Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • MAPPING ITALIAN WOMEN'S FILMMAKING: URBAN SPACE IN THE CINEMA OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM

    Author:
    Laura Di Bianco
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Giancarlo Lombardi
    Abstract:

    My dissertation lies at the intersection of Italian studies, film studies, women's studies, and urban studies. Applying gender studies and feminist theoretical perspectives, I trace a thematic map of contemporary Italian women's cinema (2000-2012) that investigates female subjectivity in urban contexts. Examining the works of the filmmakers Marina Spada, Francesca Comencini, Wilma Labate, Roberta Torre, and Alice Rohrwacher, I identify a common tendency to treat locations like characters, apply similar modalities of incorporating city-views into the narration, and recurrently construct parallels between physical journeys through cities and inner journeys of the self. As a prism through which to look at contemporary Italian society, the city articulates themes such as women's alienation and social invisibility, the challenge of reconciling motherhood and paid work, the debasement of the female body, and the role of institutions such as the Church and the family. The most prominent visual leitmotif in this cinematic production is that of the wandering woman contemplating the cityscape. What does walking signify in these works? During the women's liberation movement of the late sixties and seventies, the appropriation of public space was a form of resistance to patriarchal confinement of women to domestic spaces. The act of female `streetwalking,' typically associated with prostitution, was re-configured as an act of self-liberation. Through a close reading of the films, I argue that female flânerie, in all the articulations it takes in each film, represents an act of emancipation, an act of introspection, and a search for position in society. Furthermore, the image of the woman contemplating the city signifies, for filmmakers who struggle to appropriate the medium of film and carve a space in a male-dominated industry, an assertion of authorship. By identifying these female authorial voices and a common aesthetic project, my dissertation aims to address the knowledge gap about women's artistic expression while leading to a more complex understanding of Italian contemporary cinema.

  • L'ossessione della frode. La menzogna nel romanzo moderno

    Author:
    Angelo Raffaele Dicuonzo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Hermann Haller
    Abstract:

    The subject of the dissertation is the art of lying in literature, specifically in the modern novel and its Italian variant in particular. First, it examines authorial condemnation of the dishonesty of power, its fraudulent ends, means and mechanisms, and second, analyses the language and style employed in such a denouncement, in which the rejection of the artificial quality of literature is itself embedded. In this way, the analysis approaches the age-old question of the relationship of literature to society, underscoring the antagonistic quality of this relationship. Put differently, the investigation keeps history under close scrutiny, while rejecting its fraudulent use, namely its purposeful gaps, forms of accommodation, and rhetoric of progress. The authors and works studied foreground, through their representations of society, the novel's function as a force of opposition, a function that is intent on revealing its own fraudulent structures. From this perspective, I point out the ideological characteristics of the texts under examination, with care, however, no to become entrapped in petty sociology. Instead, my interests are in the ideology of the text, and therefore in those elements constituting textual form, namely, language and style. As a result, the literary text acts on reality with the purpose of offering a fictional solution to the conflict, while truly deepening it. In other words, the novel as a cultural product does not derive directly from the conditions of its production. Between the novel and society is the mediating force of authorial intervention, whereby the rough materials of history are transformed by fictional synthesis into "visions" that reveal the collective cultural anxieties that have summoned the author's response. The denouncement by literature of its own nature as artifice represents the opposite side of the coin. In a century devoted to the novel as the preferred medium of literary expression, authors commit the radical act of denouncing narrative fiction as fraudulent. They thus herald an entire process of self-reflection, designated to exhibit the lies of literature and, in so doing, reveal the compositional principles of deceit.

  • The Eye, the Street, and the Modern Painter: The City from Poe to Joyce.

    Author:
    Lev Feigin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Lev Feigin
    Abstract:

    This thesis examines the development of the image of the modern metropolis in conjunction with a unique type of literary hero who appears in literature during the eighteenth century: the city spectator. While investigations of the urban observer have surfaced in many divergent contexts and literary periods, most accounts of the subject rely, to varying degrees, on the same core narrative and assumptions implicit to Walter Benjamin's seminal theorizations of the figure of the flâneur. Drawing attention to the distinction between historical and literary spectators of metropolitan spaces, this dissertation proposes an alternative approach to the genesis and development of the figure of the urban observer in Western fiction. Offering a corrective to the discourse of the flâneur, this study argues that the origins of the historical and the literary spectator are dramatically different and evaluates the latter figure as a fluid motif that presupposes a wide range of gradually changing assumptions about subjectivity, visuality, and urban presentation. The dissertation distinguishes three different types of spectators in city texts: 1) the physiognomist of neo-Classical urban sketches and in early realist fiction; 2) the Romantic visionary seer of lyrical verse and late Gothic fiction 3) and the modernist phenomenological observer of the early twentieth-century metropolitan novel. Each mode of city watching is related to three different models of organizing urban experience: the panorama, phantasmagoria, and montage. Contrasting the leisurely flâneur to literary urban beholders of the first half of the nineteenth century, I argue that the latter were a result of a transposition of Romantic sensibility, subjectivity, and modes of visuality from bucolic and dark Gothic settings onto the big city. Tracing the use of the spectatorial persona from William Wordsworth's The Prelude and the tales of Edgar Allan Poe and Nikolai Gogol through Charles Baudelaire's Parisian poems and James Joyce's Ulysses, this dissertation explores the active representational function of the figure of the observer who seeks in the act of looking to transcend his estrangement from the urban community in the mind alone.

  • The Eye, the Street, and the Modern Painter: The City from Poe to Joyce.

    Author:
    Lev Feigin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Lev Feigin
    Abstract:

    This thesis examines the development of the image of the modern metropolis in conjunction with a unique type of literary hero who appears in literature during the eighteenth century: the city spectator. While investigations of the urban observer have surfaced in many divergent contexts and literary periods, most accounts of the subject rely, to varying degrees, on the same core narrative and assumptions implicit to Walter Benjamin's seminal theorizations of the figure of the flâneur. Drawing attention to the distinction between historical and literary spectators of metropolitan spaces, this dissertation proposes an alternative approach to the genesis and development of the figure of the urban observer in Western fiction. Offering a corrective to the discourse of the flâneur, this study argues that the origins of the historical and the literary spectator are dramatically different and evaluates the latter figure as a fluid motif that presupposes a wide range of gradually changing assumptions about subjectivity, visuality, and urban presentation. The dissertation distinguishes three different types of spectators in city texts: 1) the physiognomist of neo-Classical urban sketches and in early realist fiction; 2) the Romantic visionary seer of lyrical verse and late Gothic fiction 3) and the modernist phenomenological observer of the early twentieth-century metropolitan novel. Each mode of city watching is related to three different models of organizing urban experience: the panorama, phantasmagoria, and montage. Contrasting the leisurely flâneur to literary urban beholders of the first half of the nineteenth century, I argue that the latter were a result of a transposition of Romantic sensibility, subjectivity, and modes of visuality from bucolic and dark Gothic settings onto the big city. Tracing the use of the spectatorial persona from William Wordsworth's The Prelude and the tales of Edgar Allan Poe and Nikolai Gogol through Charles Baudelaire's Parisian poems and James Joyce's Ulysses, this dissertation explores the active representational function of the figure of the observer who seeks in the act of looking to transcend his estrangement from the urban community in the mind alone.

  • Surrealist Nonsense As A Genre

    Author:
    Nathalie Fouyer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Mary Ann Caws
    Abstract:

    For the Surrealists, nonsense was a means of transcending a hierarchical reality; rather than being an absence of sense, nonsense became a frustration of constructed expectations about sense. The layered meanings of a word or image in Surrealism generate a world in which no hierarchy or dichotomies exist but rather one where each word and image bears equal weight. The purpose of this dissertation is to answer the question: in what ways might we consider Surrealist's nonsense a genre. Since Freud, psychoanalysis has been the frame of reference to distinguish the conscious from the unconscious, common sense from nonsense. This dissertation departs from a dichotomous discourse and explores the nonsensical aspect in Robert Desnos' writings and avant-garde films in relation to Jungian's theory and Taoism. Ultimately for Desnos, Jung, Avant-garde filmmakers, and Taoists, action free of preconceived ideas grew to be the aspired mode of being-in-the-world, that which enables us to transcend ourselves.

  • The Movie Men: The Male Body as Spectacle in European Cinema

    Author:
    Giorgio Galbussera
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Mary Ann Caws
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a study of the ways in which several European directors have put the male body at the center of their cinematic vision, potentially reversing the traditional mechanism of filmic objectification of the female body. My analysis traces the display of the male body in a selection of films by Luchino Visconti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Derek Jarman, Pedro Almodóvar, and several contemporary French filmmakers. While all of these directors engage in a more or less open voyeurism in the way they offer attractive male bodies to the visual enjoyment of the spectator, highlighting the homoerotic potential of the cinematic gaze, they simultaneously use the exposed bodies to promote a critique of the mechanisms of mainstream narrative cinema, in particular as it relates to masculinity and the construction of gender. As they explore male bodies that are desirable but often fragile, malleable, and open to manipulation, these films contest the construction of masculinity as a normative, solid category, and suggest ways in which cinema can expose, through the display of the male body, the contradictions existing within a socially enforced conception of masculine identity and the system of gender altogether. The `soft' bodies, young and slender, presented to the desiring gaze ideally oppose the `hard' male bodies that are at the center of visual desire in mainstream genres like the action or war film; even as they reclaim an on-screen presence for the articulation of homoerotic desire, often in militant ways, these filmmakers reveal the problematic nature of every act of looking and desiring, exposing its potential for exploitation and controlling manipulation. In an attempt to avoid a mere reversal of roles between the traditionally defined cinematic positions of male activity and female passivity, while these directors eroticize openly their gaze at the male body, they experiment new ways in which the body can be framed and observed without being necessarily and univocally reduced to object of consumption; at times violently, at times more playfully, such visions of the male body promote a dismantling of traditional masculinity.

  • Truth, Lies, and Issues of Authenticity: A Study of Rousseau, Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus

    Author:
    Mary Gennuso
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Vincent Crapanzano
    Abstract:

    This is a study of the lie at the intersection of philosophy and literature, as it applies to Rousseau, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus, especially as embedded in the system of thought of each author. A sub-theme of this investigation is the application of the terms as it applies to gender issues and examples. Thus there is a feminist lens of scrutiny in this study. The logical paradoxes, inconsistencies, and tensions found in each author are uncovered, as well as the strengths of each. The study ends with implciations for future reseaerch.

  • (Re)Forming Italians: Children's Literature in Italy, 1929-1939

    Author:
    Marisa Giorgi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Eugenia Paulicelli
    Abstract:

    My dissertation argues for the centrality of children's literature under Fascism as a tool to bring about the ultimate goal of forming the "new" Italian. This project examines the relationship between children's literature, the creation of culture and the transmission of ideology in Fascist Italy. I chose the period 1929-1939 because this decade encompasses the years the regime actively sought consolidation of power and consensus, as well as the years of the fascistization of Italian schools. These novels are conduits of fascist ideology veiled as adventure stories, historical novels, bildungsroman or romantic fiction for children and young adults and deserve scholarly attention. The aim of children's literature is ostensibly to impart life-lessons, however, this seemingly benign goal takes on a different meaning in the context of a totalitarian regime. Children's literature, an extension of popular literature, reveals the cultural dynamics of a society and the values it holds most important. Children's novels from 1930s Italy contain valuable insights into the ways the regime attempted to mold the "new" Italian, imbuing the youngest and most impressionable minds and bodies with fascist values. There is a current need for research that pokes and probes fascist hegemony during the 1930s. My dissertation's analysis of children's literature from 1929-1939 aims to fill this void.

  • A Literary History of the Trojan War from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

    Author:
    Adam Goldwyn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    William Coleman
    Abstract:

    "A Literary History of the Trojan War from Antiquity to the Middle Ages" analyzes the various renditions of the mythical and historical accounts of the Trojan War from Homer to Shakespeare. It contains a discussion of the stylistic, literary and generic changes these stories underwent as authors over time and across Europe translated and adapted their sources to make them relevant to contemporary audiences. The work also examines two important political and historical themes: the use of a Trojan genealogy to justify claims of political legitimacy and the use of Troy to critique and comment on the author's age. Both are present in The Iliad and The Odyssey; they also play an important role in Pindar's odes, wherein athletic competition is often compared to martial combat, and in Attic tragedy, wherein the sack of Troy serves as a cautionary exemplum for Athens during the Peloponnesian War. These two themes are then examined in Virgil and Ovid's poetic retellings of the Trojan War. Although scholars disagree whether their works glorify the Roman Empire and whether their heroes, particularly Aeneas, be positive exempla, it is agreed that such questions are central to any understanding of them. The next significant rendition analyzed are the first extended prose accounts by the late antiquity chroniclers Dares and Dictys; drawing on the historiographical tradition of Herodotus and Thucydides, these authors excised the role of the gods and presented the war in rational, not supernatural, terms. The second part of the dissertation focuses on the transmission of Trojan War stories in the Middle Ages, when rulers sought to legitimize their power the same way as the Romans: by claiming descent from Trojans. Modeled after The Aeneid but using the literary conventions of Dares's and Dictys's chronicles, medieval authors such as Snorri Sturlusson and Geoffrey of Monmouth invented genealogies for their royal patrons which traced their ancestry back to Trojan exiles and characterized their heroes according to the ideals of their own societies. The final two chapters discuss Trojan romances and Trojan tragedies, analyzing these two genres for the paradigmatic significance of the War itself and the individuals fighting in it.

  • A Literary History of the Trojan War from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

    Author:
    Adam Goldwyn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    William Coleman
    Abstract:

    "A Literary History of the Trojan War from Antiquity to the Middle Ages" analyzes the various renditions of the mythical and historical accounts of the Trojan War from Homer to Shakespeare. It contains a discussion of the stylistic, literary and generic changes these stories underwent as authors over time and across Europe translated and adapted their sources to make them relevant to contemporary audiences. The work also examines two important political and historical themes: the use of a Trojan genealogy to justify claims of political legitimacy and the use of Troy to critique and comment on the author's age. Both are present in The Iliad and The Odyssey; they also play an important role in Pindar's odes, wherein athletic competition is often compared to martial combat, and in Attic tragedy, wherein the sack of Troy serves as a cautionary exemplum for Athens during the Peloponnesian War. These two themes are then examined in Virgil and Ovid's poetic retellings of the Trojan War. Although scholars disagree whether their works glorify the Roman Empire and whether their heroes, particularly Aeneas, be positive exempla, it is agreed that such questions are central to any understanding of them. The next significant rendition analyzed are the first extended prose accounts by the late antiquity chroniclers Dares and Dictys; drawing on the historiographical tradition of Herodotus and Thucydides, these authors excised the role of the gods and presented the war in rational, not supernatural, terms. The second part of the dissertation focuses on the transmission of Trojan War stories in the Middle Ages, when rulers sought to legitimize their power the same way as the Romans: by claiming descent from Trojans. Modeled after The Aeneid but using the literary conventions of Dares's and Dictys's chronicles, medieval authors such as Snorri Sturlusson and Geoffrey of Monmouth invented genealogies for their royal patrons which traced their ancestry back to Trojan exiles and characterized their heroes according to the ideals of their own societies. The final two chapters discuss Trojan romances and Trojan tragedies, analyzing these two genres for the paradigmatic significance of the War itself and the individuals fighting in it.