Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Reading the Restaurant: Social Class, Identity, and the Culture of Consumption in the Nineteenth Century French Novel

    Author:
    Joseph Rienti
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    French
    Advisor:
    Mary Ann Caws
    Abstract:

    The restaurant, like so many of the institutions of French modern society, developed at a very particular moment in history. In this project, I tell the story of the maturation of the restaurant and study its unique role in the social history of Paris during the nineteenth century. By examining the restaurant as a site of modernity, I illuminate its important role in precipitating class distinctions, locating the emerging consumer culture, highlighting gender differentiation, challenging prevailing views of domesticity, and revealing a debate over public and private space. Through a close reading of the realist novel as a discourse on daily life, I intertwine cultural history and literary theory to look at some of the critical questions about the nineteenth century restaurant. I examine a sampling of novels in which the restaurant is integral to the author's narrative project. I demonstrate how Balzac uses the restaurant in Père Goriot as a signifier of one's social status and how Maupassant uses the restaurant in Bel-Ami to differentiate gender roles. In my analysis of Flaubert's Madame Bovary and L'Éducation Sentimentale and of Henry Céard's Une Belle Journée I write about the restaurant's unique role as both a public and private space in French society by highlighting its ability to simultaneously satisfy many "appetites." I read Balzac's Le Cousin Pons, Dujardin's Les Lauriers sont coupés, and Huysmans' À Vau-l'eau through the lens of an anxious bourgeoisie trying to navigate the emerging restaurant culture of Paris. In my final chapter, I address the social issues that rose to the surface as a result of the emergence of a nineteenth century consumer society focused around the restaurant through an analysis of Baudelaire's poem "Les Yeux des pauvres" and Zola's Le Ventre de Paris.

  • TITRE (A VOIR) : économie et évolution du titre de film français depuis 1968. Questions autour de l'interprétation théorique des titres de film.

    Author:
    Noelle Rouxel-Cubberly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    French
    Advisor:
    Royal Brown
    Abstract:

    This dissertation seeks to define the relations between film titles and their cotexts on the one hand and to weigh the importance of the values they shape and convey to the audience at large on the other hand. Also considered as an economical term in French ("titre"), the title represents cultural as well economic values. As suggested by the founders of literary titology, Claude Duchet, Leo Hoek but also Barthes, Genette and Derrida, titles lead (to) the co-text. This position of power, concretely embodied by complex institutional regulations, calls for an array of theoretical perspectives. If this study draws from these eminent theoreticians, it also examines film titles as conscious and unconscious representations as well as exchange values. Mainly borrowing from Appadurai's notion of exchange, Glissant's poetics of relation, and Derrida's reflexion on titles as "counterfeit money", this dissertation intends to explore the economics of French film titling as a sociocultural phenomenon revealed through an ekphrastic and psychoanalytic approach. A comparative study of French film comedies in the 1970's and in the 1990's illustrates the distorted mirror-effect film titles provide in our reading of the world. This study aims at theorizing film titles' own theorizing of our shifting beliefs and values.

  • SA NOU YÉ: FILMMAKING PRACTICES AS FORMULATIONS OF IDENTITY IN HAITI, GUADELOUPE, AND MARTINIQUE FROM 1976 TO 2011

    Author:
    Sophie Saint-Just
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    French
    Advisor:
    Jerry Carlson
    Abstract:

    This dissertation considers the emergence of filmmaking practices in Haiti and in the French Caribbean (Martinique and Guadeloupe). I interpret the ways in which Haitian and French Caribbean collective and individual identities are reframed by the film medium in a series of films made between 1976 and 2011. I argue that these films do more than provide social commentary: they play an affirmative and contestatory role. Filmmakers renegotiate these identities by calling into question prevailing but limiting dichotomies: Martinique and Guadeloupe as assimilated French and now European Caribbean islands and Haiti as the first Black republic and the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

    Chapter 1, 2, and 3 concern Euzhan Palcy's landmark film Rue Cases-Nègres. In Chapter 2, I argue that Palcy transformed Joseph Zobel's novel into a bildungsroman , migration, and a plantation narrative shot in the Hollywood Classical style. French critics who reviewed the film were unfamiliar with the cultural legacy of the (French) Caribbean. As a result they failed to understand the scope and meaning of the film (Chapter 3). Chapter 4 retraces the genealogy of filmmaking practices in Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe through the career of Darling Légitimus, a veteran actress who played the female lead in La rue Cases-Nègres. Chapter 5 focuses on several Haitian and French Caribbean historical films where the past is rewritten as a grand narrative or through storytelling techniques that use oral tradition, Caribbean tropes, and theories. Diaspora, displacement, and alienation are the organizing principles of Chapter 6. This chapter examines recent Haitian and French Caribbean films that cast a critical look at the Haitian, Guadeloupean, and Martinican immigration experiences by proposing dystopian viewpoints. The ways in which Haitian and French Caribbean filmmakers have embraced marginality as a form of dissent is the focus of Chapter 7. Finally, Chapter 8 reviews the material conditions of production, exhibition, and reception of francophone Caribbean films.

  • Hugues Rebell, a Zarathustran Disciple, a Zarathustran Writer

    Author:
    Melinda Schlehlein
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    French
    Advisor:
    Royal Brown
    Abstract:

    Abstract Hugues Rebell, A Zarathustran Disciple, A Zarathustran Writer by Melinda Schlehlein Advisor: Professor Royal S. Brown This dissertation seeks to give Hugues Rebell, born Georges Grassal (1867-1905), the attention he deserves but has not yet received from the Anglophone world as a fin-de-siècle essayist and novelist whose writings are as distinct within the French literature of the period as they are distinctive as some of the first to be inspired by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. A descendent of aristocrats and grands bourgeois in Nantes, Rebell took up in writing the rebellion that his penname signified, a rebellion against the socio-political systems that his family dreaded and that the Third Republic represented, or, those that originated in the French Revolution: egalitarianism, and its expression in democracy, socialism, and Christianity. I establish early that given Rebell's privileged reception of Nietzsche over his French contemporaries, he was able to form an original understanding and interpretation of Nietzschean thought. In so doing, Rebell, as I contend, does not borrow Nietzsche's ideas wholesale but rather uses them to authenticate his own aesthetic in two main areas: in politics and in fiction, each of which is the focus of Parts I and II, respectively. Part I shows how Rebell's political thinking both develops and deviates from Nietzsche's elitism, and also distinguishes itself from that of his extreme-Right French cohorts. Part II shifts the focus from Rebell's nonfictional political writing to one of his most neglected novels, La Femme qui a connu L'Empereur that I argue should be recognized in a special place within the history of the French novel and as an example of great Nietzschean fiction, as it can be seen to exhibit amazing synchronicity with the theory of perspective considered at the levels of character development, narrative structure, and French History rewritten as a story. In both Parts, I strive to make salient my contention that, like Nietzsche's writings, Rebell's pose irresolvable inconsistencies that render any attempt reduce the author to a one-sided position--whether political or other-- impossible. I connect Part II to Part I primarily by suggesting that there are at least two Rebells: the perspectival novelist whose multi-voiced narrative opposes the fascist political thinker.

  • Gide in the First Person: the "I" of Religion and Same-Sex Sexual Desire

    Author:
    John Sorrentino
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    French
    Advisor:
    Royal Brown
    Abstract:

    André Gide's works are marked by a continual struggle what he perceived as the incompatible nature between his homosexuality and the religious morality that excluded it. This dissertation examines the ways in which André Gide deals with this struggle, and how through his fiction, he negotiates the lines between a belief in God and his personal sense of sexual otherness, while trying to achieve an authentic voice that mitigated the two. Drawing from a range of theory and criticism from Gide studies and Queer studies, this work analyzes the themes of sexuality and religion in a range of Gide's works from the mid 1890s through 1925, including Les Nourritures terrestres, Paludes, Le Prométhée mal-enchaîné, Les Caves du Vatican, L'Immoraliste, Le Retour de l'Enfant Prodigue, La Porte étroite, La Symphonie pastorale, and Les Faux-monnayeurs. Within the corpus of Gide's work, a timeline is revealed of the fluctuation between Gide's exaltation and his disenchantment as he contemplated - either in the first person or through his characters - issues of God and sex, of pleasure and suffering. Sexuality and religion are inter-reliant factors that work sometimes to negate each other, other times to reinforce each other, revealing a complexity both of the author and his texts. This dissertation explores the relationships between religion and same-sex desire and finds the links that exist between his religious thought and the "I"/"je" of his desire, as Gide, throughout his body of work, negotiates the uncertain landscape of creating a queer "discourse" and finding within it a sense of personal authenticity both with regard to his religious beliefs and his same-sex desire.

  • The Algerian War Era Through a Twenty-First Century Lens: French Films 2005-2007

    Author:
    Nicole Wallenbrock
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    French
    Advisor:
    Jerry Carlson
    Abstract:

    Abstract THE ALGERIAN WAR ERA THROUGH A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY LENS: FRENCH FILMS 2005-2007 by Nicole Beth Wallenbrock This dissertation addresses French films made between 2005 and 2007 in which the Algerian War serves as a cinematic subject and setting. The Algerian War as a film genre has never been more significant than post-2005; in fact, ten films (either set during the war or that make important reference to the conflict) were made between 2005 and 2007, more than in any previous decade. My project thus examines the reasons for the frequency of the Algerian War in cinema during this time period. The policies of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, the rise of second and third-generation North-African immigrants, and the revelation through recent literature and media of previously unknown acts of torture that took place during the Algerian War increased interest in the subject. I investigate how these historical phenomena surface directly and indirectly in contemporary cinema, revealing the current place of the Algerian War in the popular imagination. In chapter 1, I generally discuss all Algerian-War films before 2005, presenting the New Wave as a development concurrent with the war in a study of Le petit soldat (made in 1960 released in 1963) and Muriel ou le temps d'un retours (1963). The chapter concludes with an investigation of the reception of the Italian-Algerian production La Battaglia di Algeri (1966) in France. In the following three chapters, I place recent films in thematic pairs: Chapter 2 The PTSD flashback: Caché (2005) and Mon Colonel (2006), Chapter 3 Victim or Perpetrator?: L'ennemi intime (2007) and La trahison (2005), Chapter 4 The Child Immigrant and the Child Witness: Michou d'Auber (2007) and Les Cartouches Gauloises (2007). These films alter, amplify, and adjust the meaning of the war period to correspond to recent historical findings and a changing political climate in the twenty-first century. As a multicultural French population confronts the legacy of colonialism with growing magnitude in the streets, the classrooms, and courts, a study of the concurrent cinema is imperative. These films represent a discourse in which memory and nationalism intersect, critiquing the past and present.

  • Made in Marseille: Global Youth and Cosmopolitan Identities

    Author:
    Chong Wojtkowski
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    French
    Advisor:
    Francesca Sautman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation argues for the significance of hip-hop musical culture in the reformulation of French identity by socio-economic, ethnic, and racial minorities. Indeed, these groups, particularly the youth within them, are vigorously reassessing, refiguring and challenging the ways French identity is affirmed through an ensemble of dominant, mainstream discourses. Through the analysis of song lyrics, visual imagery employed in CD inserts/booklets, music videos, and strategies for promotion and production, I argue that Marseille hip hoppers active from the early 1990s to 2010 have used audio-visual modes as discursive tools to articulate hybrid cosmopolitan identities that contest essentialist notions of identity solely or primarily defined on the basis of the nation-state. The cosmopolitan city of Marseille, with its long tradition of emphasizing its difference from the rest of France, is my focus as the urban site that gives its voice to the youth culture at the center of my thesis. I thus investigate how Marseille rappers espouse a regionalist discourse that casts the transnational space of the Mediterranean, including Southern Europe and North Africa, as the locus of their negotiation of identity while affirming difference from a purportedly homogenous national center. Rather than being isolated from their context, rap lyrics must be read in tandem with the music, images, and production, for intertextual readings give a fuller picture of who the artist is, and what messages lie in the text. Thus, I view the entire practice of hip-hop--not just the texts--as a privileged site of identification and self-construction for the rappers, and suggest that they follow a strategy of autobiographical performance writing. The bulk of the dissertation is therefore devoted to autobiographical readings of hip hop texts and images in order to underscore the ways in which identity is articulated through the disengagement from and contesting of existing racial, ethnic, and class constructs in contemporary French society. I propose that a preferable framework for the analysis of youth identities in Marseille is global cosmopolitanism. This aptly describes the choice of rootedness in Marseille simultaneously with the rejection of the binary conception of identity that is so unique to France. This project's goal is to validate the notion of a "French cultural reach," which hybridizes notions of place, space, nation, and ethnicity, without locking Marseille hip hoppers within the dichotomy of French/Other.