Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

Filter Dissertations By:

 
 
  • Quadrivial Pursuits: Case Studies in the Conceptual Foundation of the Mathematical Arts in the Late Middle Ages

    Author:
    Daniel Newsome
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Joseph Dauben
    Abstract:

    The quadrivium, the four mathematical disciplines of the Middle Ages, described the structure of the medieval cosmos, both macrocosm and microcosm. Arithmetic and music were the mathematics of Platonic counting numbers. Geometry and astronomy were the mathematics of continuous magnitude. All four disciplines worked in concert to describe a cohesive and harmonious universe, which in the late Middle Ages incorporated everything from Aristotelian elemental theory to astrology. This dissertation describes the early philosophical formulation of these disciplines from Pythagorean and Platonic roots and the foundation of the quadrivium itself in the mathematical writings of Boethius in the early sixth century. This dissertation then examines the mathematical philosophy of three late medieval authors who were proficient in the quadrivial arts: Nicole Oresme (ca. 1320-1382), Prosdocimo de' Beldomandi (ca. 1375-1428), and Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). All three demonstrate that the Boethian quadrivial philosophy continued to be relevant in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, but all three studies point to a significant fault line in the metaphysical structure of the quadrivium itself - the distinction between discrete and continuous, the quadrivial distinction between arithmetic and geometry.

  • Dangerous Grounds: The American GI Coffeehouse Movement, 1967-1972

    Author:
    David Parsons
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Joshua Brown
    Abstract:

    The 1960s witnessed an unprecedented level of antiwar organization in the United States, as a movement to end the war in Vietnam grew to include millions of Americans who participated in a wide range of protest activities. Beginning in 1967, antiwar activists opened GI coffeehouses in the cities and towns outside U.S. military bases, designed to serve as off-base refuges for the growing number of active-duty soldiers resisting the war. This dissertation examines three representative coffeehouses (the UFO coffeehouse in Columbia, South Carolina; the Oleo Strut coffeehouse in Killeen, Texas; and the Shelter Half coffeehouse in Tacoma, Washington) as nodal points of culture and politics that provide a fresh perspective on the complex relationship between the civilian antiwar movement and U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam era. The coffeehouse story reveals soldiers and activists working together, planning antiwar actions, printing underground newspapers and, more often than not, defending the coffeehouses themselves from unsympathetic citizens and concerned military authorities. Using radical publications, Congressional testimony, private letters, organizational records, military and government archives, and oral histories from key participants, this study analyzes a unique and thinly researched component of the antiwar movement and situates it within the larger history of late twentieth century American politics. The GI coffeehouse movement constituted an important institutional component of the GI movement and the wider landscape of antiwar resistance and political activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As fundamentally cultural institutions with explicit political goals, GI coffeehouses bridged the often wide gap between the civilian antiwar movement and the American military, and in doing so ignited a significant amount of controversy that included many incidents of violent retaliation. The study concludes by examining the deep shifts in military policy that took place during the period immediately following the Vietnam War, contextualizing the impact of the era's social, political, and cultural turmoil on both the nation's military and the society it serves.

  • Banditry and Politics in Puebla, 1846-1848: The Contra-guerrilla of Manuel Domínguez and the Mexican-American War

    Author:
    Adriana Perez
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Alfonso Quiroz
    Abstract:

    In the midst of the war between the United States and Mexico (1846--1848) a group of Mexicans from the state of Puebla began to work for the U.S. army as spies, couriers and fighters. The group operated under the leadership of Puebla's famous highwayman Manuel Domínguez, "El Chato." U.S. officials called this group the Mexican Spy Company, while contemporary Mexicans named Domínguez's band contra-guerrilla poblana. Given the collaborationist nature of the counter-guerrilla it comes as no surprise that Mexicans and Americans alike still remember Domínguez and his followers as no more than criminals and traitors, unnatural Mexicans who betrayed their homeland in its darkest hour. I argue, however, that the contra-guerrilla can be seen as an example of popular political action. Evidence suggests that, on the one had, the activity of the contra-guerrilla seems to have been anchored in a desire to exercise power. On the other, the contra-guerrilla deliberately challenged governmental authority. Overt violence perpetrated against fellow Mexicans was the way in which the contra-guerrilla made its claims public. Although the study of popular violence concerns both the scholarship on banditry and the scholarship on popular politics, these fields remain disconnected. Scholars still debate whether or not banditry can be considered political while those who study popular politics often overlook popular mobilizations not tied to formal or high politics. As a result, we continue to misunderstand phenomena that do not fit neatly into either area of study. The contra-guerrilla is a case in point. This dissertation draws on Charles Tilly's theory of collective violence to revise dominant conceptualizations of banditry which tend to deny it a political dimension.

  • To Break Down the Walls: The Politics and Culture of Greenwich Village, 1955-1965

    Author:
    Stephen Petrus
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Thomas Kessner
    Abstract:

    More than simply a bohemian sanctuary during an age of conformity, Greenwich Village was a locus of resistance to the dominant political and cultural order in the 1950s. Probably the most famous neighborhood in the nation, the Village possessed abundant resources to advance fresh agendas of reformers, radicals, and artists. Community engagement in politics and the arts distinguished the lower Manhattan neighborhood. The period from 1955 to 1965 in particular witnessed an outburst of activism and creativity. This study analyzes the local institutions that nourished alternative or oppositional ideas, ways, and practices, focusing on the Village Voice, Judson Memorial Church, the Village Independent Democrats, and the Living Theatre. Skepticism of authority, both political and cultural, pervaded Greenwich Village. In an era when the principles and practices of modern urban planning and bossism shaped New York life, Villagers expressed resentment toward powerful individuals who were dismissive of community opinion. Neighborhood residents questioned the notion of a "professional" dictating policy from above and maintained that efficient municipal politics and urban redevelopment depended upon citizen involvement at the local level. In the cultural realm, Village artists were similarly dubious of the idea of professionalism. Theatermakers and filmmakers, respectively, disavowed established methods on Broadway and in Hollywood. Though neighborhood artists differed widely in views and methods, several trends characterized the area scene. Village artists demolished hierarchies, leveling differences between highbrow and lowbrow entertainment, between the serious and the playful. They borrowed copiously from a range of sources, from classical art to popular culture, finding value not only in the sublime but also in camp. Eclectic in outlook, they developed pastiches from literary, musical, and theatrical texts. The results of the civic participation and artistic innovation were remarkable. Village reformers led movements that restructured urban planning, Democratic Party politics, and narcotics policy. Village artists and their allies redefined the use of public space. They transformed performance art and visual art. The developments influenced national politics and culture. In the 1950s and 1960s, Villagers fueled an age of idealism, laid the groundwork for the counterculture, and contributed to the formation of the New Left.

  • Standard Bearers of Liberty and Equality: Reinterpreting the Origins of American Abolitionism

    Author:
    Paul Polgar
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    James Oakes
    Abstract:

    America's first abolitionists sought a rights revolution for a people who for centuries had been viewed as little more than chattel objects. But the story of the sweeping challenge these reformers posed to slavery and black inequality remains untold. A generation of scholarship on the first emancipation has demonstrated the gradual and incomplete nature of African American liberation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century North. In turn, historians have interpreted both gradual emancipation and those activists who advocated for it as inherently conservative. Between tenacious slaveholder resistance to their slaves' liberty and white skepticism about the merits of black freedom, abolitionists faced daunting obstacles to ending slavery in Post-Revolutionary America. Yet it was these very obstacles that generated the early national abolition societies' racially progressive approach to reform. By seeking to obtain and enforce antislavery laws, guard and expand the rights of illegally enslaved and free blacks, uproot white prejudice, and overturn racial inequality through making African Americans virtuous citizens of the new republic, antislavery activists met the formidable barriers to emancipation with a cohesive vision of black freedom and equality. Early national abolitionism was designed to vanquish slavery through the joint enlightenment of black and white Americans. As gradual abolition laws and the implementation of black education and civic cultivation gave time for former slaves to be fitted into republican citizens, early national antislavery activists hoped to persuade a prejudiced white public to extend the egalitarian promises of Revolutionary ideology to the nation's African Americans. But by the end of the War of 1812, these reformers discovered that prejudice was hardening and the problem of slavery was becoming overshadowed by the problem of race. Nothing embodied this shift more fully than the founding of the American Colonization Society. Colonizationists viewed white prejudice as unconquerable and therefore the incorporation of free blacks into the body politic as an impossibility. When immediate abolitionists emerged they linked gradualism with colonization and labeled both reactionary and exclusionist, thus erasing the racially progressive origins of gradual abolitionism that this dissertation aims to recapture.

  • A Race Against Time: Governing Femininity and Reproducing the Future in Revolutionary Iraq, 1945-63

    Author:
    Sara Pursley
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Beth Baron
    Abstract:

    This dissertation rethinks the Iraqi revolution of 1958 and the post-World War II era leading up to it through the lens of gender and family reform, in particular by examining the relation between such reforms and various conceptions of temporality, both secular and Islamic. Engaging critically with Lee Edelman's notion of "reproductive futurism" as a hegemonic political imaginary of modernity, I argue that projects to cultivate modern feminine domesticities in Iraq during this era were linked to larger depoliticizing and disciplinary mechanisms that sought to stabilize the political present in the name of an ever-receding economic future. Sexual difference and the fantasy of the child as the embodiment of the nation's future development were keys to this process. Gender and family reform efforts in this period were markedly different from earlier nationalist projects to cultivate feminine domesticity in the Middle East, shifts that were related to the expansion of public schooling to the lower classes; new understandings of pedagogy, psychology, and child development and new global knowledge networks through which such understandings traveled; ruptures in conceptions of historical time and generational time; the rise of the United States as a superpower; and the dawn of the Cold War and the "age of development" after 1945. Yet the family-reform efforts I examine were not instances of a universal and linear modernization process; they were shaped by, and often direct responses to, local forces of upheaval, including rural rebellions connected to the agrarian crisis and the widespread political mobilization and radicalization of youth in the postwar era. They also ran up against local modes of life and networks of solidarity, Islamic and otherwise, that were not organized according to the child-centered, future-directed, and present-freezing logic of family reform in the age of development.

  • Glory and Infamy: Making the Memory of Duke Alessandro de' Medici in Renaissance Florence

    Author:
    Tracy Robey
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Margaret King
    Abstract:

    Duke Alessandro de' Medici (1512-1537, r. 1531-1537) was the victim of a previously unknown and far-reaching conspiracy to condemn him in posthumous histories and erase him from the archives of Florence. This cultural manipulation cast Duke Alessandro for the past 500 years as a tyrant, murderer, and rapist of nuns. The case study of how later dukes, historians, and archivists defamed Alessandro de' Medici illustrates the ways people made and destroyed memory in sixteenth-century Florence. The first chapter outlines the negative statements made about Duke Alessandro in the major histories that discuss his reign. The second chapter explores the political affiliations of the contemporary authors who wrote the histories used in the first chapter. I show that the historians' opposition to Alessandro's rule during his lifetime influenced what they eventually wrote about the Duke in their histories--a fact overlooked by scholars, who tend to almost wholly rely on the histories. The third chapter outlines the neglected concept and practice of damnatio memoriae, or condemnation of memory, in the Renaissance. Using poems, paintings, and rumors, I demonstrate how unknown Florentines secretly marginalized the memory of Duke Alessandro using objects intended to commemorate him. The fourth chapter explores how Alessandro's successor, Duke Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574, r. 1537-1574), feuded with Alessandro during his life, and constructed the Florentine archives in such a way that Alessandro's reign is excluded from both the Medici family archives and Medici ducal archives. No corpus of archival documents exists that could correct the slander spread by the official historians. Anonymous citizens, politically-active historians, and later Medici Grand Dukes effectively obliterated all good memory of Duke Alessandro de' Medici within 100 years of his assassination.

  • The "Feminized" City: New York and Suffrage, 1870-1917

    Author:
    Lauren Santangelo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Kathleen McCarthy
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines suffragists' changing relationship to America's largest metropolis from 1870 to 1917. It analyzes how advocates of the ballot perceived women's place in the city, how they mobilized the diverse groups of women that Gotham attracted, and how they interacted with the city's private, commercial, and public spaces. The study demonstrates that while suffragists benefitted from Gotham's resources--its restaurants and hotels, its busy streets and feminized retail districts, its national publishing houses and nascent film industry--many activists also viewed the metropolis as an arena for violence and vice that endangered respectable women. Initially, these concerns prevented them from mobilizing the city's resources. In order to win the vote in New York State in 1917, suffrage advocates had to move from being intimidated by the metropolis to harnessing it for their ends. While other scholars have detailed the importance of changing arguments and new leadership in the woman's rights campaign, this dissertation documents how the physical environment, urban social networks, and changing visions of the city shaped a major segment of the suffrage movement. In the process, it ties women's political protest to urbanization and the urban experience, exploring the interaction between these phenomena across five decades and demonstrating that New York City was more than simply a stage on which women's activities took place. It was an integral player in the drama.

  • Revolutionary Debt: Attitudes of French Political Elites toward the Domestic Creditors of the State, 1787-1794

    Author:
    Raymond Schiller
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    David Troyansky
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the public debate surrounding the French national debt and the domestic creditors of the state during, and just prior to, the French Revolution. Focusing on stances expressed by a sample of the cahiers de doléances and by political leaders, it demonstrates how the debt and the creditors were among the chief concerns of revolutionaries from moderates to Jacobin radicals. Through a differential analysis of the cahiers, it shows that despite their often considerable differences on other matters, concerning the debt many - but not all - of the clergy, nobility and Third Estate were of a similarly protective opinion. I analyze the differences within, as well as between, the three orders relating to this issue. In part, the aim is to illuminate not only the role of the royal/national debt in this debate, but also that of its owners, the state creditors, as a crucial constituency embedded within most social groups of the Old Regime. Furthermore, underscoring both progressive and conservative stances among the privileged orders, the work contributes to historiography which examines their role in the Revolution. Finally, the work interprets the debt as a modern property type; the state creditors, as eighteenth-century capitalists; and it explicates their role in overthrowing the Old Regime in its entirety.

  • `Like Iron to a Magnet': Moses Hayim Luzzatto's Quest for Providence

    Author:
    David Sclar
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    History
    Advisor:
    Elisheva Carlebach
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is a biographical study of Moses Hayim Luzzatto (1707-1746 or 1747). It presents the social and religious context in which Luzzatto was variously celebrated as the leader of a kabbalistic-messianic confraternity in Padua, condemned as a deviant threat by rabbis in Venice and central and eastern Europe, and accepted by the Portuguese Jewish community after relocating to Amsterdam. Using unpublished archival documents and manuscripts, as well as rare printed books, I seek to reconcile the seemingly incompatible aspects of Luzzatto as `heretic' and `hero.' Chapter one sets the tone for the dissertation by analyzing the original version of Mesilat Yesharim, which differs drastically from the well-known printed edition. Consisting of a dialogue between a hasid and a hakham, the treatise was a pietistic, semi-autobiographical manifesto rooted in Kabbalah that polemicized against the rabbinic establishment. Using material culled from communal and state archives in Padua and Venice, chapter two provides a foundation for Luzzatto's identity and critique of the rabbinate. Chapter three discusses Luzzatto's kabbalistic activities with an emphasis on his relationships and religious development. I argue that Luzzatto and his inner circle grew out of a loose confederation of Italian pietists in northern Italy, beginning with Moses Zacut three generations earlier, who were unhappy with the values and goals of the Talmud-centered rabbinic establishment. In chapter four, I consider the nature of anti-Luzzatto sentiment that spread among rabbis in Italy and Ashkenazic lands. Rabbinic responses ranged widely and vacillated, reflecting the complexity and disharmony of Jewish religious leadership in the eighteenth century. The fifth and final chapter explores Luzzatto's eight years in Amsterdam, a period that scholars have almost completely overlooked. I show that Luzzatto was intimately connected to Portuguese rabbinic and lay leadership, who supported him financially and morally as he studied in the Ets Haim Yeshiva following years of intense controversy in Italy. The editing of his original version of Mesilat Yesharim indicates, however, that refraining from rabbinic critique and overt kabbalistic activities were mitigating factors in his acceptance in Amsterdam. Luzzatto, in turn, emphasized his own personal quietism as a means to redemption.