr 2015, Kentucky, United States. ⟨hal-02326857⟩


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