Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Resistance Histories: Contemporary Literary Reconstructions of National History

    Author:
    Monica Hanna
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Eugenia Paulicelli
    Abstract:

    This study identifies and analyzes methods by which contemporary literary works contest officially sanctioned national histories and present alternative national histories. The dissertation uses the term "resistance histories" to refer to literary texts that participate in critiques of traditional modes of historical and literary representations of the nation, while also interrogating the connection between history and story. The resistance histories discussed in the dissertation include novels, poetry, criticism, and hybrid works by: Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldúa, Eavan Boland, Antonio Tabucchi, Junot Díaz, Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, and Vincenzo Consolo. While many studies of the connections between literature and national historical identity discuss these issues either in primarily theoretical terms or by focusing on one national (or regional) context, this dissertation incorporates a comparative emphasis, placing diverse texts in conversation with each other to investigate the reasons for their confluence of style despite different national referents. The techniques explored include a rejection of traditional literary realism through the use of alternative generic elements (including magical realism, science fiction, telenovelas, comics, and hybrid works that draw on various genres), nonstandard national language (foreign languages, dialects, vernaculars, and different registers), and the explicit questioning of historical representation (often equating narrative and historical representation by focusing on the element of artifice contained in the construction of both types of narration). The dissertation draws on scholarship in areas related to historiography, nationalism, genre, culture, gender, postmodernism, and postcolonialism.

  • MAKE ROOM FOR MOTHER: A STUDY OF MOTHERHOOD AND THE MATERNAL INSTINCT IN 20th CENTURY WOMEN WRITERS

    Author:
    Heather Hudson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Eugenia Paulicelli
    Abstract:

    Abstract MAKE ROOM FOR MOTHER: A STUDY OF MOTHERHOOD AND THE MATERNAL INSTINCT IN 20th CENTURY WOMEN WRITERS By Heather Brown Hudson Advisor: Professor Eugenia Paulicelli In writing the maternal, or the `mother,' the authors in this dissertation have undermined the existence of a mold, as it were, of maternal behavior, the maternal instinct, and of the act of mothering. That is, the roles that the women play in the works I discuss here problematize the assumption that there even exists any universal `coda' or standards of behavior by which all mothering practices should abide. Writing mothers in such a way works to denaturalize the association of the feminine to the female in language. What this will hopefully result in is a rethinking of essence in writing the maternal. My project examines the ways in which, through language, the often universally delineated function of mother as woman, representation and institution is splintered, so to speak, to reveal wider open spaces that have yet to be analyzed. Here are several mothers who come to the experience of mothering from very different vantage points. I have chosen seven twentieth century works of fiction, autobiography, and biography. By investigating the manner in which each author treats the role of the mother in the text, I forge a relationship between them. Jeanette Winterson, Audre Lorde, Jamaica Kincaid, Sibilla Aleramo, Jane Lazarre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean Nathan each write from very disparate cultural circumstances as well as within various genres of literature, yet there is a certain continuum in each author's approach in narrating the maternal. That said, my project is a piecing together of many moving parts, and so it is necessary to offer some cultural context for each author. One of the questions I try to answer pertains to who controls the narrative's trajectory? Is it the writer (narrator) or the subject? In this case the subject is usually the mother. That is, can a narrator daughter ever claim agency over the narrated mother in the text? I will also discuss the notions of genre and gender as they relate to the roles of women and power in language. To scrutinize the behaviors and language of mothers, daughters, mother figures, and maternal love is to consider whether or not there is such a thing as a female/maternal essence or nature. My arguments are informed, in part, by two major works of philosophy and gender studies. Luisa Muraro's l'Ordine simbolico della madre and Christine Battersby's The Phenomenal Woman. I use these, among a few other critical works, to anchor certain arguments surrounding what I speculate are the authors' intentions in writing the maternal as fluid and flexible. My choice of texts and the claims I make also challenge some of the theoretical positions that Muraro and Battersby take, namely Muraro's stance about the role of language and the potentiality that language has to precisely identify and represent the mother. For clarity's sake, it is important to note that the maternal figures rendered here are both fictional characters created via literature (as with Winterson's Dog Woman) as well as real life women whose lives have either been first person narrated (as in the case of Jane Lazarre, Sibilla Aleramo) narrated via the daughter (as we see with Jamaica Kincaid, Simone de Beauvoir, and Lois Gould,) and finally, via a third party narrator, as with Jean Nathan's work on Dare Wright. What I will argue throughout this dissertation is that language and literature have the authority to expose the notion of the maternal instinct as a tyrant of a postulation, seeming to be rooted as much in behavior and society as it is in biology. Further, when we see behaviors by the mothers in these works that might otherwise be deemed a perversion of the mothering instinct, it is important to reconsider that the mother here serves more so as a trope, or, to clarify, a manifestation of language and culture, than actual tangible figures. As such, these mothers' maternal instincts, if you will, often take the shape of a conceptual chasm, and are frequently unreflective of reality. In this way, I claim, the entire notion of a maternal instinct is a construct in need of rethinking.

  • The Magic Lantern: Modern Poetry and the Visual Arts

    Author:
    Trevor Jockims
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Professor Mary Caws
    Abstract:

    This is essentially a dissertation about the evolution of the relationship between visual and verbal representation. As I see it, this is largely a movement from paragone to symbiosis. Along the way, the relation among these technically divergent forms shows itself to be a very porous border. Through a methodology that incorporates pertinent perspectives from continental philosophies, detailed readings of poetry from several traditions, and a genealogical approach to the history of the idea of the visual and the verbal, this dissertation will show how the deepened complexities that innovations in the visual arts--particularly technological innovations such as photography and film--led to mutually enriching responses in the verbal arts. Not only does the poetics of modernism come to embrace the visual, but it in fact absorbs into itself many of the capacities long held to be the terrain of the visual. Rather than being an appropriative and final paragonal urge, I read this aspect of modernist poetics as one that shows its poetry to be responsive to changes outside of its own medium in remarkably sensitive and complex ways.$