Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Drawing Conclusions: Visual Literacy in Ficition

    Author:
    Emily Lauer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    David Greetham
    Abstract:

    In "Drawing Conclusions," I engage in an interdisciplinary examination of the words and pictures in four Victorian masterpieces of the illustrated novel, arguing that the unique publishing situation of each of these texts and the very different interactions between the authors and illustrators of each have resulted in four distinct examples of the functions illustrations in fiction can fulfill. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, written by Dickens and illustrated by Browne, among others, was published in 1836. Once Browne became involved in the project, Dickens established a working relationship between them in which he provided lengthy descriptions of scenes to be illustrated - sometimes of scenes not yet written - and it became Browne's job to interpret these descriptions. I posit that in Pickwick Papers, which became paradigmatic for later illustrated serial novels, the illustrations function as a sort of running commentary on the written text, complicating the idea of a division of labor between words and pictures even as the illustrations played up some of the same visual thematic elements in Dickens' written text. In Vanity Fair, written and illustrated by Thackeray a decade after Pickwick Papers was published, I find that Thackeray's full-page captioned plates and smaller vignettes both reinforce and add nuance to the written text, by creating tone and allegory. Thackeray also begins each chapter with a historiated initial - an illustrated capital that combines the functions of letter and picture in a way requiring readerly participation. Here, the many illustrations by the author are integral to an understanding of the novel. The reader must collaborate with the text in order to process both the word and picture at the same time. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll, contains 42 illustrations by John Tenniel. Because their intended audience was children, and because Carroll acknowledged Tenniel's greater experience in publishing matters, the author and illustrator of Wonderland were very mindful of the effect of their collaboration. I argue that the result is a combination of word and picture in which the pictorial representation of the protagonist melds with her written representation to form two views on one solid and realistic subject, reinforcing Alice's normality as she explores a strange dreamworld. Finally, I discuss an edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813), published with illustrations by Hugh Thomson in 1894. The hundreds of line drawings in this edition draw attention to those aspects of the novel's plot most interesting to Thomson's late Victorian readership. The subtle gloss provided by these illustrations affected the way Austen entered the literary canon as well as the way Thomson's audience thought about Austen's own priorities. Ultimately, the four different scenarios I address - Dickens instructing his illustrator in an imperious manner, Thackeray illustrating his own written text, Carroll and Tenniel collaborating closely, and Hugh Thomson modifying Austen to suit his contemporary readership - each result in a different role for the illustrations in the narrative. In "Drawing Conclusions," I draw the conclusion that pictures can comment on, complicate, reinforce or update a written text based on the situation in which the written text and illustrations are combined.

  • Occupy Wall Street's Challenge to an American Public Transcript

    Author:
    Christopher Leary
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Ira Shor
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the rhetoric and discourses of the anti-corporate movement Occupy Wall Street, using frameworks from political ethnography and critical discourse analysis to offer a thick, triangulated description of a single event, Occupy Wall Street's occupation of Zuccotti Park. The study shows how Occupy achieved a disturbing positionality relative to the forces which routinely dominate public discourse and proposes that Occupy's encampment was politically intolerable to the status quo because the movement held the potential to consolidate critical thought and action. Because the "soft" means of re-capturing public consent were weak in 2011 because of the 2008 economic collapse, the dominant figure in this encounter, billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, led the way to instruments of "hard" persuasion, culminating in the orchestrated assault carried out on November 15th, an operation that saw the media sequestered, at night, in the dark, with no filmed images allowed or possible, and all street access blocked to supporters of Occupy. The use of "hard persausion" by the authorities in response to Occupy's discursive threat clarifies how reality is constituted through discursive and material action and suggests that alternative discourse and action has the power to reconstitute reality, redistributing power and working in opposition to human suffering and oppression.

  • Reading Nation in Translation: The Spectral Transnationality of the Malaysian Racial Imaginary

    Author:
    Fiona Lee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Peter Hitchcock
    Abstract:

    In recent decades, literary studies has experienced a global turn, often understood as a move beyond national paradigms of analysis, which are deemed to be narrow and particularistic. Although wary of the tacit universalizing tendencies of global frames, scholars of race and postcoloniality have critically embraced the global by arguing for the need to theorize transnationalism from marginalized perspectives. However, casting the global and the national in oppositional terms ignores the fact that national racial ideologies both actively shape and are shaped by globally circulating ideas about race. An understudied site in postcolonial studies, Malaysia--formerly known as Malaya--is an exemplary case that unsettles this binary opposition. Informed by racialized distinctions between "native" and "migrants" inherited from colonial rule, the constitutionalized "special position" of "bumiputera" (literally sons of the earth or autochthonous group) citizens effectively renders race a defining aspect of national identity. This dissertation presents translation as an entry point into theorizing the relation between the national and the global in the production of the Malaysian racial imaginary. Drawing on theories of cultural translation, I begin with the premise that translation is a process of figuration, rather than a transfer of uncontaminated cultural essence, from one mode of signification to another. Through analyses of graphic narratives, novels and films, I consider how various modes of translation are used in these texts both to articulate a common national identity that unifies these groups, and, at the same time, to maintain their racialized distinctions. I argue that discerning the modes of translation embedded in the process of national identity formation--what I call, reading nation in translation--elucidates the transnational historical forces, be it the reordering of the British Empire amidst its impending end; the burgeoning global Cold War; or the intensification of global financial capitalism in the late twentieth-century, that shape the national racial imaginary. Reading nation in translation thus contributes toward a critical conception of transnationalism, one that not only presents the nation and the global as oppositional frames of analysis, but as mutually haunting one another. In foregrounding the global forces, both past and present, that animate the national racial imaginary, it also argues for the importance of attending to processes of racialization as a mode of globalization.

  • A Pedagogy of Faith: The Theological Dimension of Paulo Freire's Educational Theory and Practice

    Author:
    Irwin Leopando
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Ira Shor
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the theological framework of Paulo Freire's radical-democratic pedagogy. Since the English-language publication of Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 1970, this Brazilian educator, activist, theorist, and public intellectual has been most commonly viewed in North America and Western Europe as a revolutionary Marxist, as a radical social democrat, or as a humanist educator. There has been a widespread among many of his readers to overlook the religious elements of his pedagogical system. This dissertation contends that a full account of Freire's lifelong work requires an exploration of its roots in mid-twentieth century Catholic thought, from the Christian humanism of Jacques Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier to the "prophetic" radicalism of Latin American liberation theology. It traces the evolution of Freire's thought from his immersion in middle-class Catholic activism before Brazil's April 1964 coup to his widely-acknowledged status as the most prominent and influential pedagogical thinker of his generation. It highlights the extent to which Freire's progressive Catholicism shaped such central aspects of his work as "conscientization," social justice, historical possibility, revolutionary socialism, and human nature, thus demonstrating the extent to which Freire's faith informed his pedagogical and political project.

  • Reading Cruft: A Cognitive Approach to the Mega-Novel

    Author:
    David Letzler
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Gerhard Joseph
    Abstract:

    Reading Cruft offers a new critical model in which to examine a genre vital to modern literature, the mega-novel. Building on theoretical work in both cognitive narratology and cognitive poetics, it argues that the mega-novel is primarily characterized by its inclusion of a substantial amount of pointless text ("cruft"), which it uses to challenge its readers' abilities to modulate their attention and rapidly shift their modes of text processing. Structured into five chapters respectively devoted to subgenres in which mega-novels have been grouped--the dictionary novel, the encyclopedic novel, the Menippean satire, the picaresque and frame-tale, and the epic and allegory--it demonstrates how these books make substantial use of their generic elements but also include text that fails to either fulfill or subvert their most crucial elements, rendering much of their text into excess that cannot be deeply processed. However, mega-novels also contain text that, though appearing to be cruft, is actually quite important, forcing readers to subtly distinguish between the text that does require deep attention and that which does not. This requires readers to develop more sophisticated procedures of attentional modulation in text processing. Reading Cruft argues that the education of attention this process prompts can aid readers in learning to manage the information overload that increasingly characterizes every aspect of contemporary life.

  • Familiar Estrangements: Reading Family in Middle English Romance

    Author:
    Gary Lim
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Steven Kruger
    Abstract:

    This dissertation, Familiar Estrangements: Reading Family in Middle English Romance, explores the varied representations of marriage and family in Middle English romance. While Middle English romances often act with disciplinary force to cultivate and popularize ideals about the family, many romances also stand in ambivalent relationship to this disciplinary function. Even if they end up valorizing the nuclear family, they do so through circuitous routes—such as depicting surrogate father–child relationships, inter-racial marriages, the loss of family members, and adultery—as they imagine alternatives means by which families cohere. The chapters take up each of these themes in turn, through readings that are historicized against political and social realities, and informed by psychoanalytic theory. The dissertation begins with a discussion of how three popular romances—Sir Tryamour, Sir Cleges, and Sir Isumbras—idealize the nuclear family so as to advance the interests of their likely audience, the bourgeois-gentry class. Chapter two shows how this idealization is problematized, tracing the alternatives to nuclear families by examining the presence of surrogate fathers in Havelok the Dane, King Horn, and Bevis of Hampton, contextualizing this against the practice of wardship in the thirteenth century. The next chapter reads the inter-religious marriages of The King of Tars, The Sultan of Babylon, and Richard Coer de Lyon, arguing that the anxieties over inter-religious marriage and miscegenation reflect England's evolving attitudes towards its French heritage over the course of the Hundred Years War. Chapter four focuses on a single romance—Gower's "Apollonius of Tyre"—arguing that how the loss of family members is memorialized creates a 'virtual' family that is turned towards political ends. Chapter five examines how adultery is related to the conception of the family in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, contextualizing the work against the dynastic strife created by the Wars of the Roses. In general, the thesis argues that while ecclesiastical ideas about the family in the high and late Middle Ages began to produce what we would now recognize as nuclear families, the Middle English romance remained a vigorous site where alternatives to doctrinal ideals about the family were imagined.

  • Metachromatics: Applied Color Across Media in the Age of Composite Pictures (1839-1935)

    Author:
    Robert Machado
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Wayne Koestenbaum
    Abstract:

    This dissertation articulates an analytic for observing, measuring, contextualizing, recovering, and re-purposing chromatic fields within and across a variety of media and disciplines. Drawing on recent strategies within visual culture studies, including postclassical narratology, this framework adapts the historical division in aesthetics between color, and line and form, to examine color's differential status within verbal and visual expression and the social formations that its relations reflect, reinforce, or challenge. This enduring theoretical binarization--variously iterated and deployed at least since Antiquity--organizes an "inherent" opposition between color and line and form whose representation, by iconic analogy, has been used to assimilate and naturalize other binarically- construed ontologies, including identity formations, divisions of labor, and social hierarchies. In part because of its phenomenal instability, color within this discourse often functions as an especially receptive space into which constructions of non-figurability, alterity, abstraction, allusion, "essence," and desire are projected and inscribed. Opposite the indexical line and form of early photography and early cinema before the rise of "natural color" processes (1839-1935), and the "line and form" of narrative according to dominant theories of narratology, chromatic additions can be seen exemplifying this function. This dissertation tests the uses of this analytic within these media, and within considerations of intertexts and critical commentary that include intersections of realist and local color literature, Symbolist theater and painting, ekphrastic poetry, theories of art and sciences of vision, early photo-cinematic color labor, classical and postclassical narrative theory, and experimental methodologies of reading/reception.

  • Camp, the Canon, and a Performative Burlesque: Paula Vogel's Plays as Literary and Cultural Revision

    Author:
    Joanna Mansbridge
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    David Savran
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the ways in which Paula Vogel's plays respond to and rewrite canonical texts, while simultaneously addressing contemporary concerns, such as domestic violence, pornography, pedophilia, and AIDS. Vogel's dialectical writing strategy encourages the audience to look at these cultural issues from a defamiliarized, historical perspective, so that they are seen less as sensationalized "issues" and more as historical questions that have accumulated meanings over time. In addition, since many of her plays rewrite texts by such canonical giants as Shakespeare, Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, and David Mamet, to engage with Vogel is to engage with the canon of theatre and literary studies, as it is restaged in a different historical context and recast with women at the center of the action. Responding to a predominantly male canon, Vogel shifts the focus away from an often universalized, truth-seeking male protagonist, placing women center stage, not as valorized heroines, but as conflicted characters who both enact and resist the discourses that constitute their bodies and identities. Thus, the overarching goal of this study is to examine the ways in which the dialectical structure and dramaturgical strategies of Vogel's plays offer another way of looking at the literary canon, social history, and contemporary American culture. Since Vogel's plays rewrite canonical texts, position women center stage, present polymorphous sexualities, and mobilize humor to approach uncomfortable topics, her plays employ a dramaturgical strategy that I am calling a "performative burlesque." While camp is the broader aesthetic within which Vogel works, burlesque foregrounds an eroticized female spectacle. A performative burlesque, as it operates in Vogel's plays, describes: a writing strategy that strips bodies and texts of their accumulated cultural connotations; a comedic blending of high and low forms; a mode of performance describing the ways in which her characters expose themselves, psychically, emotionally, and physically; an extension of a historical theatre practice that continues to inform the cultural meanings around women in performance, both on and off stage.

  • Works in Progress: Child Characters in Victorian and Postcolonial Fiction, 1814 - 2006

    Author:
    Kiran Mascarenhas
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Ashley Dawson
    Abstract:

    Abstract Works in Progress: Child Characters in Victorian and Postcolonial Fiction, 1814 - 2006 By Kiran Mascarenhas Advisers: Ashley Dawson, Talia Schaffer In this dissertation I analyze the relationship between national and individual development in Victorian and postcolonial novels set in India. My central argument is that the investment in the idea of progress that characterizes colonial narratives of childhood gives way in postcolonial fiction to a suspicion of dominant understandings of progress, and that this difference is manifest in the identity formation of the child character as well as in the form of the novel. In the Victorian colonial narratives discussed in this study, the bildung of the child involves the overcoming of the child's conflicted cultural identity. The children of the colonial elite are socialized in early years by their Indian caregivers. As the children begin to acquire Indian languages, tastes and mores, however, British adults, driven by cultural anxiety, seek to re-educate and Anglicize the children until there is scarcely a trace of Indian influence in the child's appearance or conduct. Likewise, gender and class identity, though ambiguous in the years of infancy, settles towards the end of a typical colonial narrative. However, the proper classification of the child towards which the colonial novel strains is effected so anxiously that even optimistic colonial narratives like Dinah Mulock Craik's "The Half-Caste" (1857) or Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894) convey an awareness of the fragility of the government of child and colony. Where in Victorian novels children eventually outgrow their hybrid identity, in postcolonial novels the gender, class and national identities of the child-protagonists never quite settle. The final chapter of my dissertation connects the figure of the neglected child in postcolonial fiction with larger questions of nation formation and argues that the veneer of investment in progress evident in Victorian novels has worn away to reveal a ubiquitous, though uneven, sense of betrayal. The chapters are organized around texts produced at moments widely considered critical in the history of colonial India: the missionary tracts produced after the legalization of missionary work in 1813, the emergence of the "post-mutiny boy hero" in the wake of the Revolt of 1857, the repatriation narratives that proliferated in the twilight years of empire, colonial writing by Indian writers at the time of decolonization, and finally postcolonial narratives that layer the problems of liberalization, such as a perceived disconnect between the citizen and the state in an age of transnational capital, with India's colonial past. Contrasted with the understanding of history as a series of critical moments is the narrative of slow violence over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the gradual degradation of human and environmental rights under first colonial and then postcolonial elite regimes. Finally the dissertation looks for new ways forward from this potentially debilitating understanding of colonial and postcolonial history and literature.

  • How Does It Feel? Rationality and Affectivity in the Birth and Early Development of Rock and Roll

    Author:
    Grant Maxwell
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    English
    Advisor:
    Marc Dolan
    Abstract:

    Through chapters on Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan, this dissertation examines the hypothesis that the music and culture of rock and roll have mediated a return of intuitive, affective, and somatic epistemological modes discursively repressed in modernity. Employing a theoretical perspective derived from thinkers such as Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, William James, Henri Bergson, and Alfred North Whitehead, it shows how perhaps the preeminent musical genre of the mid-twentieth century enacted a dialectical return to archaic modes of experience as a complement to the privileging of rationalism and materialism since the Enlightenment. At the genre's inception in the mid-nineteen fifties, Elvis Presley participated in one prominent performative inflection of the intimate reintegration of the privileging polarity of rationality over affect that had come to pervade predominant cultural streams in the West over the preceding centuries, exemplified in the Cartesian cogito, the explicit equation of thought with human being in general. Subsequently, the Beatles and Bob Dylan brought this integration to a climax, the Beatles in the more external, social mode of the band, and Dylan in the more internal, introspective mode of the individual singer-songwriter. Along with many other artists, Presley, the Beatles, and Dylan performed a fundamental transformation of culture whose implications still largely condition our aesthetic and psychological experience in the early twenty-first century. Most texts about these three artists (and there are many) are either simple biographical narratives or analyses of music and lyrics, so a similar project would be largely redundant. By contrast, employing the methods of literary criticism, this dissertation primarily explicates the rhetorical nuances of the written and oral narratives about these figures, which obliquely trace a philosophy of rock and roll. That is, rock and roll appears to be both catalyst and expression of a deep and relatively sudden epistemological shift initiated on a mass scale in the mid-twentieth century. Although this shift was presaged by the confluence of many factors--musical, cultural, aesthetic, political, and economic--these elements seem never to have been fully synthesized until the emergence of rock and roll, never fully realized in a single lineage (among other lineages in other media) until Dylan, the Beatles, and others produced complementary syntheses of the mode Presley and his milieu had initiated with numerous other artistic and intellectual movements.