Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • 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.$

  • To Have and Have Not: A Poetics of Ambivalence in the Ciné-écriture of Marguerite Duras, Assia Djebar, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

    Author:
    Deborah Kassel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Deborah Kassel
    Abstract:

    Abstract To Have and Have Not: A Poetics of Ambivalence in the Ciné-écriture of Marguerite Duras, Assia Djebar, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala by Deborah Kassel Adviser: Professor André Aciman In this study I examine the theme of ambivalence as a fundamental aspect of three artists' personal and aesthetic identities. Marguerite Duras, Assia Djebar, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala distinguish themselves by their commitment to a "total work of art" that resists discrete compartmentalization by genre, medium, or politics. In appreciation for their role as "dual-practitioners," I assert that they be referred to as ciné-romanciers, a variation on the term ciné-roman, originally coined by Armand Astruc. The nomenclature is especially apt, as it implies hybridity both in form and substance. Duras, Djebar, and Jhabvala create on screen and in print characters that struggle with competing cultural, religious, and aesthetic identities. This dissertation focuses on selected examples of what I refer to as ciné-écriture, a multi-media-enriched practice foregrounding the play of competing allegiance and betrayal, of belonging and exile.

  • Varieties of Ecstatic Autobiography: James Joyce to Jean Genet

    Author:
    Timothy Keane
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Andre Aciman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines how Modernist autobiographical prose texts centralize ecstasy, the paradoxical experience of being beyond the normal awareness of self and time. Even seminal autobiographers such as Augustine and Rousseau confront problems in self-representation that are themselves rooted in both the limitations of linear time for articulating certain moments in a life and narrative reliance on absolute distinctions between the sentient subject and the world's objects. Alternative modern models on literary subjectivity and perspectives on discontinuous time are distilled from essays by Walter Pater, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, and Walter Benjamin. I integrate these literary interventions with phenomenological theories of subject-object collaboration in sensation and perception and Leo Bersani's theory of reciprocity between the self as an 'aesthetic subject,' and the world. The project then turns to a reexamination of autobiographical projects by James Joyce, Colette, and Jean Genet. Even it in its earliest draft forms, Joyce's novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914) equates the spontaneous linguistic inventions in childhood with a foundational, sense-based form of body-world association that is severely undermined by the civilizing maturation of Stephen Dedalus, a predicament informed by Joyce's interest in cyclical theories about human history. Turning to the work of Colette, I evaluate how her novel about music-hall pantomime and dance, La Vagabonde (1910) and her pictorial and poetic memoir La Naissance du jour (1928) depict ecstatic experience in figurations of silence and solitude, breaking with the representational style around dialogue and sociability most associated with her literary self-portraits. Jean Genet's first and final memoirs Journal du voleur (1947) and Un Captif amoureux (1986), as well as his hybrid fragment essays on perception and the visual and plastic arts exemplify how lived experiences achieve significance only when their latent ecstatic properties are articulated in a nonlinear lyrical form. The dissertation concludes by suggesting how the force of authorial presence and the ecstatic dimensions of experiences are reconciled in the materiality of a highly personalized language, a perspective made paradigmatic by the idiosyncratic style of autobiographer Michel Leiris.

  • Jean Sénac, Poet of the Algerian Revolution

    Author:
    Kai Krienke
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Ammiel Alcalay
    Abstract:

    The work presented here is an exploration of the poetry and life of Jean Sénac, and through Sénac, of the larger role of poetry in the political and social movements of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s, mainly in Algeria and America. While Sénac was part of the European community in Algeria, his position regarding French rule changed dramatically over the course of the Algerian War, (between 1954 and 1962) and upon independence, he became one the rare French to return to his adopted homeland. I will argue, sometimes polemically, that Sénac was and should be considered a properly Algerian poet even though he was (and in many ways still is) considered an outsider because of his European origins, because he had no particular ties to either the Arab or Berber cultures, because he was gay and more fundamentally because he was claiming the right to be an Algerian poet "who had unequivocally chosen the Algerian nation". I will also argue that there are important ties to consider between the Algerian and American poetic contexts, which illuminate the larger era of post-colonialism through the poetic expression of popular movements, which often inspired poets in their use of language and their relation to the political space poetry came to occupy.

  • DOUBLE-DEALINGS AND DOUBLE MEANINGS: DOUBTING AND KNOWING IN EUROPEAN `ANALYTICAL' FICTION

    Author:
    Adele Kudish
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Andre Aciman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a survey of what I call "analytical fiction" in nine representative texts: Ovid's Metamorphoses, Boccaccio's Elegy of Madonna Fiammetta, Lyly's Euphues, Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron, Lafayette's Princess of Clèves, Richardson's Clarissa and The History of Sir Charles Grandison, Austen's Persuasion, and Stendhal's Armance. My thesis examines the underlying motifs and narrative temperament of a sub-genre that depicts how narrators and characters dissect, anatomize, and interpret their own thoughts, motivations, and actions in literature written well before the formalization of psychoanalytic theory. Analytical fiction is ultimately about reading; it is concerned with the relationship between knowledge and feeling in characters, and the networks of understanding between authors and readers, between narrators and characters, and between one character and another. The plots of analytical fiction comprise narrators and characters who are constantly faced with false, incomplete, or withheld information, misprision, doubt, and confusion, leading to self-deception, jealousy, and crises of love. Above all, what these works share is a tendency on the part of the narration to keep characters apart, to trap them in a closed, confusing society, and to defer, for as long as possible, any chance of intimacy, finality, or resolution.

  • If You See Something, Say Something: A Look at Experimental Writing on Art

    Author:
    Charlotte Latham
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Wayne Koestenbaum
    Abstract:

    Signs all over New York City state, "If you see something, say something," but museum studies repeatedly find viewers do not attend to pictures, just as eye witness testimony is invariably skewed. Ways of seeing have been limited to known ways of discussing. Alternative approaches offer new insights. The first section, "Experiments in Art Writing," examines two texts: T.J. Clark's The Sight of Death, a journal of his daily visits looking at two Poussin paintings, for which he maintains the ambiguity of exploration and argues to keep visual images from their dissolution into political symbols; and, Charles Simic's Dime Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, which foregrounds the imaginative as necessary to a critical reception of art. The second section, "Literary Ekphrases as Art History and Theory," examines a passage in Proust and a poem by William Carlos Williams to suggest that poetry and prose fiction not only introduce readers to art history but are extensions of the discussed visual works' own art history, and then turns to Don DeLillo's Point Omega to study the arguments around representation as voiced and experienced by the characters, and to suggest a move away from the concept of representation. The final section, "The Writing on the Wall," analyzes captions from Tate Modern's little-known but significant caption project Bigger Picture to develop a theoretical validation for such an experimental program. These authors show us how they see rather than simply what they see, and so reveal the advantages and dangers in their choices, recommending we develop renditions of what we see, where to see means both a visual ability and an articulate response.

  • The Insular Iscariot: Judas in Medieval British and Irish Literary Traditions

    Author:
    Christopher Leydon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    William Coleman
    Abstract:

    Because the betrayal is closely connected to the crucifixion and the resurrection, Judas Iscariot, perhaps the most infamous personage of the New Testament, occupies a privileged place in the Christian imagination. Judas figures prominently in patristic commentaries and exegetics, as well as in a number of extra-canonical texts and traditions from late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and beyond. This project considers the matter of Judas in two apocryphal legends of the later Middle Ages, situating them between canonical and extra-canonical traditions, and focuses on their circulation in British and Irish manuscripts. This original research rests upon a philological foundation, correcting a number of errors in previous scholarship on these texts. The first legend, De ortu Judae, is an Oedipodean biography of Judas that fills in gaps left by the evangelists and uses the 30 silver coins paid to Judas as the basis of an explanation for the betrayal of Jesus. Close comparison of Latin and Middle English texts shows that Jacobus of Voragine's Legenda Aurea is the direct source of the South English Legendary version of the Judas legend, rather than the anonymous Historia Apocrypha as some scholars have suggested. A further conclusion, that the unknown SEL poet was creative and innovative, is supported by annotated translations into modern English prose of the South English Legendary chapters on Judas and Pilate. In the second legend, De gallo redivivo, the miraculous resuscitation of a cooked cock proves to Judas the error of his ways, ultimately providing a motivation for his suicide, as well as making an explicit connection between the sins of Judas's betrayal and Peter's denials of Jesus. This apocryphon also links the 30 silver coins paid to Judas with the 30 silver hoops placed around the rood-tree by King David, centuries before its wood was made into Christ's cross. An examination of the Latin manuscript traditions demonstrates that, despite thematic similarities, De ortu Judae and De gallo redivivo hardly ever circulated together, and that, moreover, they were not integrated into a continuous narrative. Analysis of Judas texts from the Leabhar Breac and several other late medieval Irish manuscripts yields a preliminary conclusion that while De gallo redivivo was attested in the Irish vernacular, De ortu Judae was not well represented in Ireland and may even have been unknown there. Another conclusion that may be drawn from the test case of Judas is that there was always a great deal of interaction between canonical scriptures and apocryphal writings, and, for that matter, between official interpretations and popular traditions.

  • The Insular Iscariot: Judas in Medieval British and Irish Literary Traditions

    Author:
    Christopher Leydon
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    William Coleman
    Abstract:

    Because the betrayal is closely connected to the crucifixion and the resurrection, Judas Iscariot, perhaps the most infamous personage of the New Testament, occupies a privileged place in the Christian imagination. Judas figures prominently in patristic commentaries and exegetics, as well as in a number of extra-canonical texts and traditions from late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and beyond. This project considers the matter of Judas in two apocryphal legends of the later Middle Ages, situating them between canonical and extra-canonical traditions, and focuses on their circulation in British and Irish manuscripts. This original research rests upon a philological foundation, correcting a number of errors in previous scholarship on these texts. The first legend, De ortu Judae, is an Oedipodean biography of Judas that fills in gaps left by the evangelists and uses the 30 silver coins paid to Judas as the basis of an explanation for the betrayal of Jesus. Close comparison of Latin and Middle English texts shows that Jacobus of Voragine's Legenda Aurea is the direct source of the South English Legendary version of the Judas legend, rather than the anonymous Historia Apocrypha as some scholars have suggested. A further conclusion, that the unknown SEL poet was creative and innovative, is supported by annotated translations into modern English prose of the South English Legendary chapters on Judas and Pilate. In the second legend, De gallo redivivo, the miraculous resuscitation of a cooked cock proves to Judas the error of his ways, ultimately providing a motivation for his suicide, as well as making an explicit connection between the sins of Judas's betrayal and Peter's denials of Jesus. This apocryphon also links the 30 silver coins paid to Judas with the 30 silver hoops placed around the rood-tree by King David, centuries before its wood was made into Christ's cross. An examination of the Latin manuscript traditions demonstrates that, despite thematic similarities, De ortu Judae and De gallo redivivo hardly ever circulated together, and that, moreover, they were not integrated into a continuous narrative. Analysis of Judas texts from the Leabhar Breac and several other late medieval Irish manuscripts yields a preliminary conclusion that while De gallo redivivo was attested in the Irish vernacular, De ortu Judae was not well represented in Ireland and may even have been unknown there. Another conclusion that may be drawn from the test case of Judas is that there was always a great deal of interaction between canonical scriptures and apocryphal writings, and, for that matter, between official interpretations and popular traditions.