2006 Thesis Abstracts

Kourtney Bitterley
Jacqueline Clark
Dylan Drugan
Molly Griffin
Jason E. James
Claire Kelley
Lauren Kiehna
Samantha Raneri
Peter Schroeder
Joseph M. Trombello
Eileen Varga
Corinne Viglietta

The Bifurcation of Biculturation:  The Search for Identity in Julia Alvarez’s How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican
By Kourtney Bitterly; director, Ivy Wilson

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the tempest tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

With these words inscribed at her base, the Statue of Liberty stands in the New York Harbor lighting the way and beckoning people from all over the world into the United States, and seemingly a new life of opportunity, but the words at Lady Liberty’s base often comprised the extent of the welcome into the United States. Perhaps, the apparent contradiction that exists between the façade of the Statue guiding the way into the United States and the reality of admission lies in the fact that the Statue was a gift from the French. The Statue of Liberty, the preeminent symbol of the United States’ freedom and immigration, is itself a foreign perception. Those who have made it past her light and past inspections know how quickly the quest to realize the American dream can become a nightmare.

The true immigrant journey is one of navigating and negotiating identities split between the native and American cultures. In How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and When I Was Puerto Rican, Julia Alvarez and Esmeralda Santiago investigate the quest for the American dream and reveal that the immigrant experience is not merely that of assimilating one’s split selves into a singular culture and identity, but that of emerging with an ever amorphous identity from the home immigrants find between their two cultures.

Rhetoric and Reality:  The Empty Promise of No Child Left Behind
By Jacqueline Clark; director, Stuart Greene

President George W. Bush touted the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as a new approach to education based on flexibility, accountability, local control and parental choice, and scientific research which would eliminate the achievement gap. While NCLB initially enjoyed bipartisan support, it has been denounced by scholars, administrators, teachers, parents, students, and politicians alike in four years since its passing.

In this paper, I will argue that the source of this shift in attitudes is the practical realization that NCLB does not signal a shift in the legislative approach to education, but rather reinforces the status quo in deceptively new language. I will use rhetorical analysis to understand the way Bush constructs education and education reform. Tracing the history of the intersections between race, class, and education reveals distinct patterns, including the preservation of white privilege by refusing to acknowledge its influence. These patterns are born out in NCLB, both in an analysis of linguistic and policy changes to NCLB and in the way the Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, constructs education in 2001 speeches which advocate for the passage of NCLB. Consistent with other race-related reforms throughout history, this analysis reveals that the promise of NCLB is an empty one; reform is more rhetorical than real. 

“I Try My Best to Be Just Like I Am, but Everybody Wants You to be Just Like Them”:  Identification and Rhetoric in the Lyrics of Bob Dylan, The Formative Years
By Dylan Drugan; director, John Duffy

When Bob Dylan released his first album on March 19, 1962, he was a “complete unknown” outside the Greenwich Village music scene. By the release of his fifth album three years later, his music had reached an international audience, but the direction of his music was possibly as unclear as it had been on the day of his debut. His career was in its formative years and he experimented with fundamental changes in lyrical and musical style. These shifts earned him a disparate litany of both praise and criticism: a “folly,” “[America’s] finest contemporary folk song writer,” “the undisputed king of protest music,” “the voice of a generation,” “Judas.” While he almost never failed to evade, rebuff, or satirize attempts to label him, these labels are indicative of the various ways in which his listeners achieved identification with him.

This analysis will apply Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical theories to determine how Dylan persuades his listeners to connect with his various personas. This task has potential obstacles given the way he continually changes the sensations, concepts, images, ideas, and attitudes which make up his “identity.” Nevertheless, the difficulty of defining him in a single, all-encompassing picture that reflects his countless changes as well as his attempts to deflect the reality of these changes is not the concern of this paper. The focus is on his listeners and, despite lyrical shifts (sometimes radical) in content, meaning, and style from album to album, how they continue to identify with Dylan throughout his first five albums.

I Was a Sexual Deviant:  Negotiating “Normalcy” in The Bell Jarand Lolita
By Molly Griffin; director, Marion Christina Rohrleitner

Sexual taxonomies, particularly classifications of behavior as “normal” or “abnormal” are challenged in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jarand Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. The social norms challenged by the novels places them in the greater historical context in which they were written, and the issues they deal with continue to make the works relevant today. Michele Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 provides a framework that shows the links between sexuality and power – specifically the concepts of surveillance and confession – and reveals how they classify and enforce sexual behavior. Sex in the 1950s was closely tied to the security of the nation because of its power, and strict social norms attempted to control or “contain” certain individuals.

In The Bell Jar, Esther resists conforming to sexual expectations held for women in the 1950s but faces numerous challenges. Analyzing her interactions with Buddy and Mrs. Willard, in particular, reveals the Foucaultian idea of internal and external surveillance and how these concepts relate to external occurrences like the Rosenberg trial, the Kinsey report and women’s magazines.

Foucault’s articulation of confession reveals how Humbert’s narrative attempts to renegotiate society’s definition of “normal” sexual behavior in Lolita. The confessional nature of his narrative relates to the Communists hunts in the 1950s, such as the HUAC hearings and the Alger Hiss case. Humbert’s portrayal of Charlotte Haze and Claire Quilty, who represent “normal” and “abnormal” respectively, reveals the restrictive nature of “normal” sexuality, as well as the problems with attempting to eliminate sexual boundaries all together.

Looking at the Past to Change the Present:  Marginal Communities in Contemporary Irish Film and Literature on Irish Independence
By Jason E. James; director, Susan Harris

Today’s Republic of Ireland finds itself, in many ways, the toast of the European community. With one of the highest GDPs in the EU and an expanding national pride after decades of being nearly a third-world country and centuries of colonial domination, it would seem that the Emerald Isle has never been healthier. However, in this radically changed society, what relevance does the narrative of national independence in the 1916 Easter Rising hold? Led by Neil Jordan’s film Michael Collins, a series of works created during the Celtic Tiger era interrogate this past and in the process, interrogate the conception of Irish national identity as it exists in contemporary times. Instead of embracing a single version of national identity, these works attempt to write in marginalized Irish communities into both Irish history and Irish culture today. Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry invents a working-class revolutionary to simultaneously mock the revolution and create a cultural space for the lower class, who have not received the full benefits of the Celtic Tiger economy. Likewise, Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim, Two Boys attempts to create an originary history for two homosexual youths during the 1916 Easter Rising to create a space for an Irish homosexual identity in a land whose morality is still often defined by its extensive Catholic heritage. These works are interpreted through an extension of the applied philosophies of Richard Kearney, who argues for a multivalent Irish identity in the new era after the Celtic Tiger.

Gendered Aesthetics in James Joyce’s Ulysses:  Molly Bloom as a Speaking Statue
By Claire Kelley; director, Maud Ellmann

Since the male perspective dominates the first seventeen episodes of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Stephen and Bloom are associated with interior thought while women are consistently represented as statues. But when Joyce’s version of a Hegelian hierarchy between speech and statuary collides with Nietzsche’s notions of Apollonian and Dionysian art, feminine fragmentation in the final episode shatters the statue constructed by the male gaze. 

My thesis traces the mythology of the animate statue and explores the ways that Stephen in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Gabriel in “The Dead,” and Bloom in Ulysses become modernist versions of the sculptor in Ovid’s Pygmalion myth. Yet Bloom, like Luce Irigaray, notices an unrealistic trend in classical statuary such as the Venus of Praxiteles in the National Museum – the absence of biologically accurate orifices. Considering Byzantine Greek attitudes toward the animate statue and Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” I argue that in Joyce’s work, the statue as art object loses its religious and ritualistic function and gains a “discursive role” in the realm of gender politics.

The ostensibly opposed contradictions that characterize Greek statues and Molly Bloom -- idealized yet sexual, objectified yet powerful, autonomous yet porous -- converge in the “Penelope” episode when Molly, like the Nymph in the “Circe” episode, becomes a speaking statue. In the infinite circularity of her monologue, Molly’s orifices open, and she reclaims an interior voice, rejecting silent objectification and writing the female body with flowing language.

Medium as Mediation:  The Tensions among Author, Reader, and Text
By Lauren Kiehna; director, Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe

Most college students can relate to the idea that reading a text from a computer screen is different from reading the same text in print form on a piece of paper; however, few probably spend a significant amount of time attempting to explain how and why these textual experiences are unique. Whether a text arrives to its reader as a manuscript painstakingly written by a scribe, a serial printed in a pamphlet or a newspaper, or a digital blog accessed with a computer and the Internet, the way that a piece of writing is presented can greatly affect how both author and reader relate to the text. This thesis explores these larger questions about the tensions within the author-reader relationship based on the way a text is rendered and examines both the author’s and the reader’s conception of ideas such as intellectual property, authorship, and originality.

To tackle these large questions about the relationship between the reader and author, it is useful to isolate fundamental differences between texts presented in three distinct forms of textual media: the manuscript, printed text, and electronic text. Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies, the serial novels of Victorian authors like Charles Dickens, and the emerging digital technology of e-Books have served as test cases for these larger ideas about readership, authorship, and media. Gerald Bruns’s vocabulary of open and closed texts also helps to frame the ideas within the paper.

Reading for Social Action:  Unpacking Racial Inequality in the works of Jimmy Santiago Baca, Richard Rodriguez, and Pat Mora
By Samantha Raneri; director, Stuart Greene

In her book Cultivating Humanity, Martha Nussbaum combines philosophical ideals with cross-cultural studies to put forth an approach to higher education in which students learn about other cultures an gain an appreciation for differing value systems.  The goal of this approach is for students to become “citizens of the world.”  Nussbaum’s argument, however, does not move the scope of education beyond appreciation and tolerance to include a wider call to action and social change.

At the present time in our nation, there exists a demographic imperative that necessitates the inclusion of minority and marginal literatures and narratives to reflect our every-diversifying constituency.  Furthermore, students must be reading texts in a way that promotes social and political transformation needed to counter ignorance and deep-seated structures of subjugation and discrimination.  These realities call for a reformation of the way we read literature which departs from Nussbaum’s liberal humanist view and uses literature in a more active and dynamic way.

Critical Race Theory and borderland theory will be used to frame three works of Latino/a literature as pieces that can be read for social action.  The works of Jimmy Santiago Baca, Richard Rodriguez, and Pat Mora will be used to demonstrate how literature can be read in this way. These pieces are instrumental in framing a discussion of how to develop the dynamic relationship between a text, its readers, and real-life issues that is central to re-conceptualizing reading as a practice of social change.

Proprietorship Authorship:  Purpose Poetry and Authorship: Purpose Purpose
By Peter Schroeder; director, Gerald Bruns

When faced with chance-driven poetry, a popular initial reaction is “What’s the big deal? I could do this.” In this paper, the ideas, philosophies, and issues regarding chance poetry will be defined and explored. Issues such as audience and reader participation, temporal frailty, connections to previous avant-garde movements, and the usage of devices from the flip of a coin to computer algorithms to ancient Chinese oracles will be discussed. Furthermore, an analysis of chance poetry’s relationship to Zen Buddhism, specifically through meditative satori will provide an understanding of the philosophies behind chance poetry.

Having dealt with “What’s the big deal?” I move on to “I could do this” by entering the debate regarding poetry ownership of chance works. In many cases, a chance poet will take words previously published, such as Moby Dick, for example, and reorient those words with a chance device to create a new poem. Who owns the poem, the originator of the words or the one who provided their new presentation? In fact, can anyone truly lay claim to any words at all? In other cases, a poet will create a work that does not exist unless it is performed before an audience. In this situation, is it possible that the audience can claim equal, if not more authorship to the work than the poet? In exploring these and other questions, I work to develop an understanding of chance poetry as well as its ownership.

Selfhood and Secrecy:  Possessive Individualism and the Marriage Plot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Charlotte Bronte’sVillette
By Joseph M. Trombello; director, Sara Maurer

This paper explains how ideas of possessive individualism are maintained in the 19th-century novel’s marriage plot. While Jane Austen’s Persuasion can imagine union between two people as compatible with possessive individualism, Charlotte Bronte’s Villettereveals this to be impossible. I work with C.B. MacPherson’s theory of possessive individualism, an argument that assumes that men enter into relationships to serve their own interest, and apply this logic toward two 19th-century novels with female protagonists: Persuasionand Villette. Both novels focus on the marriage plot, a common 19th century novel ending that satisfies the reader, and either fulfill or reject this desire. In my discussion of Persuasion, I rebut a common argument advanced by critics like Tanner, Gilbert and Gubar that suggests Anne does not hold power over others. I demonstrate that Anne does influence others – especially her eventual husband Wentworth – and argue that even her previous rejection of Wentworth, ostensibly the result of persuasion by another person, actually represents her own desires. Anne therefore proves capable of holding power over other people, and her actions in the novel suggest that she always strives to fulfill getting what she wants: Wentworth.  In contrast, I argue that Lucy Snowe holds power over the reader by explicitly withholding information from us. Unlike Anne, a woman who tells Wentworth who she is and how she feels in order to rekindle their relationship, Lucy enjoys keeping herself a secret from other people. Lucy does not marry because she does not allow herself to become psychologically intimate with a man. In conclusion, I argue that both Anne and Lucy represent new kinds of women who do not explicitly rely on a man for their self-worth or their protection. Anne marries, but Persuasion demonstrates her ability to exist apart from male influence or protection, while Villette presents a character who prioritizes work and study over marriage.

Narrative Strategies against the Spleen:  Finding the Right Way to Writein Tristram Shandy
By Eileen Varga; director, John Sitter

Tristram Shandy is above all else a funny book, but it is a funny book whose narrator is constantly reminding us, quite seriously, of his diminishing health in the face of rapidly wasting time. This thesis examines how and why Tristram Shandy sets out to write his life and opinions. Taking seriously his claim that he is penning a treatise written against the spleen, I trace the novel’s various forms of writing, from sermon to sentiment to digression, and examine the success each narrative method has in promoting healing in Tristram’s suffering mind and body. Aligning each narrative strategy with a particular character in the novel, I argue that Tristram’s rejection of particular ways of writing also corresponds to his father’s directive conferred upon him at birth:  to think and act like no other man’s child.

Developing a uniquely Shandean prose requires rejecting the stylistic preferences of his father figures:  Walter’s addiction to persuasion and rhetoric and his uncle Toby’s attraction to sentiment. Although Tristram loves ascending the pulpit, he is attentive to the insensitivity of rhetoric to grief, particularly at the scene of brother Bobby’s death, and eventually finds oratory an empty and non-therapeutic narrative strategy. Sentiment, which elevates the suffering body to a work of art, is antithetical to Tristram’s mission to write himself into life and health.  Ultimately, Tristram thrives, is most alive, when he is telling us cock-and-bull stories in imaginative swerves that have little to do with his life or opinions.

Wharton’s Cosmopolitan Revision of “The New Frenchwoman” inThe Age of Innocence
By Corinne Viglietta; director, Collin Meissner

In 1919, Edith Wharton published French Ways and Their Meaning, a collection of essays intended to teach Americans the values and customs of “French civilization.” A year later, she published The Age of Innocence, a novel set in the 1870s that, among other things, tests the compatibility of “French ways” and the modern American woman. In this paper, I examine the character of Ellen Olenska, who seems to embody Wharton’s “New Frenchwoman” (an ideal described in French Ways) but whose unique cultural position (she was born in New York, educated in France, and married to a Polish count) prevents her from fitting conventional labels such as “French” and “American.” Instead, I argue that she is a cosmopolitan revision of Wharton’s “New Frenchwoman,” for she transcends national limitations and prefigures the age of modernity and multiculturalism in America.

Framing my essay with culture critic Randolph Bourne’s essay “Trans-national America,” I compare and contrast Wharton’s notion of cosmopolitanism and the idea of cultural pluralism espoused by the literati of post-WWI New York, which included Bourne, Horace Kallen, and Van Wyck Brooks. I propose that Wharton’s heroine bears a greater resemblance to Bourne’s “Trans-national American” than to “The New Frenchwoman,” since she subverts French standards of taste and reverence and, more importantly, embodies the kind of cultural mélange imagined by “modern” thinkers such as Bourne.  Ultimately, though, I show that Ellen, as a result of her cultural fluidity, eludes national categorization and, thus, represents a postwar openness to cultural ambiguity and diversity.