Filter Dissertations and Theses By:
"'The Naked Gospel': Varieties of American Religious Poetry, From Richard Henry Dana to Herman Melville
Year of Dissertation:
"'The Naked Gospel': Varieties of American Religious Poetry, From Richard Henry Dana to Herman Melville" examines the term "religious" in nineteenth-century America poetry. Without ignoring the enormous influence of European and British Romanticisms, it positions a rich but neglected body of nineteenth-century American religious verse vis-à-vis American commentary and criticism of the period. It surveys attempts by nineteenth-century American editors and writers to collect and represent a native religious verse and outlines the standards by which an American poem was judged as "religious." These judgments, my study argues, reflect how deeply rooted Romantic thought had become in American denominational identity, even before the influence of Emerson on American culture was widespread, and reveal the extent to which temperament, not theology, was the shared interpretive frame for the selection, as well as the production, of American religious poetry. In light of these views of the period's interpenetration of Romantic thought and American religious identity, my study examines further the verse of three Americans who were identified by their contemporaries as "religious" poets: the contemplative verse of Calvinist-Romantic Richard Henry Dana, the devotional lyrics of Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier, and "The Cathedral," James Russell Lowell's poem which, in narrating a pilgrimage to Chartres, depicts the collision between the ecclesiastical imagination of Anglo-Catholic poetics and the iconoclasm of modern skepticism. Selected for their commitment to an established faith-tradition (Calvinism, Quakerism) or, in the case of "The Cathedral," a recognizable "indebtedness to the faith...eschewed" (Anglo-Catholicism), these religious poems resist the dichotomy between tradition and insight, or the easy passage from doctrine to imagination, and seek insight through available forms of Christian tradition, though not without great difficulty. In keeping with the desire to discuss nineteenth-century American religious verse within an American context, I call upon James, whose work Varieties supplies my study with a critical vocabulary, a structure, and an interpretive frame. Like the religious anthologies outlined in my introduction, James' discussion of religious experience is a compendium of Christian temperaments not theologies, "ways of feeling" religious, not "spiritual." Two of these temperaments, "the sick soul," and "mysticism," along with what James identified as the twin ends of the "ecclesiastical system" and "naked gospel scheme," provide a structure for my study's individual chapters.
Proust's Medusa: Ovid, Evolution, and Modernist Metamorphosis
Gregory John Mercurio
Year of Dissertation:
Abstract PROUST'S MEDUSA: OVID, EVOLUTION AND MODERNIST METAMORPHOSIS by Gregory John Mercurio Advisor: Joshua Wilner Ovid's Metamorphoses has served as an indispensible text for Modernism, not least for such foundational Modernists as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis. This dissertation examines how these writers characteristically employ Ovidian metamorphoses with a specifically evolutionary inflection, particularly in a post- Darwinian world informed by varying -often authoritarian- notions of biological adaptation, as well as an increasing emphasis on Mendalian genetics as the determining factor in what would become known as the Modern Synthesis in evolutionary theory. Using the theoretical platforms of both Queer Theory and Object Ontology, this dissertation proposes that a more pluralized, less authoritative appreciation of Darwinian change can be seen in the very different Ovidianism of Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, especially in the well-known English translation by C. K. Scott Moncrieff. Primarily concerned with the importance of Ovid's idiosyncratic version of the Medusa- Perseus myth to Proust's project, this study argues that Proust's Albertine serves as a singularly Ovidian Medusa, yet one with specifically biological and evolutionary resonances that queer the more rigid and narrow Darwinism of "The Men of 1914."
Gracious Affections: Affect and the Rise of Evangelicalism in Early America
Year of Dissertation:
In this dissertation I build on current theorists of affect in order to critically foreground the centrality of embodied religious experience in the spread of evangelicalism through the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century United States and the larger Atlantic world. I argue that the social and embodied religious practices within evangelical public spaces altered the writing and reading practices of evangelicals in the early republic by attempting to recreate, but also limit, the powerful and embodied religious feelings created within those spaces. This dissertation is structured around the writing and embodied practices of lay publics who were animated by the ecstatic religious experiences found at revivals and other religious gatherings and the work of ministers who sought to both propagate and control that energy through the authority of the clergy. By bringing the fields of literary studies, religious history, queer theory, and theories of affect into conversation around evangelicalism, this dissertation revises the conventional wisdom of American religious history, and offers new ways to understand evangelicalism's complex influence on early American writing practices and the greater culture at large.
The Making of Knowledge-Makers in Composition: A Distant Reading of Dissertations
Year of Dissertation:
Combining qualitative coding with original algorithmic and quantitative analyses, this project aggregates and visualizes metadata from 2,711 recent doctoral dissertations in Composition/Rhetoric, completed between 2001 and 2010 (inclusive), in order to establish an empirical baseline of what new and established scholars in Composition/Rhetoric agree upon as acceptable research in the field. I find that both subject matter and methodologies largely collocate within a small number of clusters, but not without cross-over among these clusters, and I call for increased dialogue among schools focusing on these different methods and subjects. Chapter 1, “Disciplinary Anxiety and the Composition of Composition,” reviews the history of Composition/Rhetoric’s search for a shared research paradigm, including its potential rejection of that goal. Following Derek Mueller (2009), I argue for “distant reading” (Moretti), through metadata visualization, as a means of keeping abreast of research trends that would be unmanageable through direct reading alone. Chapter 2, “From Dissertations to Data: My Exhibits and My Methods,” explains how I obtained, selected, and prepared the 2,711 documents that go into my subsequent analysis. Chapter 3, “Mapping the Methods of Composition/Rhetoric Dissertations: A ‘Landscape Plotted and Pieced,’ ” takes up the question of whether the field has divided along methodological lines, as Stephen North (1987) predicted. After identifying methods used in dissertations based on their abstracts, I describe correlations between dissertation methods and the graduate schools where they are most frequently employed. Most dissertations used more than one method. I demonstrate that, while aggregable and empirical methods have not disappeared, few schools focus on them; dialectical and text-hermeneutic methods are far more common across the board. Chapter 4, “Tapping the Topics: What We Study When We Study Writing in Writing Studies,” turns from methods to content. Drawing on a computer-generated topic model of the full text of 1,754 dissertations, I provide evidence both for high-level clustering of topics and for large numbers of dissertations that cut across these clusters. The most common dissertation topics in this sample address the teaching of writing and, in a largely separate cluster, theories of meaning-making. In Chapter 5, “Toward a View From Everywhere: ‘Disciplined Interdisciplinarity’ and Distant Reading,” I reflect on the benefits and limitations of the methods I have used, and suggest directions for future study. Although it is generally clear to doctoral students preparing to begin dissertation work that they have a number of methods to choose from, and a number of ways to construct and usefully constrain their subject matter, Composition/Rhetoric as a field has not generally speaking kept good track of trends across institutions, with the result that individual dissertation-writers do not know whether a particular method or subject they are considering is common or quirky, cutting-edge or passé. By offering a recent, zoomed-out view beyond the vantage point of any one program, these analyses provide a shared map of where Composition/Rhetoric doctoral research has been, so that researchers, thesis committees, and curriculum-planners can make more informed local decisions about where their research should go next.
Everyday Masochisms: Charlotte Bronte, George Moore, D.H. Lawrence, and Jean Rhys
Year of Dissertation:
This dissertation argues for the magnitude of a critical literary period in the development and exploration of theories about masochism. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth-century, discourses about sexuality become more publicly accessible. Circulating ideas by sexologists Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis, and psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud, encourage a public conversation about sex, desire, and identity. Both novelists and their readers find themselves in a groundbreaking space that fosters a rethinking of sexual selfhood. Instead of relegating masochism to institutions, brothels, and case studies, Charlotte Brontë, George Moore, D.H. Lawrence, and Jean Rhys provide representations of masochism that are far more ordinary, surfacing in various everyday experiences. I analyze the existence of different portrayals of masochistic relationships: courtships and partnerships in Villette (1860), unrequited lesbian desire and its reincarnation as religious zeal in A Drama in Muslin (1886), surprisingly dynamic marital partnerships in The Rainbow (1915), and an adulterous love triangle in Quartet (1928). I begin with a reading of the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah in conjunction with Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's foundational Venus in Furs in order to develop and contextualize a transhistorical masochistic lineage. Finally, this project looks ahead to Ian McEwan's TThe Comfort of Strangers (1981), which notably returns to the enactment of more literal sadistic and masochistic fantasies, furthering emphasizing the unique literary approaches to masochism covered by the four main authors in this project.
"IT WAS EASY": HOW AMERICAN CULTURE TURNED THE VETERAN INTO THE MAN, 1944-1959
Year of Dissertation:
When millions of GIs returned in 1945, Americans tried to establish a brand new era, infused with optimism and prosperity, in which the war was decidedly over. In historic numbers, Americans married, had children, and purchased goods and homes, but they did so while mostly concealing their fear that the war was not over, at least not in the psyches of men. As such, the protection of society from men was the central concern of postwar American culture. Many scholars and historians have studied "shellshock," which illustrates this dangerous potential turned inward, but the apocalyptic possibilities of an entire generation of men erupting in violence are rarely commented upon, though they are quietly ever-present in period. Furthermore, this terror of veterans deepened into a generalized fear and suspicion of men's "inherent" violence and hyper-sexuality, which defined masculinity thereafter. This dissertation engages with film, media, literature, earlier treatments of the period, and gender and sexuality studies to advance a new perspective on the artistic and cultural output of and about the "Greatest Generation," arguing that anxiety about men's violent and erotic potential emerged differently in different forms, genres, and media, but nonetheless permeated American culture in these years.
Embedded Forms and the Progressive Wonders of The Winter's Tale
Year of Dissertation:
Written in an age of theatrical experimentation, The Winter’s Tale stands out even amid the lively playhouse practices of its day for its allusions to multiple genres, ranging from the overt theatrical genres of tragedy and comedy, to contemporaneous subgenres such as pastoral tragicomedy and masque, to non–theatrical entertainments such as bearbaiting, broadside ballads, and statue–viewing. While prior critics have treated the play’s numerous generic allusions in isolation, this dissertation reads The Winter’s Tale as a progression of embedded forms meant to condition a sequence of affective and increasingly interactive audience responses, thus preparing Shakespeare’s audience for the redemptive, participatory wonders of the final act. My three chapters trace Shakespeare’s evocation of tragic tropes and rigid pageantry in the first half of the play; his nods to raucous, contemporaneous forms such as bearbaiting and pastoral tragicomedy in Acts III and IV; and the fading, nostalgia–inducing miracle plays and “old tales” he uses to frame the wonders of Act V. I argue that, through this progression, Shakespeare rejects the tyrannical, controlling visions of Leontes in favor of the participatory marvels of Act V, dismissing rigid, patriarchal forms such as Leontes’ show trial while ultimately elevating generative, interactive, feminine forms such as Marian miracle plays and old wives’ tales. Reading The Winter’s Tale as a late career ars poetica designed to test and reinvigorate the theatrical faith of Shakespeare’s audience, my dissertation explores the sprawling yet rigorous poetic logic behind the play’s generic mixing.
Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn: The Collected Letters
Claudia Moreno Pisano
Year of Dissertation:
Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn: The Collected Letters presents the correspondence of twentieth-century American poets Edward Dorn and Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) between the years 1959 and 1965. Having seen several poems of Dorn's in various small literary magazines, Baraka began writing to him with praises and a request for poems for his own magazine, Yugen. During this time, Dorn lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico and then Pocatello, Idaho, while Jones lived in New York City. The major basis of their relationship, and these letters, is undoubtedly an artistic one, the early 1960s finding both poets just beginning to publish and becoming active, public figures. With the sense of art as not only a valid but a necessary means of grappling with and understanding both the beautiful and the horrific in the world fueling each poet, the letters become both reflection and place of creation, the ground upon which to experiment. Baraka's independent magazines Yugen and The Floating Bear and independent publishing house Totem Press were key in providing space for numerous artists from several different strands in the late 1950s and into the 1960s. He published two of Dorn's poetry collections through Totem/Corinth presses, and saw several of Dorn's poems into print in both Yugen and The Floating Bear. These two little magazines became focal points for mid-century artistic ferment, publishing new, highly outspoken and radical poets from all over the U.S. This publishing space helped break down the geographical and human isolation in which so many of these poets found themselves, which is part of the story of Dorn and Jones's friendship itself. If we think of a text as defining political boundaries and providing historical continuity, these letters constitute the history of these poets and their times better than many other forms of documented history. As both historical and autobiographical lens into two key writers at the very pulse of the turbulent cultural and political happenings of mid-century America, these letters reveal an extraordinary snapshot of American identity and history.
The Grammar of Choice: Charles Dickens's Existential Idea of Religion
Year of Dissertation:
This dissertation challenges the received opinion that Charles Dickens's religious thinking is merely sentimental and philanthropic. Instead, I argue that there is in his works a very consistent "existential" sense of religion, especially in his mature novels. To be religious for him does not lie in the adherence to dogma or the study of theological arguments, but in the crucial choices people make every day. In order to illustrate this "existential" sense of religion, I analyze, in the first chapter, relevant works by Kierkegaard, Carlyle, George Eliot, and Dostoevsky, in order to establish the context in which Dickens's religious views can be discussed. In the second chapter I examine him in the context of twentieth-century writers such as Sartre and Camus to underscore Dickens's existential modernity. The central argument of this chapter is that the very possibility for characters to make a choice is rendered difficult by the widespread loss of faith. Two novels deal with this issue in particular: David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities.The third chapter begins by examining the choice of good versus evil, which is shown to be a very complex issue for Dickens, even in his early works. Then I proceed to discuss the implications of this choice and conclude that knowingly to choose evil over good constitutes "sin" for Dickens, as he demonstrates in Dombey and Son.The last chapter focuses on Dickens's last published novel Our Mutual Friend and discusses the possibility of free choice, a religious issue complicated by the implications of Darwinian evolution.
Beyond Agency: Women Writing Romance as Political Intervention in the English Revolution
Year of Dissertation:
This project examines four sub-aristocratic seventeenth-century women who wrote romance and historical narrative as political interventions during the social upheaval of the English Revolution: Judith Man defends Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, to Parliament in her translation, An Epitome of the history of faire Argenis and Polyarchus (1640), of a French abridgement of John Barclay's Argenis; Suzanne Du Verger advocates for Catholics in her two translations of Jean-Pierre Camus' French romances, Admirable Events (1639) and Diotrephe (1641), as well as in Du Verger's Humble Reflections (1657), a vitriolic response to Margaret Cavendish's The World's Olio (1655); Anne Bradstreet rejects English "romance" for New English history in The Tenth Muse (1650); and Anna Weamys reexamines women's political roles in her royalist yet moderate A Continuation of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia (1651). In order to reconstruct the political contributions of each author to their varied political causes, I examine the conversations between their texts and paratexts, how their books speak to and for their authors' social positions, their revisions of the uses of romance, and their political subtexts. Each woman belonged to a class that had unusual access to the aristocracy because of their service to noble families, although they themselves had no real claim to titles or were gentry. They adapt the genre of romance, which had been so often used as a discourse of aristocratic display, for their own political purposes, which range from defending Catholicism to revising the Puritan Plymouth Bay Colony's approaches to internal dissent. I argue that these authors sought agency to redress political grievances rather than to achieve authorship. When seen together, these texts constitute a new involvement for sub-aristocratic women in imaginative literature, one that continues after the Restoration.