Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • The Rise of the American Culture of Sensationalism: 1620-1860

    Author:
    Alexander Moudrov
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Vincent Crapanzano
    Abstract:

    Much has been written about the unprecedented proliferation of sensationalist literature in the nineteenth century but very little about its origins. Such an oversight leaves our sense of early American literary history incomplete and even distorted by some persistent misconceptions about the concept of sensationalism and its place in American culture. In this dissertation I devise methodical ways of approaching this subject and explain its significance in the formation of American literary conventions. My project expands the scope of recent scholarship on sensationalist literature by examining the two areas which have so far been neglected in American studies: the origins of the American tradition of sensationalism and its place in the transatlantic context. As I demonstrate, the spectacular rise of sensationalist literature in the nineteenth century was not a spontaneous development. It grew out of a long domestic tradition of sensationalist rhetoric that emerged in the colonial period--much earlier than what is commonly perceived as the first significant outbreak of literary sensationalism in the aftermath of the American Revolution. Furthermore, patterns of provocative rhetoric, which also emerged early in the colonial period, formed an enduring rhetorical tradition whose proponents relied on a set of recognizable conventions that made a notable impact on American literary history.

  • Religiously Based Morality in the Theatre of Alexander Ostrovsky

    Author:
    Olga Muratova
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Daniel Gerould
    Abstract:

    Abstract RELIGIOUSLY BASED MORALITY IN THE THEATRE OF OSTROVSKY by Olga Muratova Adviser: Professor Daniel C. Gerould The dissertation offers a new way of interpreting Alexander Ostrovsky's dramas. The Ostrovsky scholarship is systematic, thorough, and well documented, but it may overlook a particular aspect of the playwright's work, that of Christian, and more specifically Russian Orthodox, morality. The dissertation correlates facts of Ostrovsky's biography (some of which were not publicized during the Soviet era), textual content of his dramas, and biblical conceptual language in them with the historical and cultural context of nineteenth-century Russia, revealing religiously based didacticism in the playwright's oeuvre. A coherent explanation of the factors (historical, ethnological, theological, epistemological, and, at least partially, ontological) that shaped Ostrovsky's life views and consequently his writing is offered as a key element of the argument presented. The writer's four metanarratives (guilt vs. shame; sin; money; theatre), which are being singled out as dominant in his dramas, are looked at from the standpoint of his understanding and interpretation of Christian doctrines. Previous research traditionally labeled a number of Ostrovsky's plays atypical for his writing style, thus creating an exclusive approach to the interpretation of the body of his work. However, if Ostrovsky is regarded as a didactic author who embodied within his plays certain attitudes about morality, which were the outgrowths of religion-influenced ethical positions of his time, exclusions become unnecessary and every drama conforms to a unifying pattern. By shedding more light on Ostrovsky's work and grounding it in Russian Orthodoxy, the dissertation demonstrates that while the playwright should be considered a realist in form, the content of his plays renders them moral fables, rooted in the Bible and the teachings of the Russian national church.

  • Religiously Based Morality in the Theatre of Alexander Ostrovsky

    Author:
    Olga Muratova
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Daniel Gerould
    Abstract:

    Abstract RELIGIOUSLY BASED MORALITY IN THE THEATRE OF OSTROVSKY by Olga Muratova Adviser: Professor Daniel C. Gerould The dissertation offers a new way of interpreting Alexander Ostrovsky's dramas. The Ostrovsky scholarship is systematic, thorough, and well documented, but it may overlook a particular aspect of the playwright's work, that of Christian, and more specifically Russian Orthodox, morality. The dissertation correlates facts of Ostrovsky's biography (some of which were not publicized during the Soviet era), textual content of his dramas, and biblical conceptual language in them with the historical and cultural context of nineteenth-century Russia, revealing religiously based didacticism in the playwright's oeuvre. A coherent explanation of the factors (historical, ethnological, theological, epistemological, and, at least partially, ontological) that shaped Ostrovsky's life views and consequently his writing is offered as a key element of the argument presented. The writer's four metanarratives (guilt vs. shame; sin; money; theatre), which are being singled out as dominant in his dramas, are looked at from the standpoint of his understanding and interpretation of Christian doctrines. Previous research traditionally labeled a number of Ostrovsky's plays atypical for his writing style, thus creating an exclusive approach to the interpretation of the body of his work. However, if Ostrovsky is regarded as a didactic author who embodied within his plays certain attitudes about morality, which were the outgrowths of religion-influenced ethical positions of his time, exclusions become unnecessary and every drama conforms to a unifying pattern. By shedding more light on Ostrovsky's work and grounding it in Russian Orthodoxy, the dissertation demonstrates that while the playwright should be considered a realist in form, the content of his plays renders them moral fables, rooted in the Bible and the teachings of the Russian national church.

  • Blood: A Victorian Idea in the Flesh

    Author:
    Raluca Musat
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Felicia Bonaparte
    Abstract:

    Abstract BLOOD: A VICTORIAN IDEA IN THE FLESH by Raluca Musat Adviser: Professor Felicia Bonaparte Based on a large body of primary works in science, philosophy, political economy and literature, this study argues that in the nineteenth century novel the meaning of "blood" changes from genealogy, as employed in the service of the aristocracy, to capacity for generosity and affection, conceived as able to counteract the godless secularism and money worship haunting the industrialized England of the time. "Good blood" begins to mean possessing these qualities more relevant to the needs of the time. Nevertheless, the old associations with noble genealogy continue to exercise influence imaginatively, through the connection with ancestors reputed to have been exceptional in some way, and in some respects practically, through the wealth and political clout still left the aristocracy. This inherent power is not to be wasted but repurposed by novelists, in an effort to reconcile the two meanings of the term and put the fable of blood behind the qualities required of true leaders. The study establishes the versatility of the word, which denotes, more than just social standing, physiological as well as moral and affective predispositions. This wide adaptability of meaning stems from the duality of blood, its physical concreteness coupled with unusual powers of suggestiveness. In showing that these can be manipulated to give authority to self-serving ideas, novelists dismantle the old prejudices in favor of hereditary titles and coats-of-arms. However, they continue to make use of the metaphoric potential intrinsic to the idea of blood to suggest that all people are bound in a fellowship of mankind and that those who are strong have a duty to help the weak. This spirit of altruism is apt to create a new set of relationships benefitting from associations with blood only in the derivative sense of parental care, brotherly love, and affinities of the heart. The goal is to reconstruct British society on the organic model of a great family, with an aristocracy of talent, and possibly even of birth, at its head, but functioning in a benevolently paternal way. This is not the end of the aristocracy but, rather, an opportunity to justify its privileges anew.

  • The Stability of Laughter, On the Comic Aesthetic in Modernist Literature

    Author:
    James Nikopoulos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    John Brenkman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation looks at European Modernism in light of one of its more neglected priorities: its rethinking of the nature of comedy and humor. The use of comic elements in the work of Luigi Pirandello, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Italo Svevo, and Samuel Beckett betrays a radical rethinking of the meaning of laughter and humor. As such, the theoretical predecessor to the Modernist use of the comic is Baudelaire, whose essay, "Sur l'essence du rire," details a complete upending of traditional ideas of laughter. No longer merely the representative phenomenon of "happiness" and "joy," laughter becomes the signpost par excellence of modern notions of ambiguity and instability which implicates the laugher as much as the laughed-at. Since Baudelaire's essay also reads laughter as a marker of character, it anticipates the Modernist use of one's sense of humor as a way of dramatizing one's subjectivity. What makes one laugh at nine years old is not always what makes him laugh at twenty-nine, the same way a Chinese man may not find the same thing funny as a man from Argentina. When a character laughs at something, an unconscious mode of communication is on display, one that dramatizes that character's specific subjectivity at the moment of the laughter. This is what Joyce works off of when he contrasts Bloom's playful sense of humor with the more violent mockery of his fellow Dubliners in Ulysses. This is about forging an emotional link or a profound disconnect between the psyches of individuals that is recognized in purely dramatic fashion. The exclusivity of the relationship between laugher and laugher, or between laugher and laughed-at, coupled with the comic's appeal to the universality of human laughter--we are the only species that laughs according to Aristotle and Darwin, which means as a species we all laugh--is what makes of the comic into a remarkably ambiguous aesthetic that operates in that no-man's land between the danger of life's myriad ironies and the safety of traditional comic values of community and happy endings. This dissertation deals with this in-between zone.

  • The Sage and the Fool: Antithesis, Paradoxy, and Reconciliation in a Dialectical Poetics of "Moriasophia"

    Author:
    John Pilsner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Clare Carroll
    Abstract:

    This study places the text and method of The Praise of Folly in a European context of folly-and-wisdom discourse, called here “moriasophia.” Moriasophia is a perennial theme with literary-historical origins, often depicted as two opposing figures in debate, or as a single, free-thinking individual confronting the dominant social, moral, and political order, or as a literary author writing in the ironic mode of truth-in-fiction. This study analyzes the literary trope on a theoretical level, demonstrating how a bivalent discourse of jest and earnest functions rhetorically and dialectically to explore and verify metaphysical, moral, and epistemological inferences. At issue is whether the breach between literary and logical methods may be reconciled by Folly, as she transforms images of ignorance and malice into likenesses of holy idiocy. Thematic continuity and cultural synthesis is demonstrated in ancient through early modern literature. The discussion emphasizes the seminal figures of Socrates, Diogenes, St. Paul, and Dionysius the Areopagite, with particular attention paid to Plato's Parmenides, Petrarch's On his own Ignorance, and Nicholas of Cusa's On Learned Ignorance and Idiota on Wisdom. The Praise of Folly represents a cultural high point not only because of its command of precedents, literary creativity, and rhetorical sophistication, but because Erasmus invents novel ways of engaging the reader in substantial questions about language, knowledge, and faith. The result is a new generic blueprint, a dialectical poetic which invites theoretical speculation even as it provokes an affective response to human experience.

  • Scrivere la diversit√†: autobiografia e politica in Clara Sereni

    Author:
    Giulia Po
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Eugenia Paulicelli
    Abstract:

    This monographic study provides a thematic examination across Clara Sereni's texts of life writing (autobiographies and one memoir) and fictional works. As the dissertation aims to demonstrate, writing is for Sereni a political act. The text, in fact, becomes her space to develop a female stance that asserts the importance of the private realm, reevaluate interpersonal and intergenerational relations, and show that diversity can be seen as a positive resource in society. Sereni's writing presents the undeniable influence of feminism: the significance of politicizing personal lives, the critique to the subaltern role of women in society, mother and daughter difficult relationship, gender, sexuality, and the body are central in her work, and echo that desire of political expression of subjectivity embodied by feminists. But her effort to subvert the male power, whether represented by his socio-political authority or his language, has deeper reasons rooted in the personal experiences of a family that always considered politics, ideals and culture as imperative duties. The writer exposes her own self to the public, finding that introspective world left out by her parents' public language and way of life because, in contrast to them, she cannot separate her private life from her public one. Writing subjectively becomes Sereni's way to reinterpret the experiences of the past in a process of autobiographical experimentation that embodies the feminine discourse, and allows the writer to shift her perspectives and better understand her own identity as Jewish, daughter, and woman. Writing about social issues is her way to voice a different way of perceiving those who have disadvantages in society, the underserved, the "others." In both cases, her writing acts to build a new horizon that she calls "utopia," which becomes a search that does not constrain itself, but welcomes contradictions and opens up to the creation of hybrid texts. The dissertation aims to frame Sereni's works into a precise socio-historical context, and to draw on theoretical criticism and research in areas related to women's writing, autobiography, concepts of memory, history and culture, and gender studies.

  • Scrivere la diversit√†: autobiografia e politica in Clara Sereni

    Author:
    Giulia Po
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Eugenia Paulicelli
    Abstract:

    This monographic study provides a thematic examination across Clara Sereni's texts of life writing (autobiographies and one memoir) and fictional works. As the dissertation aims to demonstrate, writing is for Sereni a political act. The text, in fact, becomes her space to develop a female stance that asserts the importance of the private realm, reevaluate interpersonal and intergenerational relations, and show that diversity can be seen as a positive resource in society. Sereni's writing presents the undeniable influence of feminism: the significance of politicizing personal lives, the critique to the subaltern role of women in society, mother and daughter difficult relationship, gender, sexuality, and the body are central in her work, and echo that desire of political expression of subjectivity embodied by feminists. But her effort to subvert the male power, whether represented by his socio-political authority or his language, has deeper reasons rooted in the personal experiences of a family that always considered politics, ideals and culture as imperative duties. The writer exposes her own self to the public, finding that introspective world left out by her parents' public language and way of life because, in contrast to them, she cannot separate her private life from her public one. Writing subjectively becomes Sereni's way to reinterpret the experiences of the past in a process of autobiographical experimentation that embodies the feminine discourse, and allows the writer to shift her perspectives and better understand her own identity as Jewish, daughter, and woman. Writing about social issues is her way to voice a different way of perceiving those who have disadvantages in society, the underserved, the "others." In both cases, her writing acts to build a new horizon that she calls "utopia," which becomes a search that does not constrain itself, but welcomes contradictions and opens up to the creation of hybrid texts. The dissertation aims to frame Sereni's works into a precise socio-historical context, and to draw on theoretical criticism and research in areas related to women's writing, autobiography, concepts of memory, history and culture, and gender studies.

  • The Aesthetics of Destiny in Plague Literature from Early Modern to Postmodern Times

    Author:
    Patrick Reilly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Vincent Crapanzano
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT The Aesthetics of Destiny in Plague Literature from Early Modern to Postmodern Times your words by Patrick Reilly Adviser: Professor Vincent Crapanzano For centuries--for millennia, at least since the myth of the Plague at Aegina--the subject of plague has been generating an aesthetic that distinctly characterizes its manifold texts, five of which this dissertation considers in depth: A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), Daniel Defoe; The Betrothed (1840), Alessandro Manzoni; Death in Venice (1912), Thomas Mann; The Plague (1947), Albert Camus; and Angels in America (1993), Tony Kushner. While plague texts, no matter how culturally particular and historically specific may be their narrative elements, repeatedly share distinguishable metaphysical themes and mythical motifs, they are more fundamentally wed to each other by their aesthetic response to the overwhelming fact of disease and pestilence. To classify such texts as apocalyptic is already to be approaching them in terms of their aesthetic, as the designation is not only a way of defining plague texts but also, and more importantly to an exploration of their aesthetic, a way of perceiving plague itself. For the descriptive "apocalyptic" also aggrandizes. It invests plague with significance. Angry gods, for example, must be appeased; a savior-scapegoat must die if the people are to be delivered from the pestilence on the land. The bald facts of disease and death become aesthetically, in plague texts, a matter of design and destiny. As it was in ancient Greece, aesthetics is defined, for purposes of this study, as perception. In the perception of a subject's reality the aesthetic process begins. The reality of plague lies in the fact of it, but to see the fact as diabolical, tragic, cataclysmic, or redemptive is to see--or to perceive--the subject in an aesthetic way. What begins with the perception of pestilential fact ends in its re-presentation as plague text. The text translates the perceived reality into a literary one, for the act of translation is also an act of signification, in which aesthetic constructs like that of destiny, are employed to make sense of what in fact, and terrifyingly, lacks or defies sense. So it is aesthetically that a plague-stricken city's destiny may lie in the hands of God. Or in a migratory bacillus.

  • The Aesthetics of Destiny in Plague Literature from Early Modern to Postmodern Times

    Author:
    Patrick Reilly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Comparative Literature
    Advisor:
    Vincent Crapanzano
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT The Aesthetics of Destiny in Plague Literature from Early Modern to Postmodern Times your words by Patrick Reilly Adviser: Professor Vincent Crapanzano For centuries--for millennia, at least since the myth of the Plague at Aegina--the subject of plague has been generating an aesthetic that distinctly characterizes its manifold texts, five of which this dissertation considers in depth: A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), Daniel Defoe; The Betrothed (1840), Alessandro Manzoni; Death in Venice (1912), Thomas Mann; The Plague (1947), Albert Camus; and Angels in America (1993), Tony Kushner. While plague texts, no matter how culturally particular and historically specific may be their narrative elements, repeatedly share distinguishable metaphysical themes and mythical motifs, they are more fundamentally wed to each other by their aesthetic response to the overwhelming fact of disease and pestilence. To classify such texts as apocalyptic is already to be approaching them in terms of their aesthetic, as the designation is not only a way of defining plague texts but also, and more importantly to an exploration of their aesthetic, a way of perceiving plague itself. For the descriptive "apocalyptic" also aggrandizes. It invests plague with significance. Angry gods, for example, must be appeased; a savior-scapegoat must die if the people are to be delivered from the pestilence on the land. The bald facts of disease and death become aesthetically, in plague texts, a matter of design and destiny. As it was in ancient Greece, aesthetics is defined, for purposes of this study, as perception. In the perception of a subject's reality the aesthetic process begins. The reality of plague lies in the fact of it, but to see the fact as diabolical, tragic, cataclysmic, or redemptive is to see--or to perceive--the subject in an aesthetic way. What begins with the perception of pestilential fact ends in its re-presentation as plague text. The text translates the perceived reality into a literary one, for the act of translation is also an act of signification, in which aesthetic constructs like that of destiny, are employed to make sense of what in fact, and terrifyingly, lacks or defies sense. So it is aesthetically that a plague-stricken city's destiny may lie in the hands of God. Or in a migratory bacillus.