2015 Thesis Abstracts
"Ernest Hemingway’s Eyes: The Sun Also Rises as a Source of Cultural and Historical Truth.”
Directed by Cyraina Johnson-Roullier
In the past, scholars have looked at Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises as a quintessential novel of the lost generation in which he tracked the lives of people who had lost all of their values and beliefs in the post-war era. Admittedly, most of the characters in the novel, including Jake Barnes and his friends, are members of the lost generation. However, Hemingway’s intent was not simply to record the emptiness and the aimlessness of these characters as they wandered from city to city throughout Europe. He wanted to provide his readers with a deeper way to understand the notion of the lost generation and he did so by placing his characters in the environment of the fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain. In a time when many Americans suffered a great sense of disillusionment, the Spanish were still thriving because of the cultural passion and excitement of the bullfight. Hemingway previously wrote about bullfights as a journalist for the Toronto Star Weekly and from a somewhat autobiographical perspective in Death in the Afternoon. In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway combines the fact-based, real life experiences of previous bullfights with fictional characters and fictive storytelling. This combination of genres into a unique writing style coupled with the historical and cultural context of the bullfights in Pamplona allow Hemingway to move beyond the common notion of the lost generation. By reading the novel from the perspective that it is more than a simple recording of the lost generation, readers will discover multifaceted characters whose seemingly meaningless lives are briefly challenged by such complexities as the triumph of life over death, the shocking beauty of brutality, and the never-ending search for passion.
"Going to Encounter Life for the First Time: Stephen Dedalus, Catholicism, and the Growth of the Artist in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses.”
Directed by Joseph Buttigieg
James Joyce was an apostate from the Catholic Church for the entirety of his artistic career. However, the Catholic Church features prominently in Joyce’s works, and contemporaries said that he had a “Catholic structure” his mind. Why is Catholicism so ubiquitous in Joyce’s are? In addition to developing themes, I argue that the Catholic Church serves as an integral part of the social background with which characters interact. That role of the Catholic Church is particularly important to Stephen Dedalus, who rebels against the Church in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. In A Portrait, Stephen wins and external rebellion against Catholicism by rejecting its beliefs in favor of his own artistic creed. In Ulysses, part of the irony for Stephen is that he did not realize that the more difficult battle with Catholicism would be psychological.
The Church still has a hold of Stephen due to his fear of damnation, signified by the ghoulmother and guilt over his mother’s death. When Stephen exorcises the ghost of his mother, he removes his guilt, affirms his ability to spiritually redeem man through art, and declares his relationship with his mother to be based on love and empathy. The lesson Stephen learns about the importance of mutual understanding in interpersonal relationships allows him to “learn what the heart is” and grow as an artist. The meeting with Bloom gives us hope that Stephen will achieve his potential as an artist.
"From Out of Nowhere A New Perspective: Spatial Processing in The Legend of Zelda and FEZ"
Directed by: Jeśus Costantino
Since their advent in the early 1960s, video games have represented spatial environments. Both early video games, such as Steve Russell’s Spacewar, and more contemporary titles such as 343 Industries’ Halo 4 demonstrate that video games are concerned with creating spaces for players to interact with. Taking the spatial orientation of the medium for granted, this thesis seeks to answer a simple question; how does the spatial nature of a video game shape its capabilities as a medium of artistic expression? Phrased differently, how can a video game use its spatiality to engage users in complex thought processes? My thesis answers these questions through the examination of two video game texts in turn; the classic Legend of Zelda adventure game series, and recent puzzle game FEZ. Analysis of these games’ shared aesthetics and game design in light of postmodern theorist Frederic Jameson’s notion of “cognitive mapping” will elicit the similar, yet divergent ways in which both games internalize and spatially represent the postmodern circumstances of their production. In performing such analysis, I will showcase the unique capacity of video games to process abstract issues like postmodernism in a spatial idiom, and, as a result of this capacity, will advance the claim that video games are rapidly advancing as an artistic medium. On this basis, I will ultimately argue that video games are worthy of critical attention in literary circles and beyond, and gesture towards a future in which games are not stigmatized, but rather, are recognized for their merit alongside other media.
"Wilde Sex: A Socio-Historical Study of Sexuality in Film Adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray"
Directed by: David Thomas
This thesis intends to analyze film adaptations and their original literary works through a socio-historical lens as described by Anne Marie Scholz in her article entitled Adaptation as Reception: How a Transnational Analysis of Hollywood Films Can Renew the Literature-to-Film Debates. Until recently, most scholarship has examined the relationship between literature and film in terms of fidelity and intertexuality. Scholz, however, contends that adaptation is better understood as a form of reception on two levels: 1) the reception of an original literary work by the filmmaker(s) (creator(s)) of a specific film adaptation and 2) the reception of the film by various audiences (consumers). In this sense, film adaptations represent sociological artifacts that can provide information on their respective time periods based on how they were constructed and consumed. Studying and comparing adaptations from different periods can therefore provide strong insight into the evolution of society. In this thesis, such an approach is used to specifically look at two adaptations – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) and
Dorian Gray (2009) – in relation to Wilde’s original novel and each other so as to elucidate the increasing social presence of discourse surrounding sex and sexual orientation over time. During Wilde’s life, discussion of sex or sexual orientation, especially homosexuality, within the social sphere was taboo, whereas now sex is readily exploited and issues of sexual orientation are frequently debated. Such a drastic social change is perfectly portrayed by a socio-historical study of the major adaptions concerning one of Wilde’s most sexually charged texts, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
"Into the Wilderness to a Place Prepared"
Directed by: Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Into the Wilderness to a Place Prepared is composed of two short stories and nine “short-shorts” that focus on New Mexican women who navigate through phases of death, life and love. Though these stories are unrelated, they are not
disconnected; they syncopate each other and as a collection offer up what is in some ways a prayer and in others an affirmation of self-identification. While creating these pieces, I was interested in writing characters that emerged from cycles of grief and guilt and who resisted inherited patterns of obstruction, submergence and silence. The main characters of each story confront loss, departure, societal disapproval and hostility within a distinctly Southwestern worldview that colors this collection as regional literature. These stories are effused with memory, both within the texts and surrounding them, and these characters must strive to adhere to themselves as best they can amidst the sea of the past.
These pieces are not magical realism.
Though there may be certain elements of these stories that some may find spiritual and perhaps fantastic, they are not interested in an altered reality. Any heightening of the reality within the stories takes place as a result of the characters and their interactions and collisions with each other and not because they are “magical.” The Bible also has a lot to say in these pieces, especially in Camposanto and in Novena, though my characters are no longer explicitly religious and no longer read the Bible.
These short stories grew out of a research project I completed in the summer of 2014 in which I interviewed my parents and their siblings about my grandparents. I have transposed their experiences and the spirit of their responses into these stories without directly transferring their lived experience to fiction. My major influences include Zora Neale Hurston, Gloria Anzaldua and Deborah Eisenburg. Their specificity of character, unapologetic self-ness and fierce insistence on the possibility of an actualized voice-from-the-soul have given me a great respect for the power of a whole, if amalgamated, worldview.
Directed by: Steve Tomasula
“People! I am your driver today.” So begins Taxi, a novel-in-progress about a common taxied journey across post-apartheid South Africa. Fourteen very different people from a sprawling Cape Town township pile into a Volkswagen Kombi for a 15-hour journey to a remote ancestral village in the country’s Eastern Cape. This modern journey retraces the steps etched into the land by apartheid’s forced migrations. From the confined space of this taxi emerges a multi-narrative in which the characters’ interactions and refreshingly complex interiorities are explored through pages of dialogue, moments of nostalgia, and periods of introspection. Taxi seeks to be in conversation with a body of post-colonial South African literature that has tended to other Black township dwellers and is an effort to shy away from these literary oversimplifications. Taxi is a literary attempt to reveal a human narrative within the context of South Africa’s popular and bustling taxi transportation system. Through writing about this journey, I seek to boldly center these people’s meaningful stories and assert their identities as explicitly individual and highly contemporary.
Through a prioritization of characterization, Taxi hopes to highlight the ideas of intersectional identity and heighten the tense interactions between the self and one’s environment. Each section of Taxi is narrated by a different character whose unique story weaves itself into the fabric of the other passengers and into the social circumstance of South Africa. Overall, Taxi questions ideas of place, inequality, circumstance, and individuality. Although the main character, Driver, begins the story by shouting “People!,” I ultimately aim to shift this talk about ubiquitous “people” toward a nuanced understanding of individual persons and a more intimate compassion for their circumstances in a highly urban and constantly shifting post-apartheid South Africa.
"In Search of a Divine Hypotenuse"
Directed by: Joyelle McSweeney
Four dead characters find themselves at a bar in the middle of a cornfield, saddled with shared omniscience. Trapped in the anarchy of egocentricity, the characters remain unaware of the agency they possess in the construction of their own narratives. As the characters navigate their unreliable world and compete for narrative power, the author’s perverted ego gradually infects the story, resulting in a metafictional collapse. The author wakes in the ruins of her imagination, haunted by memory loss, isolation, and a nebulous desire to find something she has lost.
From sweltering cornfields to a frigid ghost town, In Search of a Divine Hypotenuse stages the psychological effects of unguided yearning. Drawing upon Catholic doctrine, the novella reimagines and localizes Purgatory in the American Midwest. It employs experimental, disparate form to construct a kaleidoscope of longing--longing for catharsis, identity, and connection.
I sought to build upon ideas in Dante’s Divine Comedy, particularly the relation between narrative and divinity. In Dante’s afterlife, souls must escape the claustrophobic confines of their individual stories (Inferno) in order to enter a collective narrative (Paradise). I became interested in Purgatory as the intermediary, liminal space that facilitates this transformation. As I wrote, Idiscovered the compatibility of Purgatory and narrative; desire is their mutual fuel. Ultimately, In Search of a Divine Hypotenuse explores the relation between narrative, self, and other.
"Coleridge, the Poet-Philosopher: Religious Imagination in an Age of Empiricism"
Directed by: Gregory Kucich
The British Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge is most well known for his canonical works of poetry, like “The Eolian Harp,” “Kubla Khan” and the Rime of the Ancyent Marinere. While such texts are brilliant by themselves, the philosophical, theological, and metaphysical ideas that animated such works are perhaps even more fascinating than these imaginatively creative poems. In my thesis, I explored the development of Coleridge’s philosophical and theological worldview as it relates to the theory of the Imagination. This theory was primarily a response to Enlightenment philosophical ideas that stressed empirical, rational, and analytical modes of thought. In order to show this, I placed Coleridge in a conversation with Enlightenment thinkers, like David Hume, David Hartley, and John Locke, as these thinkers are most representative of philosophical worldviews with which Coleridge most disagreed. In these earlier poems, we see thematic allusions to the Imaginative faculty, which are integral to understanding the explication of this theory in Coleridge’s later prose writings, like Lay Sermons (1816), Biographia Literaria (1817), and Aids to Reflection (1825).
However, as I found, it is false to draw a direct correlation between the theory of the Imagination, as it is represented in these earlier poems, and as it is described in Coleridge’s later prose writings. In the poetry, the Imagination is portrayed as a faculty that is dangerous, violent, and, most importantly, antithetical toward a theologically orthodox worldview. Perhaps ironically, however, this theory would later become the bedrock of Coleridge’s theological system, a system centered on metaphysical and philosophical speculation that were previously believed to be problematic to a systematic theology. We see, then, in the famed description of the Imagination in Chapter XIII of the Biographia Literaria, Coleridge’s apparent resolution of those early tensions in philosophical thought, as he is able to incorporate the metaphysical Imagination with a fundamentally Christian worldview. By comparing the late-18th-century prose writings to the earlier poetry, we see the arch of development in Coleridgean thought, which is full of excitement, eccentricity, and an unparalleled individuality in thought.
Ann Marie Jakubowski
"Time, Language, and Sacrament: T.S. Eliot, David Jones, and Religion in the Modern World"
Directed by: Romana Huk
This paper explores the religious underpinnings of the preoccupations shared by many modernist writers regarding meaning-making in a suddenly unfamiliar modern world. I examine the trajectory of T.S. Eliot’s thought on the symbolic efficacy of poetry by analyzing his two renowned works The Waste Land (1922) and Four Quartets (1943) alongside the fascinating prose-poems written by his contemporary David Jones, a Welsh Catholic who has recently begun to earn more critical attention. Jones’ works In Parenthesis (1937) and The Anathemata (1952) address many of the same themes that Eliot’s poems take on, such as the capacity of human language to describe the divine, the proximity (or distance) between God and humanity, and crucially, the eternal divine realm’s ability to penetrate the stream of temporality that humanity experiences on earth.
"Don Marquis and the Creation of an Urban Folklore"
Directed by: Cyraina Johnson-Roullier
Although he was one of the most prolific and acclaimed literary humorists of the early 20th century, Don Marquis’ work is mostly forgotten today. His Archy and Mehitabel stories, which chronicle the adventures of a cockroach and a cat, have survived though, and continue to be in print. Most of the critical literature on these stories focuses on contextualizing Marquis’ place among his contemporary humorists or classifying the various roles Archy and Mehitabel play. Additionally, there is some literature on the presence of folklore in Marquis’ writing. The question of how he uses folklore, however, has gone unanswered.
In this thesis, I show how Marquis applies traditional folklore to the city space in the creation of an Urban Folklore, a synthesis of traditional and modern forms of storytelling which transforms our understanding of the city and it’s relationship to an individual. Elements of Archy and Mehitabel have strong folkloric roots, which can be traced back to the Uncle Remus stories collected by Joel Chandler Harris. These elements are not only applied to the city, but also synthesized with modern forms of storytelling. By contrasting the image of the city this folklore produces with the conventional modern understanding of the city, as represented in the figure of the flâneur, we can clearly see how our understanding of the city, and the individual within, differs in Marquis. In particular, the linking of physical survival with an artistic survival of individuality provides the reader with knowledge of how to live.
"Not meself and yes meself: Liminal Womanhood, Dangerous Motherhood and the Female Experience in Marin Carr’s By the Bog of Cats"
Directed by: Susan Harris
Simultaneously working within and responding against a predominantly male literary tradition, Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats . . . balances between following convention and instigating subversion. As one of the most vibrant examples of contemporary woman’s voice on the Irish stage, By the Bog of Cats . . ., an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea, holds an increasingly important place in the canon of Irish drama, but critical contention surrounding the play’s problematic conclusion threatens to undermine its cultural significance. Certain critics have found her portrayal of infanticide, and the mother’s subsequent suicide, to be futile and ultimately disappointing given the tragic scope of these final moments. What most of these critics fail to take into account, however, is Carr’s consistent and creative incorporation of liminality into the world of By the Bog of Cats... In this paper, I provide some new insights into the critical debate surrounding this play by exploring the relationship between Carr’s depiction of womanhood (focusing specifically on her cyclical representation of motherhood and daughterhood) and the liminality inherent within this depiction.
Within its opening moments, Carr introduces various folkloric and supernatural elements into an otherwise realistic world to establish a universe where magic and reality become indistinguishable, and where the worlds of the living and the dead interact with one another. This outside liminal environment translates directly into the interior liminality of the protagonist, a woman named Hester Swane. Her social and emotional instability, related to her experience of abandonment as a child, reflects itself in strong fluctuations of identity. This instability is shared, to a certain extent, by the other female characters inhabiting the Bog of Cats.
Ultimately, a deeper understanding of the function of liminality in Carr’s work, both on the societal and individual level, transforms our reading of Hester’s final acts of infanticide and suicide not as failures to assimilate into society or liberate herself from oppression, but rather as successful, albeit tragic, acts of redefinition and self-memorialization. Through her portrayal of relationships between mothers and daughters in a liminal world, Carr creates a space in which re-defining the female narrative on the Irish stage is possible, something vital to the success of female playwrights following in her wake.
"Forging An English National Identity: The Importance of Place in the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries"
Directed by: Margaret Doody
During his investigations in “The Case of Identity,” Sherlock Holmes proclaims, “The little things are infinitely the most important.” This statement is applicable not only to the details of that case, but also to the narrative style of the entire Sherlock Holmes series. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduces no detail unintentionally. In constructing the setting for each case, Doyle deliberately incorporates elements that locate the story within England, and more specifically, within a particular English county and the cultural connotations associated with it. Because of the verisimilitude of the geography of Holmes’ world, scholars have been able to map precisely where each story occurred. However, they have rarely analyzed the combined significance of these English locations. This neglect is the more surprising because setting is never a mere backdrop that contextualizes the story; it drives the plot, characters or tone. In my thesis, I seek to address this scholarly gap by analyzing the social and historical geographies as they exist within the texts, and participate in conversation with the trends of English nationalism concurrent with the stories’ publication. The result is a deliberately crafted sense of English national identity constructed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle . This emerges as multifaceted and complex due to the author’s inclusion of multiple ethnicities, ingrained historical tensions and emerging social questions.
Doyle’s terrain, while a fictional construct, is designed to reveal truths about the actual world of England. The “little things”- the geographical connotations associated with particular events, the historical events woven into particular tales, the ethnic names given to particular characters- are, in a way, the most important aspects of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. These salient details demonstrate not just what Doyle wrote, but how and why he wrote the way he did. He did not write the Sherlock Holmes series with the sole intent of defining Englishness. Yet “Englishness” is a theme that he is clearly exploring throughout these mysteries . By including England’s most defining characteristics, good or bad, Doyle is defining a strong national identity, presenting England both as it is and as it could be.
"Second Tier: A Novella"
Directed by: Joyelle McSweeney
This thesis is an attempt to marry metafiction and the young adult fiction, two genres one might call strange bedfellows. I took inspiration from the teen paranormal romance genre of young adult novels and combined it with a self-aware character and a narrator that is present in the story to explore new possibilities of writing within the young adult genre. The main character and first-person narrator of my piece, Ronnie, is a self- aware secondary character in a teen paranormal romance novel, stuck in the role of the “best friend.” She feels mischaracterized and misused by the narrator she finds herself saddled with. Ronnie struggles to assimilate her new status as a second tier character with her identity as an individual person, leading her to fight against the narrator of the novel she is trapped within. As the piece develops Ronnie finds new and inventive ways to define herself and the world around her.
Ronnie’s struggles are brought about by the metafictional aspect of the novel, but the struggles themselves are typical to many young adults. This is a story about Ronnie finding herself, realizing her personal worth, and gaining control over not only her actions but also her thoughts and, by extension, her entire life. Ronnie’s struggles with the Narrator and her role in the story have direct relevance to modern youth culture, which is saturated in stories of teen paranormal romance and girls who find their self-worth not in themselves but in the validation of a boy who loves them. Ronnie chooses to tell her story as a warning, as a way to reclaim herself, but first and foremost as a way to bring hope—to say that control is possible, that being different is naturally acceptable, and that there are many ways to love and happiness, ways that go beyond cultural expectations to something deeper, something more.
“Mrs. Osmond was rarely seen without her stepdaughter.”
Rectifying the Quest for Personal Freedom in Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady
Directed by: William Krier
In The Portrait of a Lady, Isabel Archer aspires to what all of Henry James’ favorite characters aspire to: the condition of freedom. As a naïve twenty-two year old woman traveling from Albany, New York to visit her relatives in Europe, Isabel seeks experience, adventure, and independence. Yet when she tells her cousin Ralph at the beginning of the novel, “I am very fond of my liberty,” she does not perceive her inherent limitations, and instead feels blindly secure within them (James pg. 20). My thesis examines Isabel’s re-conceptualization of her self-understanding as she matures into a “lady,” and the critical role of her stepdaughter, Pansy Osmond, in this process.
I find that Isabel and Pansy’s relationship has three distinct dimensions throughout The Portrait of a Lady. Pansy initially proves a useful means for Isabel to gain favor with Gilbert Osmond during their courtship, yet her role becomes far more important than just for Isabel’s self-advancement. Once Isabel marries Osmond and becomes disillusioned from her perceptions of him, Pansy becomes a critical platform for Isabel’s own self-realization, and ultimately, self-preservation. Pansy serves as a shadow figure onto whom Isabel projects her own hopes and fears. Isabel then comes to know and protect the version of herself that lies within the young girl.
I argue that through Pansy, Isabel finds redemption for her mistaken marriage. The young girl rekindles Isabel’s spirit, and liberates her from the constraints of her own mind. At the end of the novel, it is unknown what lies ahead for both Isabel and Pansy, but regardless of the physical conditions, their companionship will continue to foster individual freedom of the soul.
"Living in Measure for Measure’s Vienna: The Injustice of Mandatory Minimums in Modern Sexting Cases"
Directed by: Elliott Visconsi
In William Shakespeare’s play, Measure for Measure, a stark absence of equity within criminal procedure drives the unjust sentencing of the play. This lack of equity is so profound, that the extreme measures are seen as remote and even brutal. This world of Shakespeare’s Vienna, while seemingly fictional in its radical handling of wrongdoing, is not so different from the criminal justice system in effect today. Mandatory minimum sentencing impedes judicial discretion in the same way Measure for Measure’s Angelo flouts fair judgment in the play. In the context of modern sexual texting, or “sexting,” mandatory minimums impose harsh penalties for victimless, minor offenses. Laws originally set in motion to protect children serve to harm them. The Arizona state legislature in particular enforces severe measures for those who engage in sexting, or the “practice of exchanging explicit self-portraits” (Arizona State Legislature 83). Using the state of Arizona to illustrate the issue more distinctly, I show that the same philosophical problem in Measure for Measure—a lack of equity for justice—is evident in modern legal systems. By transporting the structure and conflict of the seventeenth century play to Arizona in 2015, I conclude that our modern mandatory minimum sentencing, especially as applied to sexting, employs injustice identical to that of Shakespeare’s Vienna. I offer alternative legislatorial proposals, that I assert better countenance equity in the sentencing process.
Suggesting a removal of mandatory minimums, I propose four specific considerations when evaluating underage sexting cases. I believe these proposals separate the harsh absence of equity witnessed in Shakespeare’s Vienna from the just legal system we strive for today.
"Reclaiming Self: Subversive Silence and Memory as Sources of narrative Power in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea"
Directed by: Cyraina Johnson-Roullier
Recognized most readily as a prequel to Jane Eyre, Jean Rhys’s novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, lends itself well to feminist, postcolonial, and psychological readings. A wide range of discussion considers both how the text interacts with Jane Eyre and how it stands as an independent work. While comparison can offer rich insight, it is not necessary to focus on the novel in relation to Jane Eyre. Regardless of perspective, critics agree that Antoinette Cosway, the protagonist of the novel, inhabits a fluid space in between the European and Black communities on her home island in the Caribbean. They also agree, with some variation, that the husband’s oppression and manipulative destruction of Antoinette’s identity prompts her descent into madness. The structure of the novel, especially when viewed backwards from present into the memories of her past, allows Antoinette to establish herself as the writer of the narrative and reassert power over her story. In turn, she is able to reclaim her identity despite the fragmentation that many suggest renders her obsolete.
Recounting a large portion of the narrative from her oppressor’s point of view, Antoinette reveals the power structures that are at work against her, namely the patriarchal constructs that oppose her fluid identity and corroborate her husband’s social and legal authority. Upon recognizing that this structure is a construct dependent on her submission for its success, Antoinette recedes into silence, a feigned submission, playing into the role that is expected of her. At the same time, she creates a place of power for herself, where her story is safe from her husband’s authority and where it can be heard. Embracing the inconsistencies of her identity that stem from growing up between two different communities, she grounds her narrative in the dream-like memories of her past. This narrative approach dislodges the patriarchal understanding of time as a linear progression as well as the expectation of clarity in story-telling (and the recounting of history). Operating outside these norms, as she has done her entire life, Antoinette subverts her husband’s authority because, unlike her, he does not know how to navigate without the social constructs as a guide.
In the end, Antoinette’s successful completion of the narrative proves that a story’s inconsistency and contradiction do not warrant its dismissal. Instead, incoherence invites for further exploration, reveals the limits of social worldviews, and provides attention so that the silenced can be heard. Reading the novel in a time of increasing globalization and in the context of a complicated colonial/postcolonial history, it is important to recognize the limits of our understanding of identity and social order. In turn, it is vital to become more cognizant of the power dynamics that exist on a global scale and what biases they perpetuate. The novel invites us to seek out places of incoherence and inconsistency, as they are likely to be markers of bias, marginalization, and oppression. Upon finding them there is potential and opportunity to read into the discrepancies, expand understanding, and give authority to the voices of the silenced.
Directed by: Johannes Goransson
Jeremy is an ironic treatise on capitalism. The novella is a character study, and Jeremy’s character makes fun of the idea that we have the power to determine our identity through wealth and mode of consumption. Jeremy’s voice draws from texts like American Psycho, Malady of the Century, Post Office: a novel, Lolita, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. He reads like a blend of the materialistic sociopaths we see in these texts. Jeremy is narrated in the first person so the audience is close to Jeremy’s perspective in order to feel his wretchedness and recognize his skewed perception of society. Jeremy is meant to be an ironic figure and most of the piece’s humor comes from the apparent difference between reality and how Jeremy sees himself and the world. The novella’s format attempts to emphasize Jeremy’s identity stasis. The plot does not follow a linear pattern. It dips back to when Jeremy was in high school and college. These are not flashbacks because they are told in the first person. They add to the ongoing narrative just as the portions taking place in 2015 do.
Jeremy plays with the idea that capitalism can seep into our personal values. The principles capitalism cannot be employed as a replacement for morality. This argument Jeremy makes has surely been made before, but the story’s strength lies in its quotidian nature. Peter Bateman is a hyperbole. No one ever meets Peter Bateman, and we don’t read American Psycho like it’s making a point about the way we live our lives. Jeremy is an everyday sociopath. He is the guy in your spinning class who hits on the instructor unabashedly. He is the oily guy you lie to yourself about and say isn’t that bad. Sometimes you are like Jeremy too when you value your wealth and status more than you value other people.
"There Is No ‘World Elsewhere’: Isolation and Interiority in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus"
Directed by: Peter Holland
Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is a difficult character to love. More importantly, he’s a difficult character to know. He rejects the introspective Shakespearean soliloquies that audiences have come to expect from their Hamlets or Macbeths. Instead, Coriolanus’ language is hostile and inflammatory, but rarely reflective. Coriolanus teases the audience with theatrical metaphors, heightening the audience’s desire to understand or even glimpse the private identity of its protagonist; Coriolanus strives to be “author of himself” (5.3.36), and “play the man [he is]” (3.2.16-17). My thesis explores the problem of Coriolanus’ identity, focusing primarily on the inhibition of his interiority. Katherine Maus explains the distinction between a person’s inward and outward self: “Persons and things inwardly are; persons and things outwardly only seem… The alienation of appearance from truth means that a person’s thoughts and passions, imagined as properties of the hidden interior, are not immediately accessible” (Maus 5). Coriolanus’ refusal to adapt to Rome’s societal values impairs the understanding and development of his internal self, leaving him largely unknowable and inaccessible. Ultimately, the societal constraints and expectations that other characters enforce on the protagonist have an isolating effect on Coriolanus, rendering his interior self hardly perceptible to the audience. Coriolanus’ isolation is most clearly demonstrated in three aspects of character: his relationship to language, his physical form, and his presence in the private domestic space. This thesis will examine recent productions of the play, focusing on the Donmar Warehouse’s 2013-2014 production (dir. Josie Rourke), the 2011 film (dir. Ralph Fiennes), and the Royal National Theatre’s 1985 production (dir. Peter Hall), amongst others. Through these portrayals of Coriolanus, I will analyze the manner in which his identity is constructed and the isolating effect the construction has on his interiority. This isolation is compounded by Coriolanus’ resentment of language and its distortive powers, the value placed on his physical body, both by himself and others, and his discomfort in both the public world of politics as well as the privacy of his home.
"Mystery and Manners: The Postmodern Catholicism of Flannery O’Connor"
Directed by: Kate Marshall
As artistic production progressed from the aesthetic of Modernism to that of what literary and cultural scholars refer to as the “Postmodern Era,” the American South remained haunted by the specter of the past. The post-war “New” South clung to both its Bible belt culture and its entrenched racial politics as it entered into the second half of the twentieth-century.
Contemporary scholars often perceive Flannery O’Connor as a product of this social climate. In reference to O’Connor’s famous collection of writings and lectures on the relationship between religion and art, Mystery and Manners, I refer to this interpretive strategy as a “manners-driven” approach to understanding O’Connor’s literature. Other critics have traditionally rejected this manners-driven approach and have read O’Connor’s fiction in light of her Roman Catholicism. These “mystery-driven” scholars locate visions of grace and allusions to Catholic sacraments throughout all of O’Connor’s works. In writing my own critical approach to O’Connor’s short fiction I intend to forge a middle path between these established cultural and theological readings. My interpretation accounts for O’Connor’s cultural context but does not contend that the manners found within her work preclude a postmodern theological reading, a reading that accounts for the presence of both grotesque human prejudice and salvific grace, grace that is catholic, all-inclusive in both its sources and recipients of revelation.
In analyzing O’Connor’s stories, I resist recent critical trends in surface reading, and, instead, by applying medieval exegetical techniques to my anagogical reading of O’Connor’s art, I demonstrate how O’Connor uses grotesque and often violent images to depict an evangelical catholic Church that is uniquely postmodern, that encompasses the plurality of postmodern America, a Church composed of racists and sharecroppers, freaks and nuns, hermits and socialites, and Protestants and Catholics. Drawing from Amy Hungerford’s Postmodern Belief and Frederic Jameson’s postmodern critical theory, I argue that O’Connor undermines the modern project of utopian progress and, instead, embraces human limitation. Failing to find fulfillment in self-actualization, O’Connor’s characters respond by seeking wholeness outside of themselves, by searching for the action of the mysterious and sublime Holy Spirit in the material world.
"To Trouble the Living Stream: W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney as Contrasting Irish War Poets"
Directed by: Susan Harris
How do poets respond in the face of war? Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats, both Irish poets who lived during great political turmoil, utilized their poetry to address the ongoing armed conflict of the day. While scholarly criticism tends to conflate these two poets for their similarities, this analysis shows their differences regarding war poetry. W.B. Yeats accessed war through personal connection and eulogies of fallen heroes, while Seamus Heaney embraced writing on the Troubles and World War II, even giving a speech at the end of his career regarding the effect of poetry on human rights. Through an analysis of poems from W.B. Yeats’s Wild Swans at Coole and Michael Robartes and the Dancer, as well as Seamus Heaney’s North and District and Circle, the differing attitudes of both poets regarding responses to wartime is explored.
"Preparing for God through the Law: Inheritance and Free Will versus grace in Donne’s The Holy Sonnets"
Directed by: Susannah Monta
In this thesis, I examine the function of legal language in John Donne’s sonnet “Father, part of his double interest.” Donne studied law before becoming a minister in the Church of England in 1615, and he occasionally uses the legal concepts and terms to construct theological arguments in his other works, namely his sermons and The Holy Sonnets sequence, which “Father, part of his double interest” concludes. I analyze the definitions of the legal terms Donne employs in “Father, part of his double interest” and how they inform the sonnet’s theology on salvation and the free will versus grace debate. Furthermore, I consider the impact of this sonnet on The Holy Sonnets sequence as a whole. In this sequence, passionate lyric/I/ confronts God, wavers between Protestant and Catholic theological principles, and uses violent imagery to express his emotions. I argue that legal language provides the sonnets’ speaker with a coherent and rational means by which to contemplate God and arrive at a final prayer that can provide him relief from his emotional suffering and doubt. Through legal language, the speaker discovers that love navigates dogmatic disputes, and he prays that all might better live out Christ’s commandment to love.