2018 Thesis Abstracts
Ergodic Literature and the News: An Analysis of How We Read and What We Do
Directed by Kate Marshall
The news is the only kind of literature where the public affects its presentation, and its
presentation affects the public. Consequently, the news shares a special dialogue with its
audience. This relationship parallels how the contemporary genre, ergodic literature, manipulates
its medium to influence its reader. In this genre, a text requires the reader to directly interact with
it in order to extract a meaning, thus creating a dynamic relationship between text and reader.
Works like Vladimir Nabakov’s Pale Fire (1962) and Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves
(2000) are more conventional expressions of this genre.
In this thesis, I qualify news as its own subgenre of ergodic literature, discuss what
impact ergodic literature holds on the news, and evaluate how the material format and technical
qualities of the news create meaning within a community. I use two primary aspects of news
stations as my case studies: comment forums and broadcast rundowns. Each example represents
a different expressions of ergodic relationships: comment forums demonstrate how an audience
reacts to a given story while a broadcast rundown allows that same audience to participate in the
initial organization of a news cast. In my evaluations, I explore how the fluid, flexible structures
of these two texts allow for an ergodic relationship to persist within news by looking at their
formal compositions. As a result, in recategorizing news, I demonstrate the dynamic relationship
between newscasters and their audiences and the role genre plays in connecting them.
Sarah Cate Baker
When Violence is the ‘Answer’: Pathways to Indigenous Freedom in Frank Herbert’s Dune and the Pacific Northwest’s Quileute
Directed by Laura Dassow Walls
Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune is known worldwide as an iconic work of science fiction. In Dune, galactic politics collide with environmentalism in a battle for the planet Arrakis. Key within this framework are the Fremen, Arrakis’ indigenous tribe. The Fremen were inspired by a real-world indigenous tribe, the Quileute of the Pacific Northwest, a fact that is largely unknown. For most of his life Frank Herbert was close friends with Quileute Howard Hansen, author of his own novel on Quileute culture and philosophy, Twilight on the Thunderbird. Although Herbert’s interactions with the Quileute through his friend Hansen almost certainly influenced the creation of the Fremen, the link between the two tribes has never been academically explored. This project seeks to address that gap, and determine to what extent the Fremen reflect – or contradict – the Quileute. It will argue that both tribes are defined by close connections to their natural environment and prolonged existence under colonial rule, yet they differ in their reactions to colonialism. For the Quileute, unrelenting colonial oppression has led them to practice survivance, as they turn inwards and focus on preserving their culture for future generations even as the land of their ancestors is taken and destroyed. Yet Herbert believed that the Quileute were not “war-like enough” to maintain sovereignty in the face of colonial aggression, and thus Herbert’s Fremen are violently fighting their own war for sovereignty on Arrakis. Where the Quileute have lost the Fremen seem to win, ending the novel by taking Arrakis from their colonial superpower. Yet to accomplish this task, the Fremen must allow their traditional culture to erode – something the Quileute refused to do. Ultimately, this paper finds fault with Herbert’s portrayal of indigenous culture, and argues that while the Quileute preserve their tribal identity the Fremen sacrifice theirs to obtain land that no longer has cultural significance. In the war for indigenous freedom, the Fremen may have won the land – but the cultural sacrifices they made to get there make the victory meaningless.
“Some Subtleties o’ th’ Isle”: Moderating Postcolonial Discourse in The Tempest
through the Green World Framework
Directed by Peter Holland & Laura Knoppers
The postcolonial interpretation of The Tempest has wielded considerable influence in the
critical conversation surrounding the play since its introduction. Although postcolonial
criticism has made essential contributions to the discourse surrounding the play, its
ubiquitous and polarized nature obscures the potential for other fruitful readings that
could move criticism in new directions as well as address the faults of postcolonial
readings of the play. I propose an interpretation of The Tempest based on the Green
World framework originally conceived by Northrup Frye in which, reflecting its
unconventional hybrid tragicomic structure, the Green World of The Tempest is also
unconventional. I argue that Prospero uses the knowledge of and power over the Green
World that his playwright status confers to stimulate the development of maturity and
independence in Miranda and Ferdinand by simulating the patriarchal opposition typical
of conventional Green World comedies. I also observe that Prospero’s metatheatrical
knowledge and power give him the ability to end the play’s superposition of comic and
tragic modes in order to secure a satisfactory ending for his own story. I identify areas in
which postcolonial interpretations are weak or problematic, including their eliding of the
complexity of The Tempest’s characters in order to better fit them into postcolonial
archetypes and their frequent and troubling dependence upon the objectification and
denial of agency of Miranda. I conclude that in order for criticism of The Tempest to do
justice to such a multifaceted play, it must be diverse and engage with a variety of ideas
outside of the postcolonial/anti-postcolonial axis.
Hans Martin Eric Callé
An Invented Land: The Applicability of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Secondary World” Concept in The Lord of the Rings from the Page to the Screen
Directed by Tim Machan
Central to the success and differentiation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic tale The Lord of the
Rings is its ability to generate what Tolkien calls a “sub-creation of a secondary world.” The
trilogy dispels a single linear story for a webbed plot in which the characters are understood in
the context of the world itself rather than the other way around. In other words, it may be stated
that The Lord of the Rings is not a story about the central protagonists at all, but rather about the
constantly evolving world surrounding them.
Forty-six years after the publication of the final book, Peter Jackson took on the task of
adapting this ambitious story into the film format. This thesis seeks to tackle the relationship
between Jackson’s trilogy and its written predecessor, deciphering whether Jackson, with his use
of film—in itself a different medium with unique tools and limitations—is able to accomplish a
secondary world as Tolkien describes it. The discussion revolves around three key scenes and
chapters—“The House of Tom Bombadil,” “The Scouring of the Shire,” and the arrival of the
broken Fellowship at Edoras, part of “The King of the Golden Hall”—and explores the structure,
tools, plot, and inherent abilities of the story in each medium, arriving at the conclusion that,
though successful in its elicitation of detail, the film trilogy ultimately falls short of creating a
true secondary world due to the more economical screenplay format and, as Tolkien describes it,
its mimetic nature.
“A Web of Sense”: Narrative Structure and Aesthetic Import in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire
Directed by Kate Marshall
Dear Cincinnatus C.: A Gendered Reading of Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading
Directed by Cyraina Johnson-Roullier
This senior thesis examines Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Invitation to a Beheading, through a critical gendered lens in order to show how the story relies on a strict adherence to traditional gender norms and a patriarchal power structure in order to most fully oppress the main protagonist, Cincinnatus C.. Analyzing the novel through this lens shows how Cincinnatus’s imprisonment transcends the bars of his prison cell, and that patriarchy functions as a greater layer of imprisonment from which Cincinnatus struggles to escape. This paper first examines the roles and experiences of the main female characters in the novel, thus exposing their own relationship with the male prison guards, and with the greater social structure of patriarchy. Analyzing Marthe, the unnamed super-intendant of schools, and Cecilia C. is crucial to understanding the subjugation of women and femininity within this patriarchal society, and the evidence found in these women’s experience of systemic gender oppression is applicable to Cincinnatus’s own experiences because of his feminized role in the novel. The feminization and infantilization Cincinnatus experiences at the hands of his imprisoners strips him of any culturally recognized masculine authority, and leaves him vulnerable to similar gendered abuse and oppression that the women around him face. Cincinnatus’s relationship with his executioner, M’siuer Pierre, most clearly illustrates the gendered oppression that Cincinnatus endures as a feminized character in a patriarchal world. Ultimately, approaching Invitation to a Beheading through this gendered lens makes it possible to articulate why Cincinnatus’s imprisonment throughout the novel feels so personal, for it unmasks the insidious patriarchal power and gender oppression that shapes Cincinnatus’s world.
Something Old, Something New: How the Slam Competition Restores Poetry’s Roots in a New Forum
Directed by Susan Cannon Harris
Using a case study of four slam poems, alongside an examination of the competitive nature and unique amateur judging system of the poetry slam, this study investigates the dominant literary features found in slam poetry in order to answer the larger question: does slam poetry cheapen poetry or are their benefits to the ‘slam’? The historiography of poetry and its traditions were used define what ‘beneficial to poetry’ means as well as the foundational work for the counter-cultural world in which slam poetry resides. The slam competition was divided into three essential components: the audience/judges, the performance, and the text. Slam competitions require audiences to actively participate and for a portion of them to work as judges, meaning they control which poets advance to subsequent rounds. This significantly shifts how poets and their audiences interact with one another and the intentionality behind poetic choice. Through analysis of the literary devices used in poems which have succeeded in poetry slams—either by winning, participating in the semi-finals, or garnering wide acclaim online—patterns connected to classic oratorical techniques were discovered. Within the forum of the poetry slam, those devices which most effectively persuade, please, and impact audiences have become the most popular. These coincide with choices in performance style which work in a similar manner. While there are many critics who view the poetry slam as nothing more than a flashy venue for ill-crafted poetry, this study aims to offer a way in which the work performed at poetry slams is highly intentional, intimately connected to poetry’s origins, and a forum wherein the musicality of language can continue to be explored and enjoyed.
Forging the Uncreated Soul of Ireland: Reading Ulysses within the Context of the Irish Revival Period
Directed by Declan Kiberd
Breaking Barriers: Posuton Bungei ポストン⽂藝 and American Literary Discourse
Directed by Susan Cannon Harris & David Humphrey
American literature is largely synonymous with English literature, an association
contributing to the formation of a canon that, while not lacking diversity, certainly does not
encapsulate the true breadth of literature that is rightly identified as “American.” The United States
is a nation built on transnational exchange and movement; Americans possess a vast array of
cultural and linguistic backgrounds. To make a case for the importance of non-English literature to
American literary canon, and to explore the multicultural, multilingual facets of American
literature, this thesis examines the Pouston Bungei , a literary journal self-published by Japanese
Americans held at the Poston War Relocation Center in Poston, Arizona during World War II.
Divided into five parts, the thesis discusses the context in which the contributors to the
Posuton Bungei were writing (including a brief overview of Japanese American history in the
United States and the establishment of internment camps), as American literary canon and the
scholars and writers who argue for greater cultural and linguistic presence within that canon. The
main part of the thesis is devoted exclusively to four poems selected from the Posuton Bungei : 1)
くくり戸 kukuri to , by Togawa Akira; 2) ⺠ 謡：四季のポストン minyō: shiki no posuton , by
Yamanishi Rie; 3) 都々逸 dodoitsu , by Yamada Jokotsu; and 4) ⾵刺詩：ポストン為の字問答
fūshishi: posuton tame no mondō , by Muan Bō. All four poems have been translated into English
for accessibility, but the analysis of these works is concerned with interpreting their meaning within
their particular cultural and linguistic context. Ultimately, I argue that the poems draw from
traditional Japanese poetic forms and styles and make use of the Japanese language to convey
meaning, yet are reflective of the writers’ idiosyncratic experiences as Americans and should be
recognized as examples of American literature.
Susan Patricia Lefelhocz
Combating Industrial Injustice: A Catholic Perspective
Directed by Laura Dassow Walls
This project examines two works which express Catholic responses to problems of social justice and modern industry: the essay “The Laboring Classes” (1840) by Orestes Brownson and Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966) by Thomas Merton. Written by two Catholic converts in eras of great social change, these works call readers to become aware of the great cost of unjust social and economic systems to the poor and marginalized. This project considers each writer’s spiritual and social environment, as well as their conversion narratives, in order to more clearly understand their responses to industrial culture. Though their narratives are dissimilar in many ways, Brownson and Merton are obviously complementary when placed in dialogue with one another. Both criticize a culture which places profit above the common good and blames the poor for society’s failings. Both affirm that current social and economic systems must be restructured in order to provide more just and equal distribution of resources.
Moreover, Brownson and Merton suggest that all are spiritually disadvantaged in the current system, since it is impossible to live a Christian life in a culture which is fundamentaJly exploitative. Thus, they argue that we must change the system not only to promote social and economic equality, but in order to allow spirituality to flourish throughout society. There are limited opportunities for true spirituality in the cunent capitalist, industrial system, yet these works evidence that change is possible. This paper explores Brownson and Merton’s arguments, and finally brings them into the modern world through the recent Papal encyclical Laudato Si ’ with the conclusion that positive social transformation is possible.
Reconciliation of Science and Spiritualism: A Reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles
Directed by David Thomas
Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, became interested in spiritualism after the publication of “A Study in Scarlet,” the first Sherlock Holmes story, in the 1880s. Conan Doyle was extremely obsessed with spiritualism when a later story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” was published in 1902. However, in both “A Study in Scarlet” and “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” Sherlock Holmes remains unchanging. Holmes is always a scientific figure who relies on evidences from this physical world when solving cases and does not show any interest in the supernatural. Sherlock Holmes does not change his viewpoints because of his creator’s development of interest in spiritualism. Why would Conan Doyle, who was once a medical student, convert to spiritualism? Why would Sherlock Holmes remain the same after Conan Doyle became interested in spiritualism? There are two questions I examined in this thesis.
In fact, Holmes’ rejection of the supernatural does not necessarily mean that elements of spiritualism cannot be seen in this character, because for Conan Doyle, “spiritualism” and “supernaturalism” were not two interchangeable terms. Rather, for Conan Doyle, he found common grounds between spiritualism and natural science. In the Victorian Period, there were two sides of the debate over the interpretations of the term “spiritualism.’ One side argued that spiritualism should be interpreted as spiritualism, and the other side argued that spiritualism should be interpreted as an expansion of natural science. Conan Doyle was on the latter side. My central argument is that, if spiritualism is interpreted as an extension of science, elements of spiritualism can be seen in both the character Sherlock Holmes and the cases he has worked on from the very beginning of the series. Sherlock Holmes’ eccentric personality and extraordinary abilities, as well as the mystery of those crime cases may all be viewed as elements of spiritualism. Moreover, the methods Sherlock Holmes uses when solving problems are similar to those Victorian scientists and spiritualists used in their studies.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Autofiction
Directed by Kate Marshall
The genre-bending, definition-defying literary category of autofiction looms large in the
literary imagination. Serge Doubrovsky first coined the term in 1977 to describe his book Fils—
“fiction, of facts and events strictly real; autofiction, if you will.” Since then, the word has been
used to describe many books, from Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace) to Ban en Banlieue
(Bhanu Kapil). Yet, research into the origins and meanings of autofiction reveals a lack of
consensus between critics, readers, and authors as to what, exactly, the word means.
Using a combination of historical stage-setting, a foray into computational literary
analysis, and a close read of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (often described as
autofiction/autotheory), this project works to identify some of the words people use to talk about
autofiction in hopes of revealing underlying themes that can help anchor our understanding of
the term. While the historical and computational sections provide some key words that help us
understand autofiction (mechanics of writing, art, newness, self, living and dying, genre, and
narrative, for example), these terms only become truly meaningful in context. For The
Argonauts, the themes of autofiction are used to produce a book that explores the multitudes and
limits of binaries. Reading The Argonauts in light of these key words helps situate Nelson’s
unique and complex work in a broader cultural thematic, and it helps ground the conversation
about autofiction in specific examples from a real text.
In short, this project is an attempt to generate a lexicon to describe the features of
autofiction and to apply that lexicon to The Argonauts. In doing so, I offer a tentative theory:
articulation of features and themes are central to the comprehensibility of literary labels like
“autofiction,” and application of these themes to an actual text is the best way to understand how
they function. Without articulation and application, literary categories lose meaning and value.
To Walk or Not to Walk: A Question of Educational Purpose
Directed by Sara Maurer
Poor working conditions have historically stigmatized the teaching profession. However, 2018 has been the year of the educator, as many states’ teachers have lobbied for lawmakers to reform their salaries and classroom conditions. Readers of Victorian British literature can sense this same need for reform, specifically through Charlotte Bronte’s writing. Forced into a teaching role for most of her adult life, Bronte scorned the profession and longed to leave it. A significant influence over her well being, education and the educator thematically permeate throughout her books. The bulk of this thesis explores these tropes by studying the institution’s treatment of its employees through her most autobiographical novel, Villette, and her most prominent nove1,Jane Eyre. A critical analysis of these institutions-Rue Fossette in Villette and Lowood, Thornfield, and the Morton school in Jane Eyre-can enhance our understanding of teaching as not only an admirable profession but also as a worthy object of study in the classroom.
The final section of this thesis connects my literary analysis to the United State’s contemporary treatment of its educators. Using personal interviews with current or former AP English teachers, I craft a lesson plan that examines Jane Eyre’s three institutions and their relation to American popular culture. With this lesson plan, I hope to foster a professional discussion on education-an unfortunately taboo topic in the secondary classroom-so our future leaders will glean deeper insights into the mistreatment of and purpose for teachers. It is time to give a voice to the voiceless and respect where it is due.
The One of Many: The Role of Character Identity in William Blake’s Jerusalem
Directed by Ian Newman
William Blake’s combination of artistic and literary expression provide an opportunity to explore the intricacies of his perception of identity. Influenced by radicalized religious sects of the 18th century, particularly the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, Blake developed a notion of identity that rejected the limitations imposed upon it by acts of social technicalization. Using the characters of his mythology as the driving force of his narratives, this thesis will examine the role that identity plays in subverting the standards of systemization. In Jerusalem, Blake reinforces ideas of a limitless identity through which his character Los fulfills a variety of roles – that of Adam, God, and Jesus – to achieve a fluid character identity that defies strict orders of convention. Examining Blake’s interplay between text and illustration reveals a representation of identity that cannot be subjugated by any singular interpretation; identity becomes a multifaceted construct through which Blake is able to launch a rebellion against the fallibility of societal normativity, particularly those imposed by institutionalized religions. Blake works to create a mythology that surpasses any form of structural technicalization in order to undermine the restrictive teachings of the Church that limit our own possibility. In doing so, Blake encourages his readers to reject blind faith, and instead find their own alternative to the truth that re-establishes a connection with the Eternal.
Tomorrow is easy, but today is uncharted: John Ashbery and the Ethical Demand of the Moment
Directed by Stephen A. Fredman
“Nasty Women” and Female Retaliation against Misogyny in Satire
Directed by Susan Cannon Harris
What They Did Before: Diversity and Complexity in Popular Baseball Fiction
Directed by Sandra Gustafson & Annie Coleman
Popular narratives surrounding the sport of baseball often conjure a particular image:
pinstriped white men striving for victory on the green expanse of a baseball field. Many
representations of baseball in literature contain some version of this image, which characterizes
America’s pastime as a white, male, and pastoral endeavor. This image can be traced back to the
pre-Civil War origin myth of baseball’s inception, which proclaims that a Union Army soldier
named Abner Doubleday invented the sport and instituted the very first baseball game in
Cooperstown, New York in 1839. This myth, extensively denied by modern historians of the
game, obscures the reality of a sport that has always been diverse in race, ethnicity, and
nationality. This thesis examines the nostalgic ideal that emerges from the mythologized version
of baseball in American culture, which celebrates a white, male, and pastoral conception of
American identity, and investigates to what extent pieces of popular baseball fiction reinforce
this ideal. This thesis uses Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella, The Natural by Bernard Malamud,
and Pafko at the Wall by Don DeLillo as primary examples of popular baseball fiction that
espouse this nostalgic ideal in various ways. By exploring how authors throughout the twentieth
century engaged this nostalgic ideal of baseball in their works of baseball fiction, this project
considers how baseball contributes to the multifaceted and mythologized understanding of
America throughout history. Moreover, it discusses baseball fiction’s perpetual label of mere
popular literature and makes the case that the work this literature does is complex and important,
and it demonstrates that baseball fiction is worthy of inclusion in the broader canon of American