2013 Thesis Abstracts
“‘If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right’ : 1980s Feminist Ambivalence and Judith McNaught’s Whitney, My Love”
Directed by Sara Maurer
Historically, literary critics, authors, and readers of romance fiction have studied and made claims about the merits and downfalls of the popular romance genre as a whole. In recent years, however, critics have shifted their focus away from genre study toward the study of the individual romance novel. In my thesis, I join this effort by analyzing Judith McNaught’s Regency Historical Romance novel Whitney, My Love, published in 1985. My project seeks to contextualize this romance novel within the time period of the 1980s and the birth of the post-feminism movement. I argue that the historical setting of McNaught’s romance novel allows her readership to feel empowered as women without feeling the pressures and demands of the second wave feminist movement to abandon marriage and motherhood. I first offer an overview of second wave feminism and then provide a summary of the various reactions of women to this movement. I then treat the state of women’s rights in the 1980s, as well as the sentiments of women in regard to their changing social status. I provide special focus on the characteristics of the post-feminist movement before examining how the social climate of the 1980s may have shaped the historical novel’s characters and plot. I analyze the “feminist” attributes of the novel’s protagonist, Whitney, and align the hero of the novel, Clayton, with the patriarchy. I then show how the relationship between the two characters mirrors the feminist movement and how the end of the novel envisions a reformed society where women advocate for the rights of their sex while also participating in loving relationships.
“Determinism in a Meaningless Landscape: Cormac McCarthy’s Naturalisms”
Directed by Kate Marshall.
When considering Cormac McCarthy’s bleak and desolate illustrations of human society, critics are often eager to classify his work as “Southern Gothic” or “Western”. However, these critics fail to address McCarthy’s most recent novel, The Road (2006), and those that do brush it off as “science-fiction”. McCarthy’s unique and unsettling style in The Road embraces more than futuristic plot lines or typical Western cowboys. Rather, the novel appears to engage more complexly with other genres, exploring nuances and flirting with traditional elements.
In his post-apocalyptic novel, The Road, Cormac McCarthy offers a haunting illustration of an environment that is both desolate and toxic, and whose effects are as equally poisonous for the individuals who inhabit it. Overwhelmed with gruesome images of violence and destruction, McCarthy’s novel describes a horrifying account of society’s complete degeneration in the wake of environmental catastrophe. The environment, nearly lifeless and depleted of all its resources, appears to control the individuals dependent on it, causing degenerative and animalistic behaviors. By taking into consideration the classic texts of naturalism, I show how The Road seems to follow a similarly determinist argument.
However, The Road strays from the representations of determinism prevalent in these texts. Instead, I show how McCarthy tweaks the argument, complicating the notion of determinism by pairing the landscape’s violent destruction with a barrenness that belittles its very existence. The effect of such a pairing destabilizes the deterministic aspect of nature, and instead presents an intended ambiguity that clouds the argument. As a result, I find that McCarthy’s novel simultaneously participates in and rejects a naturalist reading—he flirts with the genre, ultimately offering a manifestation of uncertainty, concurrent to the finality associated with naturalist texts.
Thus, McCarthy creates a novel that exists only “in limbo” and whose argument subsists of impenetrable ambiguities. By using the traditional elements of naturalist texts, in particular the agency given to environmental forces, McCarthy provides a framework of finality against which he can thrust his ambiguities, and whose contrast results in an overwhelming uncertainty. His subsequent unraveling of that environment discerns the inevitable uncertainty that culminates in the novel’s engagement with naturalism. And as such, I argue that McCarthy’s novel remains a demonstration of literary flirtation, rather than as an evolutionary upset of genre or order.
“Gender and the Grotesque in Winesburg, Ohio”
Directed by Matthew Wilkens
The stories of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio each feature a resident of the small Ohio town, a man or woman who embraces the life of a “grotesque.” The grotesque individuals are defined by their lonely and isolated existences that create in them a monomaniacal obsession with the belief systems they hold to be true, and into these obsessions they inwardly retreat from community reality. The nature of their grotesqueness is strongly linked to their inability to truly and successfully connect with another, and this forces them to look inward to the truths they hold. In existing criticism on Winesburg, Ohio, the grotesques are discussed as a single group who fail at escaping the grotesque phenomenon. A problem within this criticism, however, is that it takes for granted the equality of the circumstances of the men versus the women, and fails to address significant differences in the agency the men have over escaping grotesqueness, versus that of the women, who are at a severe disadvantage. Through an evaluation of the Winesburg stories, this paper undertakes to clearly establish three primary differentiators between the men and the women regarding the question of agency. These demonstrate that a gap in agency does exist, and exists in a way that changes the culpability of grotesqueness respective to each gender, something largely unacknowledged in the critical conversation regarding Winesburg. These three differentiators include two external elements and one internal element: the societal and sexual roles into which Winesburg citizens are socialized, the consequences of various relationships between individual men and women, and lastly, the seriousness and genuineness of the intentions revealed by each gender in the quest for real and honest connection. Together these three provide a comprehensive look at the disadvantages that the women experience, especially in light of the more mature attempts they make at escaping grotesqueness and sharing in understanding with another.
“The Mongols, Mongoloid Idiots, and Mongolian Imbeciles: The Rhetoric That Shaped a Class of Disabled Individuals in the Late 19th Century”
Directed by John Duffy
The term mongol and its cognates historically held a wide variety of meanings. In the period between 1865 and 1899, British physicians introduced a new definition for the term. Writing in medical societies, journals, and reports, physicians began to use mongol and its cognates to refer to a group of individuals with disabilities who shared a set of characteristics. Using Maurice Charland’s theory of constitutive rhetoric, this paper analyzes how the language surrounding the term mongol and its cognates worked to define the cohesive group it referenced. The analysis will then consider how the rhetoric surrounding the term invited audiences to initially understand this group.
The paper argues that initial perceptions of individuals with disabilities who were referred to as mongols were shaped by the invitations offered by the rhetorical presentation of this group. In particular, the paper suggests that the language surrounding the term mongol and its cognates can be seen as inviting audiences to consider these individuals in light of the following types of rhetoric: the rhetoric of othering, the rhetoric of inferiority, the rhetoric of permanence, the rhetoric of blame, and a rhetoric of expertise. These forms of rhetoric presented invitations that may have shaped understandings of these individuals both when the term was widely used and even today. Modern medicine indicates that the individuals referred to as mongoles in the late nineteenth century likely had Down Syndrome. Therefore, this paper offers a variety of insights into the significance of naming, a new advocacy model for the rhetoric of disability, and into long-term understandings of individuals with Down Syndrome.
“The Eye of the Poet: Dante Alighieri’s Influence on Emersonian Transcendentalism”
Directed by Laura Walls
American Transcendentalism was an idealistic philosophical, literary, and social movement of the mid-nineteenth century, centered in the historically insurgent and innovative New England. It was a movement of defiance, an extension of the Protestant Reformation and the American Revolution, yet remained fundamentally religious. Past criticism views the movement as profoundly nationalist, while more recent scholarship recognizes its concern with cosmopolitanism. There remains a void, however, in the criticism regarding the rich Italian influence on Transcendentalism, specifically the connection between the metaphysics and visual imagery of medieval poet Dante Alighieri and the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The movement’s new cosmopolitan ideals made it possible for Emerson as an American intellectual to take Dante seriously—despite his Italian nationality and Catholic theology—and discover a profound and growing resonance between them.
Emerson’s translation of Dante’s Vita Nuova and engagement with Dante’s thematically successive and preeminent poem, Commedia, is essential to understanding Emerson’s own vision and articulation of a cultural and intellectual revolution in America. My thesis argues that it is Dante’s consistent image of the eye as an organ of spiritual and scientific insight that leads to knowledge, both rational and revelatory, that Emerson implements in American Transcendentalism as a new spiritual practice. Emerson’s time in Europe and his extensive reading allowed him to embrace the connection between the human mind and nature, which inspired his movement from the Unitarian ministry to naturalism. But I believe it is Emerson’s engagement with Dante—and his own emphasis on sight—that significantly contributed to his absorption of the German philosophy and Romantic idealism of the time, and that continually reinforced the compatibility of faith and reason. It is Emerson’s reading of Dante that confirmed his belief in the poet as the leader in the new age, fully equipped to harness the transcendent power of the human eye and to perceive universal truth and divine beauty in language, laying the foundation for a religion of humanity.
“Beowulf v. Grendel: The Legal Customs of Hroðgar’s Kingdom”
Directed by Christopher Abram
Though uncommonly viewed in such a fashion, Beowulf is largely representative of the legal customs unique to Anglo-Saxon and continental Germanic culture, customs which, once considered, shed substantial light on various portions of the poem that have long proven problematic to literary critics. Starting with an understanding of the Germanic legal concept of mund—which literally refers to the physiological hand but in a more metaphorical context represents the ideas of protection, guardianship, and legal possession—the poem’s repetitive references to the hand take on further significance, namely, in a legal manner. When combined with the etymological backgrounds of terms such as have and hold, the episode of Beowulf’s encounter with Hroðgar prior to his fight with Grendel clearly comes to depict what in Anglo-Saxon culture would constitute a legal exchange of real property. Furthermore, an analysis of early Anglo-Saxon law codes demonstrates the importance with which the right of mund was regarded—especially that of the king—and Grendel’s legal culpability becomes highlighted by his commission of mundbryce, or “mund-breaking.” In turn, despite his status at the beginning of the poem as a foreigner with no legal standing in Hroðgar’s kingdom, Beowulf, through the course of his interaction with Danish officials and later Hroðgar himself, is granted the legal authority to protect Heorot and is in turn legally justified in killing and dismembering Grendel when the monster commits the acts of mundbryce against him. Other themes considered in reaching this conclusion include the etymological analysis of other critical words in the poem, such as maþelode, geweald, and [ge]grette, a discussion of the manner in which law and order were enforced in Germanic culture, and the significance of the ultimate display of Grendel’s arm above Heorot following his defeat.
“Ways of Knowing in George Eliot’s Middlemarch”
Directed by Sara Maurer
In Middlemarch, George Eliot creates a representation of a British provincial society that respects tradition and is unreceptive to change at this time. The community knows each other through the laws that have governed their society for generations, including the importance of prestigious connections, superficial appearances, and reputation. Eliot depicts the conflicts that arise when an alternative way of knowing, practiced by the medical doctor Tertius Lydgate, enters the community and threatens their traditional way of knowing.
Because Eliot published Middlemarch in 1874 during a period of many scientific advancements, including the invention of the microscope, the understanding of how diseases like cholera spread, and Darwin’s theory of evolution, I argue that scientific thought and method play an integral role in her representation of a community. In Middlemarch, Eliot uses evidence-based scientific methods to observe the interactions of the Middlemarch community and determine the unique ways of knowing that govern this particular society.
Eliot creates a set of laws that governs the Middlemarch society and a set of laws that governs the way in which the medical doctor, Lydgate, knows the world. While the people of Middlemarch society uphold their way of understanding the medical practice and each other, Lydgate’s revolutionary methods of diagnosis and treatment obtained through empirical research and sympathetic knowledge defies and embarrasses the Middlemarch physicians’ traditions. The Middlemarch people sees his way of knowing as a threat to the laws of medicine and communal relations that have proved successful for generations.
I argue that Eliot incorporates the theory of evolution into Lydgate’s interaction with the community. She shows that Lydgate’s way of knowing is not advantageous for this particular environment at this time, so it does not survive. I believe he fails to thrive in this community because the society is not yet ready for his way of knowing, but the small cases of success in his medical practice show that his way of knowing has the potential for acceptance and use in the future.
“Learning the Unconscious: the Cycle of Education in the Poetry of Gary Snyder”
Directed by Stephen Fredman
Gary Snyder turns to the natural world as a source of wisdom and clarity, calling it “his old advisors.” His poetry expresses this wisdom and pays careful attention to the cycle of learning and teaching, both as a subject and a function of his work. Through teaching, he seeks to remind readers of a once-universal awareness that humans had of an inclusive relationship with the planet, in which humans understood that everything from trees to rocks to tigers was a part of an interconnected net. In my thesis, I examine how he treats learning as a cycle, showing that knowledge can be restored through changing the way we understand the world. Because he sees that modern civilization usually educates its members away from nature, he proposes a new kind of education that reminds humans of these planet-wide interrelationships. Blending Native American shamanism, with its attention to communal knowledge, and Buddhism, with its goal to unify the entire self with one’s environment through meditation, he reminds people of this “ancient solidarity” with the planet. Understanding how the cycle of learning appears as both a subject and a function of his poetry helps us to better understand that Snyder’s message is for everyone, not only those with specialized knowledge of shamanic practices. Some critics argue that this didacticism weakens his poetry, but I believe that his focus on teaching encourages readers to dig deeper and to discover where our roots as humans really lie.
“[Im]Moral Mothers: The Women of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County”
Directed by José Limón
The beauty and drama of his Southern Sagas attract readers to William Faulkner’s novels, but the staging only serves as a backdrop for serious and conflicted studies of the social issues that plague the antebellum south. At the heart of the novels is the question of where morality can be found in a society that lives and dies by rigid and often unnatural inherited customs. The female characters in Faulkner’s novels – particularly mother-figures – serve as conduits for this discussion; their eternal compulsion towards creation and life often exists at odds with more superficial desires and social constructs. I argue that through the mothers, non-mothers, and almost-mothers in his novels – and I look at just five – Faulkner presents his own theories about morality and the incredible, sometimes destructive power of motherhood and creation. Through a close reading of five novels which prominently feature conflicted mothers, I show that Faulkner’s ‘good’ mothers inherently understand their duties and are fundamentally moral. They do not necessarily fit with the accepted Southern understanding of a good mother, though. As an ancient tradition, motherhood defies contemporary social fads. In a shattered and reeling South, Faulkner shows – through his mothers – that established custom is often contrary to natural compulsion. Further, his portrayal of women, while often read as derogatory, actually reveals a deep respect and awe for woman’s natural ability to create – an ability Faulkner himself can only ape with his writing.
“‘A Coffin Carved out of Time’: Temporality and Narration in Philip Roth’s American Pastoral”
Directed by Kinohi Nishikawa
American Pastoral, a 1997 novel by Philip Roth, features Nathan Zuckerman, Roth’s recurring and semiautobiographical character. Instead of narrating his own life as he does in Roth’s previous works, Zuckerman turns his obsession onto another character, whose story comprises the majority of the novel’s narrative. Zuckerman creatively imagines the downfall of his childhood icon, Seymour “The Swede” Levov, whose daughter Merry commits a murderous act of political terrorism in protest of the Vietnam War. This narrative shift has been interpreted by critics as Zuckerman’s “new selflessness,” and as a departure from the themes explored by Roth’s earlier novels featuring Zuckerman. Little critical attention has been paid to Zuckerman’s role in the story he presents.
Although American Pastoral deals primarily with a figure besides Zuckerman, it does not abandon the themes of the Roth’s earlier installments. On the contrary, these themes are amplified, as Zuckerman’s meta-narrative qualities are even more nuanced and run even deeper than in Roth’s prior works. Zuckerman’s presence does not fade completely from the story of the Swede, despite the fact that a relatively small amount of space in the novel explicitly follows the action of Zuckerman’s character. Parallels exist between Zuckerman and members of the Levov family, which divulge as much about the narrator as they do his subjects. Both Zuckerman and the Swede look to an idol from the past and search for cracks in his heroic façade, creating a circular structure to the novel and allowing Zuckerman to express his own story via someone else’s. Further, American Pastoral is replete with formal peculiarities. Erratic slippages in which the third-person narrative shifts to first-person occur throughout the novel. These occasional glitches in point of view represent Zuckerman’s inhabitation the Swede’s character, and can be read as Zuckerman’s voice bubbling to the surface of the Swede’s story. These instances of ‘pronoun confusion’ underscore Zuckerman’s omnipresence in the novel, despite the existence of a different central character. This narrative strategy, coupled with Zuckerman’s and the Swede’s temporal ruminations, creates an overwhelming feeling of temporal stasis, and ultimately questions the notion of progress in the novel.
“Negotiating the Self: Identity and Independence in The Country Girls and Amongst Women”
Directed by Declan Kiberd
Novels tackling the family in Ireland all surround the same tensions and dysfunctions that point to very real and disconcerting problems of introversion, isolation and opposition. Despite the ideal Irish Catholic state promoted in the Constitution, these texts speak of the stifling ways in which the family is a burden, the place of origin a blemish. What is revealed in The Country Girls, and to an even greater degree in Amongst Women is that the family is either something to be ashamed of and run from, or something similar to a crutch, making the process of achieving an individual identity all but impossible.
I brought in two earlier Irish authors, J.M. Synge and Oscar Wilde, to highlight the continuation of many discourses running through both fiction and nonfiction writing. Through these authors I was able further discuss how the project of creating the self is one not just confined to the text, but the life’s work of the author.
The Country Girls provides an entry into the family. It is bluntly honest, angry, and insightful. I do not spend much of my analysis on this text because I feel it is incomplete. The characters are incomplete; they need one another to arrive at something resembling the whole. I focus my analysis on Amongst Women because of the depth of each character, and the ways in which the patriarch Michael Moran is a fascinating and terrifying study of a man who feels he has failed. I conclude that despite these burdens, there are successes. That if the child is willing to venture out into the world without severing completely their ties, they are in fact able to return, to draw on their place of origin as a source of support and comfort. They can use the place with power equal to the force with which the house and their father held them back and subdued them.
“A Womb of One‘s Own: Procreation Metaphors and Masculine Anxiety in Seán Ó Ríordáin’s Poetry”
Directed by Declan Kiberd
Along with Máirtín Ó Direáin and Máire Mhac an tSaoi, Seán Ó Ríordáin is celebrated as one of the most significant Irish poets of the twentieth century for his exploration of modern themes and his unprecedented renovation of the Irish language. Ó Ríordáin’s poetry negotiates the stability offered by traditional binaries, often discussed with reference to the Irish/English language dichotomy, with the “hybridization” of Ireland's linguistic and cultural influences. Running parallel to these established themes, Ó Ríordáin’s work problematizes the gender identifications of the patriarchal masculine/feminine binary through his use of metaphors that equate poetic production with procreation. Drawing on male usage of procreation metaphors in the Irish literary tradition specifically and on the political-cultural coding of Ireland as female that inescapably informed his work, Ó Ríordáin re-manipulates the “mind-womb” metaphor to construct the poet’s mind-womb as both a corporeal and metaphysical space in which the patterns of self and “other” mingle to engender a poem-child.
Through close readings of several poems in the original Irish, I argue that Ó Ríordáin’s explorations of “the feminine,” through gestation metaphors and portrayals of the Irish language as woman, mother, and whore, reveal an anxiety surrounding the (pro)creative potential of the poet-father that mirrors Ó Ríordáin’s linguistic, cultural, and sexual marginalization as an Irish speaker, a tuberculosis patient, and a fatherless bachelor. Not only poetry, but also the poet himself are aligned with the feminine in Ó Ríordáin’s work, leading to a sexual confusion that lends a transgendered element to his poetry: Ó Ríordáin projects his speakers, sometimes simultaneously, as father, mother, and gender-neutral child. Fear of a female monopoly on both biological and poetic creation culminates in the controversial poem, “Banfhile” (“Woman Poet”), in which the speaker repeatedly asserts, “A woman is not a poet, but poetry.” However, if both the male poet and poetry align with the feminine, what does the female poet become? Through an analysis of procreation metaphors in his poems, I demonstrate that Ó Ríordáin usurps the womb as metaphor in an attempt to preserve his stake in the creative process as poet-father.
“Mind vs. Body: The Composition of Consciousness in Contemporary Narrative”
Directed by Kate Marshall
The question of consciousness has fascinated humanity throughout history. From Plato to Descartes to William James, many thinkers have engaged in philosophical dialogue in attempts to explain the self, the soul, and the relationship between the mind and the body. Today, modern neurology lays claim to arguably the most accurate definitions of consciousness. Still, something mysterious remains about consciousness that transcends the firing of neurons and the teamwork of brain lobes. There is something intangible about consciousness, and many people still question the relationship between the mind and the body. Is it one’s mind that makes a person a conscious “self?” Or does the material body contribute to consciousness as well?
I argue that contemporary literature may be read in light of the question of mind and body’s contribution to consciousness. Many critics read contemporary literature either as responding to or through the lens of modern science. The phenomenon of the “neuronovel,” however, may reduce contemporary literature to materialistic presentations of consciousness. Equating the self and consciousness with the brain risks discounting philosophical and social influences on the construction of narrative. I argue that contemporary narrative may be read as suggesting that consciousness requires interplay between the mind and the body. It does so through constructing narrators whose consciousness is somehow “wrong” due to an imbalance of mind and body.
In this paper, I examine two different groupings of contemporary literature for what they contribute to the philosophical dialogue on mind and body’s composition of consciousness. The first group deals with novels I define as presenting narrators whose consciousness comes almost entirely from the mind with little outside check from the body: Enduring Love by Ian McEwan and Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen. The second group of literature portrays narrators that I argue possess consciousness that is almost entirely defined by the body in the absence of mental evaluation and connection: Remainder by Tom McCarthy and The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. Both groups present portraits of consciousnesses that are unhealthy or strange, which suggests that both the mind and the body must contribute to a successful construction of consciousness.
“‘What Men Do’: Hamlet’s Engagement with Elizabethan Machiavellianism”
Directed by Jesse Lander
Many critics have searched for evidence of Machiavellian influences on Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet. However, there is no evidence whether Shakespeare read Machiavelli’s works, and many critics mistakenly impose a modern notion of Machiavellianism upon Shakespeare’s plays. Nevertheless, the question of how Hamlet engages with Elizabethan Machiavellianism is an important one. Understanding Shakespeare’s treatment of Machiavellian thought sheds light on the condition of Machiavellianism in the Elizabethan dramatic milieu and also offers a subtle interpretation of Hamlet’s engagement with Elizabethan culture at large. By treating the question of Machiavellianism in Hamlet as a problem of intellectual history, this paper explores precisely how Hamlet is a “Machiavellian” play.
Hamlet’s engagement with Machiavellianism can be determined after exploring the complex incorporation of Machiavellianism into Elizabethan culture. Claudius, Polonius, and even Hamlet often emulate the cunning, manipulative behavior of the popular “stage Machiavel” stock character. The images of hunting, spying, and “seeming” (or dissimulation) pinpoint moments in which the characters behave like stage Machiavels, which I disseminate through a close reading of several key passages. On a higher level, I also examine the ways in which broader elements of Hamlet—its setting as an elective monarchy, its themes of political crisis and imperial collapse, and the nature of its numerous unresolvable ambiguities—indicate a more subtle awareness of the role of Machiavellian discourse in Elizabethan culture.
Hamlet’s engagement with Elizabethan Machiavellianism is complex and nuanced. Shakespeare’s approach to Machiavellianism is similar to that of Francis Bacon, who admired Machiavelli’s work for its ability to describe “what men do, and not what they ought to do”. Although Shakespeare does incorporate elements of the stage Machiavel into characters like Claudius, Polonius, and Hamlet, he seems most intrigued by Machiavellianism’s ability to describe the often ruthless way mankind behaves, not how it ought to behave, creating a brutally realistic dramatic environment. Because Shakespeare’s realism arises from an association with Machiavellianism, Hamlet is more than a realistic depiction of human behavior. Interpreting Hamlet in light of its Machiavellian associations illustrates how uniquely and complexly Shakespeare engages with contemporary Elizabethan culture and also adds a new, nuanced interpretation of Elizabethan Machiavellianism to the critical conversation.
“Glimpses of the Kingdom: A Closer Look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s Illustrations for The Hobbit”
Directed by Lauren Rich
J.R.R. Tolkien’s visual art, though little known, is a substantial component of his creative work, especially the maps and landscapes of his legendarium. The Hobbit is Tolkien’s most illustrated publication with a total of thirteen published illustrations, plus his self-designed cover art. However, Tolkien apparently undermines the importance of such visual images in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” (“OFS”) in which he repeatedly claims “illustrations do little good to fairy-stories.” Unlike literature, which “works from mind to mind,” an image “imposes one visible form” (“OFS” 77-78). Tolkien deems illustration too restrictive for the reader’s imaginative interpretation.
Yet in the same essay, Tolkien uses visual language to describe the key components of the fairy-story. Each involves a transformation of the reader’s visual imagination in preparation for seeing the “eucatastrophe,” the text’s turning point that is a moment of clarity (71). According to “OFS,” narrative art provides a glimpse of the purely imaginative realm of Faërie that may point towards the substantial, divine realm of Heaven.
Even more strikingly, The Hobbit illustrations’ visual content and interaction with the text embody these components and so prompt the reader to become a “spectator.” As an exemplification of “Fantasy,” Tolkien’s Rivendell landscape invites the spectator to imaginatively inhabit a different scene than the text describes. Similarly, Thror’s Map acts as an artifact of Faërie that incites careful perception, mimicking the textual theme of “Recovery” and preparing the reader and characters alike for the moment of “eucatastrophe.”
In this paper I argue that images such as these, despite Tolkien’s dismissal of visual art, are essential to Tolkien’s fairy-stories. In fact, they constitute an important theological element of “sub-creation,” Tolkien’s theory of art in “OFS.” Tolkien’s visual art for The Hobbit—both the artifacts of his creative process and the images that accompany the text—provide glimpses of his artistic theory: sub-created art’s ultimate theological purpose is to glimpse the divine. Through the artistic (not solely literary but also visual) process of sub-creation, both the spectator (reader) and designer (author) may glimpse the kingdom of Middle-earth, and by extension, the Christian kingdom of Heaven. [Note: Throughout my paper, I will refer to Tolkien’s ideal reader, the reader/viewer, as the “spectator.” The spectator may be understood to interpret not only text but images as well. Likewise, I will refer to the author, the author/illustrator, as the “designer”; both “spectator” and “designer” are terms Tolkien uses in “OFS” (53).]
Eilis Mary Grace Smyth
“‘The Queen, my Lord, is dead’: Post-colonial Shakespeares on Film”
Directed by Peter Holland
For centuries Shakespeare was an emblem of the British Empire; a verification of its cultural prowess and colonial power. Culturally, Shakespeare was the jewel in the crown of the Empire. Now that the British Empire has diminished into the Commonwealth, a question arises as to whether the appropriation, re-invention, and performance of Shakespeare by what are now post-colonial countries and communities implies the staying power and influence of the British Empire or, instead, subverts that influence and asserts the development of independent identities in post-colonial nations. My thesis explores this question through the specific medium of film, examining two appropriations of Macbeth: Maqbool, an Indian adaptation directed by Vishal Bhardwaj in 2004, and Mickey B a Northern Irish film directed by Tom Magill in 2007. British Imperial influence, in all of its complexities, is an experience shared both by Ireland and India. My question is, broadly: what is at stake when a post-colonial nation (or even a specific community within a nation, as with these two films) appropriates Shakespeare? There is of course a long history of colonized peoples responding to Empire in Shakespearean accents. But are they ever able to claim Shakespeare as their own? Both Maqbool and Mickey B successfully indigenize the Scottish Play. Macbeth becomes a narrative that can be manipulated to reflect the political and religious divisions that characterize the formation of national identity in India and Northern Ireland. By claiming Shakespeare as Irish and Indian, telling the story of Macbeth in their own tongues, McGill and Bhardwaj negotiate with and subvert the influence of the British Empire. Ultimately though, it is India which has resolved its negotiation with Shakespeare; Maqbool seeks to make no strong political statement. It is Mickey B which is consciously political, and in the film we see that Northern Ireland’s negotiation with Shakespeare, like its relationship and negotiation with the British Empire, continues.
“The Honest Physician and the Quack”: Agency and Cure in Jane Austen’s Heroines
Directed by Yasmin Solomonescu
Jane Austen’s novels have been thoroughly explored by critics in myriad areas, but medicine and the health of the physical body have been largely passed over. Though Austen never directly engages in any type of serious medical discourse, nor figures doctors or medical experts heavily in her main novels, health nonetheless subtly permeates the text of her fictions. From Mr. Woodhouse’s diet of gruel and Henrietta’s recommendation of sea-bathing, to Marianne’s fever and Louisa’s head injury, health is under constant discussion. I seek to examine these instances of health within three of Austen’s novels – Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion – and compare them to those present within a medical handbook of the 1780s, Dr. William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine. Through this comparison, it is evident that several minor medical details in Austen’s novels correspond to treatments or prescriptions given in Domestic Medicine, lending support to the notion that Austen was very purposeful and deliberate in the placement of health within her novels.
I do not seek to argue that Austen’s works are truly a guidebook for physical health, but rather through attention to medical details, Austen intends to draw focus to the health of the “social body”, a metaphor which was highly prevalent during Austen’s lifetime. The heroines within each novel become the head doctor for their communities, but the question remains in each case as to whether the heroine is an “honest physician” or a “quack.” I argue that Austen creates quack doctors in Marianne and Emma while she makes legitimate nurses of Elinor and Anne. Additionally, I argue that sorting these heroines by their “medical” prowess allows for an examination of their personal agency. The quacks have agency but must learn from their errors, while the legitimate nurses have simply to sustain their natural behavior to be rewarded, Providentially, with marriage.
“Togas And Tuxedos: The Many Connections Between Aristophanes’ The Frogs And P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves And Wooster Stories”
Directed by Margaret Doody
P.G. Wodehouse was a lyricist, dramatist, ex-banker, ex- clerk, and authors of some of the most widely-read and beloved comedies of the twentieth century, the Jeeves and Wooster stories. While these stories present an idyllic world where a young man is saved from various romantic entanglements by his brilliant valet, Jeeves, the stories also offer a critique of the state of the ruling class in British society and the possible destruction of this class by its own ineptitude. Yet, for all of his genius, Wodehouse was not inventing a new structure for comedy but rather altering and manipulating a well-established tradition of ancient Athenian Comedy, the clever-servant narrative, and Wodehouse’s choice to follow in a tradition associated with the critique of leadership in democracies sheds light on the darker aspects of Wodehouse’s narratives. Although critical literature more commonly connects Wodehouse with the Roman playwrights, Terence and Plautus, Wodehouse uses the Greek precedent to critique his society and show its decline, which contrasts with Terence and Plautus’ purpose of celebrating Roman society and praising its leaders.
Wodehouse explores the Greek precedent in a number of different ways throughout the course of his Jeeves and Wooster novels and stories, and one of the most pertinent connections between Greek Old Comedy and Wodehouse’s stories is the focus on the control of the master’s wardrobe. Wodehouse, like Aristophanes, structures his narratives around a conversation between the master and the servant involving the tastefulness of the master’s clothes, but, unlike Aristophanes, Jeeves does not want to wear Wooster’s ridiculous clothes. He wants to destroy them, and this destruction as a metaphorical destruction of the upper class itself. Whereas Aristophanes in The Frogs has his servant character, Xanthias, wear Dionysos’ mantle to show that even a slave can pass as a god if he wears the right clothes, Wodehouse never gives his servant character the ambition to become a member of the ruling class. Instead, Jeeves is content to control the wardrobe and make Wooster look as if he were a leader, a choice which emphasizes how little the identity of any member of the ruling class matters.
An exploration of the clever-servant narrative in these works serves to elucidate the power of comedy to express a democratic society’s anxiety over the capability of the ruling class and forces their readers to question whether rulers are chosen for their abilities and virtues or whether, like Wooster, they are merely a continuation of a long line of failures dressed in the right clothes.
“The Performance of Magic in Shakespeare’s The Tempest: The Negotiation of Fantasy and Reality”
Directed by Peter Holland
The spectacular moments of magic, the mysterious island setting, and the dynamic characters all make Shakespeare’s The Tempest rich with different choices for directors and actors in the vexed issue of how to present magic. The idea of magic has shifted so drastically from the Elizabethan Era that problems arise in keeping the play both entertaining and understandable to a modern audience. Even further, Shakespeare leaves his definition of magic and his characterization of Prospero’s power ambiguous, making interpretation key. In cinematic and theatrical performances, directors work to adjust the real and create their own definition of magic. Thus, magic can be modernized to science or technology, or it can be presented in ways historically accurate to the time period; magic can be appropriated into another culture, or it can become a metaphor for theatre or a writer’s creation; magic can blend with God, science, and nature, or deviate from them entirely. No choices are right or wrong, but in this thesis, I analyze the performance of magic at three crucial moments in the play: the opening storm, the banquet with the harpy, and the wedding masque. Each scene uses magic differently: the opening storm invokes wonder and fear as Prospero powerfully manipulates the elements of nature, Ariel as harpy in the banquet scene uses magic to scare the lords and make them – as well as ourselves – question our morals and vision, and the wedding masque with its performing goddesses makes us think about reality and perception. The performance of magic and our conception of Prospero in The Tempest changes how we read the ending of the play and how we as spectators then negotiate the lines between reality, fantasy, and dreams in our own lives.