Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • A Critical and Cultural Poetics of the End: Self, Space, and Volatility in Los Angeles

    Author:
    Pamela Albanese
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Ammiel Alcalay
    Abstract:

    A Critical and Cultural Poetics of the End: Self, Space, and Volatility in Los Angeles delineates the correspondences between Los Angeles spaces--exterior, topographical, architectural, and imaginary--and aspects of the self--interiority, identity, experience, and desire--in fictional and non-fictional depictions of Los Angeles. Through close readings of key Los Angeles novels, essays, and films, this project emphasizes how the narrative "I" traverses urban space, focusing on the dissolution of boundaries between self and place. Los Angeles' sprawling, decentralized layout and rapidly-shifting landscape have a profound influence on narrative identity, generating a volatile and disquieting sense of self; this project also explores how the city's unique spatial orientation contributes to a literature and cinema of disillusionment exclusive to Los Angeles.

  • A Critical and Cultural Poetics of the End: Self, Space, and Volatility in Los Angeles

    Author:
    Pamela Albanese
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Ammiel Alcalay
    Abstract:

    A Critical and Cultural Poetics of the End: Self, Space, and Volatility in Los Angeles delineates the correspondences between Los Angeles spaces--exterior, topographical, architectural, and imaginary--and aspects of the self--interiority, identity, experience, and desire--in fictional and non-fictional depictions of Los Angeles. Through close readings of key Los Angeles novels, essays, and films, this project emphasizes how the narrative "I" traverses urban space, focusing on the dissolution of boundaries between self and place. Los Angeles' sprawling, decentralized layout and rapidly-shifting landscape have a profound influence on narrative identity, generating a volatile and disquieting sense of self; this project also explores how the city's unique spatial orientation contributes to a literature and cinema of disillusionment exclusive to Los Angeles.

  • Making Conversation: The Poetics of Voice in Modernist Fiction

    Author:
    Elizabeth Alsop
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    John Brenkman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the function of dialogue within modernist fiction, and argues that it can be seen to assume a substantially expanded and diversified role in early twentieth-century narrative texts. While existing accounts of fictional speech stress its capacity to develop character or advance plot, I contend that modernist authors began using speech differently than it had historically been used in the novel: less for characterizing and plot-advancing purposes, than for rhetorical and poetic ones. My primary case studies include a cross-section of British and American modernist texts - including Henry James's The Ambassadors, Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, James Joyce's "The Dead," Virginia Woolf's The Waves, and William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom! - as well as examples from post-War Italian narrative, which reflect the influence of Anglophone modernism. Through close, comparative analyses of how fictional voice is deployed in these texts, and by drawing on a range of literary and narrative theory (by Mikhail Bakhtin, Franco Moretti, and Sharon Cameron among others) I demonstrate that these writers frequently "make" conversation less to express character, than to communicate ideas or affects that exceed character. In particular, I disclose the tendency for discourse within these fictional environments to belong to more than one speaker - or conversely, to none. By challenging the attributive logic used to make sense of represented speech, these texts encourage us to refocus our critical attention away from discrete utterances, and toward the larger system of utterances that emerges in a given work. In this way, I argue, modernist fiction seems to demand (and reward) a new mode of reading and interpreting fictional dialogue: one which takes into account how characters say, as well as what they say, and which treats dialogue's form as at least as rich a source of meaning as its content.

  • The Politics of Laughter in Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso" and Cervantes' "Don Quixote"

    Author:
    Rosa Amatulli
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Clare Carroll
    Abstract:

    Abstract The Politics of Laughter in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and Cervantes' Don Quixote By Rosa Amatulli Adviser: Professor Clare Carroll This dissertation explores the function of laughter in the Orlando Furioso and Don Quixote. Contrary to those who consider laughter an emotional release devoid of social and political importance, this study will show that laughter is a very powerful social and political world view. For Ariosto and Cervantes laughter was a most appropriate literary vehicle with which to respond to the great social and political changes of their time. Embodying the political climate of their milieu, their characters are ridiculous because they fail to be political in the Platonic-Aristotelian sense of the word politiké and because they fail to engage with the political life of their communities. These characters are idions, that is to say, they are ridiculously unethical: they are irresponsible and apolitical, and as such they are ridiculed. In order to understand the social-political aspects of laughter, we will first have to answer the question, what is a system of ethics. A system of ethics aims to prescribe the right kind of social action according to different situations: political, military, economic, etc. Plato's and Aristotle's philosophies, and Pico della Mirandola's and Leonardo Bruni's theories, will demonstrate that systems of ethics are not transcendental but answer to different situations, and that an ethics is the prescription for social behavior and not merely individual behavior. For example, the knights in the Orlando Furioso are ridiculous for two main reasons: one, because they are swayed by their appetites and two, because they are not loyal to the principles of knighthood, and specifically to their political, ethical and moral duties. Don Quixote, on the other hand, is ridiculous for opposite reasons. Forgetful or, neglectful of the contemporary social and economic life-world around him, Don Quixote is obsessively loyal to a set of ethics relevant only to chivalry, and not to his contemporary society. Thus, while the knights in the Orlando Furioso are derided for being individualistic and devoid of any high ideals, for failing to behave in ways conducive to the common good, Don Quixote suffers ridicule for being too idealistic and for attempting to enforce certain ideals that have no relevance given the contemporary state of affairs--illustrative of the fact that moral values and ideology are historically bound. Four chapters constitute the main body of this dissertation: Chapter I is devoted to Plato and Aristotle's conceptualization of ethics and laughter and, Chapter II is dedicated to the Renaissance understanding of political and ethical agency in the philosophies of Leonardo Bruni and Pico della Mirandola. After proposing the relationship between politics and ethics in the first two chapters, Chapter III analyzes the ridiculous behavior of the idions in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and Chapter IV analyzes the honorable--yet foolish conduct of the knight in Cervantes' Don Quixote.

  • The Politics of Laughter in Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso" and Cervantes' "Don Quixote"

    Author:
    Rosa Amatulli
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Clare Carroll
    Abstract:

    Abstract The Politics of Laughter in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and Cervantes' Don Quixote By Rosa Amatulli Adviser: Professor Clare Carroll This dissertation explores the function of laughter in the Orlando Furioso and Don Quixote. Contrary to those who consider laughter an emotional release devoid of social and political importance, this study will show that laughter is a very powerful social and political world view. For Ariosto and Cervantes laughter was a most appropriate literary vehicle with which to respond to the great social and political changes of their time. Embodying the political climate of their milieu, their characters are ridiculous because they fail to be political in the Platonic-Aristotelian sense of the word politiké and because they fail to engage with the political life of their communities. These characters are idions, that is to say, they are ridiculously unethical: they are irresponsible and apolitical, and as such they are ridiculed. In order to understand the social-political aspects of laughter, we will first have to answer the question, what is a system of ethics. A system of ethics aims to prescribe the right kind of social action according to different situations: political, military, economic, etc. Plato's and Aristotle's philosophies, and Pico della Mirandola's and Leonardo Bruni's theories, will demonstrate that systems of ethics are not transcendental but answer to different situations, and that an ethics is the prescription for social behavior and not merely individual behavior. For example, the knights in the Orlando Furioso are ridiculous for two main reasons: one, because they are swayed by their appetites and two, because they are not loyal to the principles of knighthood, and specifically to their political, ethical and moral duties. Don Quixote, on the other hand, is ridiculous for opposite reasons. Forgetful or, neglectful of the contemporary social and economic life-world around him, Don Quixote is obsessively loyal to a set of ethics relevant only to chivalry, and not to his contemporary society. Thus, while the knights in the Orlando Furioso are derided for being individualistic and devoid of any high ideals, for failing to behave in ways conducive to the common good, Don Quixote suffers ridicule for being too idealistic and for attempting to enforce certain ideals that have no relevance given the contemporary state of affairs--illustrative of the fact that moral values and ideology are historically bound. Four chapters constitute the main body of this dissertation: Chapter I is devoted to Plato and Aristotle's conceptualization of ethics and laughter and, Chapter II is dedicated to the Renaissance understanding of political and ethical agency in the philosophies of Leonardo Bruni and Pico della Mirandola. After proposing the relationship between politics and ethics in the first two chapters, Chapter III analyzes the ridiculous behavior of the idions in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and Chapter IV analyzes the honorable--yet foolish conduct of the knight in Cervantes' Don Quixote.

  • "Double Consciousness" and "Dual-Voice": Ambivalence and Free Indirect Style in Novels and Films

    Author:
    Leah Anderst
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Andre Aciman
    Abstract:

    This project compares and analyzes five novels and three films: Jane Austen's Emma, Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education and Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl, Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea's Memories of Underdevelopment and Eric Rohmer's My Night at Maud's. This dissertation describes a link between the uses of free indirect style, a "dual-voiced" narrative mode that combines two distinct perspectives into one instance of discourse: that of a narrator and that of a character, and psychological ambivalence, the back and forth wavering of a fictional character. This dissertation focuses on novels and narrative fiction films that center on one character, and it shows the ways in which these works call attention to a character's ambivalence and hesitations while relying on free indirect style, a formally ambivalent narrative mode, to expose and, at times, to create ambivalence in the mind of the reader or viewer. As an interdisciplinary project, this dissertation locates free indirect style in prose and cinematic narration, and it also explores the implications of analyzing a traditionally linguistic and literary mode within cinema.

  • "Double Consciousness" and "Dual-Voice": Ambivalence and Free Indirect Style in Novels and Films

    Author:
    Leah Anderst
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Andre Aciman
    Abstract:

    This project compares and analyzes five novels and three films: Jane Austen's Emma, Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education and Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors and The Golden Bowl, Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea's Memories of Underdevelopment and Eric Rohmer's My Night at Maud's. This dissertation describes a link between the uses of free indirect style, a "dual-voiced" narrative mode that combines two distinct perspectives into one instance of discourse: that of a narrator and that of a character, and psychological ambivalence, the back and forth wavering of a fictional character. This dissertation focuses on novels and narrative fiction films that center on one character, and it shows the ways in which these works call attention to a character's ambivalence and hesitations while relying on free indirect style, a formally ambivalent narrative mode, to expose and, at times, to create ambivalence in the mind of the reader or viewer. As an interdisciplinary project, this dissertation locates free indirect style in prose and cinematic narration, and it also explores the implications of analyzing a traditionally linguistic and literary mode within cinema.

  • A SPIRIT OF THE EARTH: VITALISM IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY LITERATURE

    Author:
    Anastassiya Andrianova
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Felicia Bonaparte
    Abstract:

    A Spirit of the Earth: Vitalism in Nineteenth-Century Literature studies a movement that began in reaction to Mechanism, the view that all natural phenomena, including life, could be explained by observable physical causes. Due to its emphasis on material causation, Mechanism is interchangeable with empiricism, which holds that knowledge is based on experience and regular observation, and, by extension, with the Positivist application of the scientific method outside the natural world. Unlike the Mechanists, Vitalist scientists insisted that there was more to life than physico-chemical processes; life demanded a special cause: what Henri Bergson called the élan vital and Bernard Shaw--"the Life Force." What started in science acquired much broader philosophical ramifications. Vitalism became the sole source of hope for writers, philosophers, and artists committed to deeper questions of being who found it morally objectionable to turn to empiricism and mechanistic science for answers. Mechanism was objectionable on several counts. It emphasized the external over the internal, and framed our connection to the world as that of a subject observing a dead nature. Second, it denied human and artistic freedom, reducing agency to reflex action. Third, it denied existence any higher purpose: Charles Darwin, in Samuel Butler's famous accusation, banished Mind from the universe and replaced it with random selection, thereby raising ethical and existential questions. The nineteenth-century authors examined in this dissertation (George Meredith, Leo Tolstoy, Butler, and Shaw) did not reject science altogether and were drawn to contemporary evolutionary theories; seeing nature as a living being, they reinvented science and gave evolution a purpose, claiming that we could reconnect with nature through instinct, not reason, and becoming part of this organism, come to know it as well as ourselves. As a philosophy, Vitalism allowed them to expose everything unnatural: from abstract theories to outdated social institutions; as an aesthetic, it gave them an imagistic language to embody what Walter Pater called the "spirit of the Earth" in women, children, and child-like individuals. Each chapter reflects a separate area of Vitalist critique: the philosophy of science; poetry; the spiritual quest; Victorian education; and social evolution.

  • A SPIRIT OF THE EARTH: VITALISM IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY LITERATURE

    Author:
    Anastassiya Andrianova
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Felicia Bonaparte
    Abstract:

    A Spirit of the Earth: Vitalism in Nineteenth-Century Literature studies a movement that began in reaction to Mechanism, the view that all natural phenomena, including life, could be explained by observable physical causes. Due to its emphasis on material causation, Mechanism is interchangeable with empiricism, which holds that knowledge is based on experience and regular observation, and, by extension, with the Positivist application of the scientific method outside the natural world. Unlike the Mechanists, Vitalist scientists insisted that there was more to life than physico-chemical processes; life demanded a special cause: what Henri Bergson called the élan vital and Bernard Shaw--"the Life Force." What started in science acquired much broader philosophical ramifications. Vitalism became the sole source of hope for writers, philosophers, and artists committed to deeper questions of being who found it morally objectionable to turn to empiricism and mechanistic science for answers. Mechanism was objectionable on several counts. It emphasized the external over the internal, and framed our connection to the world as that of a subject observing a dead nature. Second, it denied human and artistic freedom, reducing agency to reflex action. Third, it denied existence any higher purpose: Charles Darwin, in Samuel Butler's famous accusation, banished Mind from the universe and replaced it with random selection, thereby raising ethical and existential questions. The nineteenth-century authors examined in this dissertation (George Meredith, Leo Tolstoy, Butler, and Shaw) did not reject science altogether and were drawn to contemporary evolutionary theories; seeing nature as a living being, they reinvented science and gave evolution a purpose, claiming that we could reconnect with nature through instinct, not reason, and becoming part of this organism, come to know it as well as ourselves. As a philosophy, Vitalism allowed them to expose everything unnatural: from abstract theories to outdated social institutions; as an aesthetic, it gave them an imagistic language to embody what Walter Pater called the "spirit of the Earth" in women, children, and child-like individuals. Each chapter reflects a separate area of Vitalist critique: the philosophy of science; poetry; the spiritual quest; Victorian education; and social evolution.

  • Postmodern Metafiction Revisited

    Author:
    Lissi Athanasiou Krikelis
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Mary Caws
    Abstract:

    By its ostensible definition, metafiction is fiction that dramatizes its own construction, proffering constant reminders of its artificiality. The term "metafiction," however, is hardly transparent. "Metafiction" is in danger of having an array of definitions, and, because it is believed to be equated with postmodern fiction, it is often associated with the literature of the eighties and therefore appears outdated. Through an examination of various novels mainly from the twentieth century and literature of the West, this dissertation unifies the multiple definitions that have been assigned to the term and provides a typology that facilitates the identification of the metafictional novel. In addition, this dissertation revisits certain assumptions that have clung to the term arbitrarily, namely that metafiction is ahistorical and apolitical because it is self-referential. Beginning with a theoretical approach that views metafiction as a postmodern phenomenon borrowing from structural and post-structural thought, this study comparatively explores metafiction's most recent manifestations and concludes by questioning metafiction's affinity to postmodernism. Moreover, this study identifies and explores two new examples of metafiction, the metaautobiographical novel and the post-millenium metafictional novel. The metaautobiographical novel is a hybrid genre, where a fictional author-character reconstructs their biographical record through the act of writing fiction. For a metaautobiographical protagonist, fiction cannot define the self nor write the past, but is bound to reinvent both, thus turning itself into a what-if version of the protagonist's reality. In the wake of conversations that explore the potential death of postmodernity, post-millennium (or post-technological) metafiction can be contrasted to postmodern metafiction. It deviates from postmodern practices by responding to technology and by combining its astute fictionality with the dramatic realization that fictionality and reality converge in the realm of fiction. Whereas postmodern metafiction projects that the world may be a fictional construction, post-millenium metafiction proclaims that even highly self-reflexive texts share a profound relation with the world, influencing and affecting what lies beyond them.