Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • An Algerien Primer: Mouloud Feraoun's Le Fils du pauvre, Translation Commentary

    Author:
    Lucy McNair
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Vincent Crapanzano
    Abstract:

    My 2005 translation of Mouloud Feraoun's Le Fils du pauvre, Menrad, instituteur kabyle, sought to correct an historical error by presenting this Algerian Francophone classic to an American audience for the first time since its publication in 1950. A central figure of the first generation of Algerian intellectuals to compellingly represent in fictional form the internal lives of native people during the era of French colonialism, Feraoun (1917-1962) embodied a moderate, humanist, culturally situated viewpoint that was ultimately sacrificed by all sides to the extremism and violence of decolonization. Choosing to work from the original edition, rather than the edition edited for French audiences on the eve of the Algerian revolution, my translation restores an entire section of the novel and offers a new glimpse of Feraoun's larger literary project. The work presented here is dual in form: As a translation commentary, it seeks to evoke, trace and illuminate the wager of Feraoun's first autobiographical novel from its inception to it troubled reception and its continuing impact. As a translation journey, it offers an evocative meditation on the audacity of any writer to pass from silence to authorship and sketches out in a comparative framework the connections and disconnections between Algeria and America. I argue that we have not translated Feraoun because Feraoun's work mapped a territory whose political boundaries imploded, yet whose human parameters were and remain universal. Today, we have much to gain from listening to the astute, ironic and deeply humane interrogations of this Berber-Muslim voice.

  • Sentenced to Life: Writing the Self in Dostoevsky and James

    Author:
    Evelina Mendelevich
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    André Aciman
    Abstract:

    This thesis is the first full-length study to compare Dostoevsky's and James's mutually illuminating concepts of art and its relation to life. It examines Dostoevsky's and James's artistic and intellectual kinship through the hitherto overlooked structural and thematic parallels between their fiction and criticism. Both authors distinguish between two concepts of reality: the external, objective reality--the raw material of life, infinitely rich and abundant, but ultimately meaningless in its indiscriminate inclusiveness; and what James calls the "transmuted real," reality rendered meaningful through individual perception and experience and reflected in art. When it comes to the inner reality of the self, one finds in the fiction of Dostoevsky and James the same distinction between the "raw" material of interior reality, indeterminate and "unfinalizable," and the meaningful social identity formed in the process of self-actualization--the creative effort of life-writing. Dostoevsky's "White Nights" and James's "The Beast in the Jungle" are examples of failure at life-writing resulting from individual consciousness' disengagement and isolation from external world. Concerned as they are with the inner workings of the psyche, Dostoevsky and James nevertheless stress that a living consciousness is characterised by interaction, i.e. it is always conscious of other consciousnesses. Yet Daisy Miller and Notes from the Underground dramatize the problems inherent in such interaction. Both novellas focus on the discrepancy between the essential indeterminacy of the self and the social and cultural identities through which it is allowed to express itself in a social setting. The freedom to preserve indeterminacy and potentiality is presented in both novellas as the chief law of life, yet indeterminacy is incompatible with communal living. In The Idiot and The Wings of the Dove, Dostoevsky and James present artistic imagination and such forms of literary activity as plotting, scripting, reading and narrating as essential parts of self-scripting strategies of the characters confronted with this predicament. Despite Myshkin's and Milly's failures as heroes, they nevertheless succeed in realizing their artistic potential, embodying art's capacity for reconciling the self's vital impulses for being and for seeing, and therefore for meeting both aesthetic and ethical demands of life.

  • Dante's Transmutation of Classical Friendship

    Author:
    Filippa Modesto
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Paul Oppenheimer
    Abstract: