English - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Fantasies of Oblivion: Post-9/11 Literature and the Passion for the Real

Date created: 
2014-08-21
Abstract: 

Fantasies of Oblivion proposes that a series of post-9/11 literary texts – including David Foster Wallace’s The Suffering Channel, Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, Martin Amis’ “The Last Days of Muhammad Atta,” Teju Cole’s Open City and Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge – reveal contradictions inherent to the dominant historical narratives of 11 September 2001. In their fiction, these authors stage a set of cultural, social and historical fantasies that obscured the material and symbolic implications of the terrorist attacks, but show those fantasies to be misleading and incomplete descriptions of American history and identity. My project converses with two dominant strands within studies of post-9/11 literature: one strand claims that the current archive of texts reproduces the ideological myopia already evident so soon after the attacks; the other contends that the texts participate in a necessary and therapeutic project of personal, urban and national healing. In contrast, my dissertation argues that Wallace, Moore, Amis, Cole and Pynchon take oblique approaches to 11 September 2001 in order to displace the dominant temporal genres of traumatic shock, nostalgic return and melancholic futurity that circulate around the tragic events. I claim these temporal genres are fantasies of “oblivion” not just because they are fantasies fixated on erasing the traumatic spectacle of real death at the hands of foreign powers, but also because they facilitate disavowal of symbolic death, preventing the realization that America is non-identical with its self-image and in fact, this non-identity is built into its self-image. If the nation retreated into its founding myths of altruism, innocence and exceptionalism, and thus missed an opportunity on 11 September 2001 to better understand itself and its role in the world, then the post-9/11 literary archive reveals the limitations of this retreat and in doing so generates an opportunity to traverse the fantasies of the nation and re-open the void the nation too quickly closed, the abyssal “Ground-Zero” of the psyche.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Jeff Derksen
Jon Smith
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Body histories and the limits of life in Asian Canadian literature

Date created: 
2014-07-24
Abstract: 

Histories of racialization in Canada are closely tied to the development of eugenics and racial hygiene movements, but also to broader concerns, expressed throughout Western modernity, regarding the “health” of nation states and their subjects. This dissertation analyses books by Velma Demerson, Hiromi Goto, David Chariandy, Rita Wong, Roy Miki and Larissa Lai to argue that Asian Canadian literature reveals, in heightened critical terms, how the politics of racial difference has consistently been articulated through the language of bodily health, life, and feeling. Building upon existing debates in Asian Canadian literary studies, and drawing from interdisciplinary scholarship in biopolitics and affect theory, the dissertation reveals how the discourse of “life” and “health” has served as the rationale for practices such as internment, sterilization, and unauthorized medical experiments, but also how the literature and theory of the feeling body, including its memories, symptoms, and conceptual limits, can promote awareness both of historical injustice and of the new terms informing the cultural politics of race today.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Dr. Christine Kim
Dr. David Chariandy
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The Lisle Letters: Lady Honor Lisle’s Epistolary Influence

Date created: 
2014-05-05
Abstract: 

This dissertation offers an original contribution to Tudor studies by examining The Lisle Letters as an illuminating example of how aristocratic Tudor women used the epistle to manipulate networks of obligation and gain socio-political influence. Women, such as Lady Honor Lisle, the primary subject of this study, fashioned letters to create and maintain communities of influence in order to assist their families, advance their social position, and bring various other projects to fruition. By using the lens of practice theory to examine the Lisle Letters, I will demonstrate that the relational aspects governing an individual’s agency, in the light of ever-changing variables – friends, kinship groups, societal knowledge, socio-economic status, and so on – are what allowed aristocratic women such as Lady Lisle to exercise influence, despite the fact they could not hold official positions of power, such as judge, magistrate, or Lord Privy Seal. I will argue that women’s involvement in the socio-political world was a perpetual process of negotiation and adjustment within a web of imbricated relations, and that mastery of this diplomatic process could put considerable power in a woman’s hands. The Lisle Letters highlight the importance of the epistle as a particularly important device of power accrual. The epistle, with its underpinning of obligation, its various styles, and its discursive conventions, allows us to consider how power was accessible outside of purely formal channels in a social (and political) context that attached great importance to written entreaties and the informal cultural rules surrounding them; it is because of such rules and conventions, that we discover, in the letter, a privileged tool for bridging the gap between formal and informal avenues of power. The Lisle Letters, for example, allow mistress and servant to traverse boundaries of gender and class by using the stylized rhetoric of patronage and the warm and more natural language of friendship. The various discursive styles allow for the boundaries between mistress and servant to be crossed by establishing intimate connections and trust – an area that has been little examined in epistolary scholarship. The letters further illustrate how the epistle could be used to create and maintain bonds across international borders – making connections and accruing influence to assist in a bid for upward mobility. The Lisle Letters also document Lady Lisle’s negotiations with one of the key power figures of the Tudor era, Thomas Cromwell, in the male public arena of the court. The letters show us not simply her personal strategies and tactics, but how she uses all of her resources, including the conventions of the epistle, to negotiate a better hand than the one she had been dealt. By examining the language of obligation and such rhetorical scripts as deference and assurance, we can see how women manipulated the epistle to create alliances and reinforce previous associations to bring their personal projects to fruition.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Paul Delany
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Obscenity and the Publication of Sexual Science in Britain, 1810-1914

Date created: 
2014-03-28
Abstract: 

This dissertation examines the fringe publication of medical and scientific works about sex in the long nineteenth century. It argues that these works fell into a moral, legal, and commercial ‘grey zone’ in this period between the categories of the legitimate and the obscene, and that battles over these works’ publication fostered a concomitant development of sexual science and pornography. Medical and scientific publishing were unruly fields in nineteenth-century Britain, open to many different players, including fringe publishers interested in exploiting medical and scientific eroticism. This dissertation establishes for the first time how the obscenity trade, a precursor to the modern pornography industry, comprised an important route of sexual-scientific dissemination in the period. Nineteenth-century publishers of obscenity exploited the ‘grey zone’ into which medical and scientific works about sex fell to market them as erotica, bringing them into circulation alongside explicit fiction in both the popular and elite literary spheres. Such fringe publishing activity motivated rising cultural movements to situate the legitimacy of explicit representations in relation to their contexts of publication and circulation, a paradigm that this dissertation argues had a far greater impact on both literary and scientific production than previously recognized. Examining a range of social-scientific studies, translations of Eastern works, and anonymous obscene literature, it shows how new discourses and reading practices, evolving around culturally imagined links between publication context and obscenity, encouraged cross influences between emerging social-scientific disciplines and the developing genre of pornography. The first sustained study of overlaps between scientific and obscene print cultures, this thesis provides a compelling new material and discursive history which contextualizes surprising historical intersections of science and pornography that challenge current understandings of the culture of scientific knowledge during a period associated with the medicalization of sex, and makes the case for bringing publishing history and historical methods of interpretation to bear on the historiography of nineteenth-century sexual culture.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Colette Colligan
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The business of writing home: Authorship and the transatlantic economies of John Galt's literary circle, 1807-1840

Date created: 
2013-05-16
Abstract: 

This dissertation examines nineteenth-century Scottish author John Galt’s dialogue with the political economics of his time. In particular, I argue that both in his practices as an author and through the subject matter of his North American texts, Galt critiques and adapts Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776). Galt’s critique of Smith becomes evident when we examine the relationship between his engagement with political economy in his most important North American literary texts and his overt political interests, specifically those concerning transatlantic land development and colonial expansion, a project he pursued with the Canada Company. In Chapter One, I examine John Galt’s role with the Canada Company. Through a literary analysis of the Canada Company coat-of-arms and charter, I argue that the Canada Company ideologies were written into the very language of the charter as well as reflected in the imagery on the coat-of-arms. In Chapter Two, I examine the group of writers Galt employed in the Canada Company and the texts they wrote as a result of their work in Upper Canada. I argue that this coterie of Canada Company author-agents deployed the British periodical press to promote the Canada Company and its land speculation in Upper Canada. In Chapter Three, I turn to Galt’s most explicit critique of Adam Smith: his 1830 novel, Lawrie Todd. I argue that Lawrie Todd should be read as an adaptation of The Wealth of Nations that ultimately provides a model for British emigration that accommodates a desire for continued British national loyalty. In Chapter Four, I turn to Smith’s theory of authorship as being unproductive labour and examine Galt’s lengthy response to this categorization found in his 1831 novel, Bogle Corbet. I argue that through Bogle Corbet, we can see the central role of a transatlantic literary marketplace for successful middle-class North-American emigration. The project concludes with an evaluation of Galt’s correspondence with British politician Robert Peel. In this correspondence, Galt makes explicit the need for a literary periodical to respond to British political unrest.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Leith Davis
Carole Gerson
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Novel Shocks: Bureaucratic Surrealism and the US Novel from 1948-1962

Date created: 
2013-07-26
Abstract: 

Novel Shocks argues that the US novel transforms in the 1950s. Treating the post-war period as a key transitional moment between the decline of the economic and geopolitical systems that operated under what Giovanni Arrighi terms the British “systemic cycle of accumulation,” and the rise of the US cycle, I argue that the US novel too enters a period of transition. I develop a theory of a genre I term “bureaucratic surrealism” that captures the formal and political concerns of this transitional period. I take up Franco Moretti’s claim that, beginning in the wake of World War I, the novel was no longer able to absorb the “traumas” of modernity, but suggest that the novel understands what Moretti terms “trauma” as forms of what Sigmund Freud calls “shock.” The central claims of this dissertation are two-fold: first, that the novel’s temporality, spatiality, and subjectivity are not only, as Moretti suggests, “dismantled” by shock, but that shock also begins to generate and produce different kinds of narrative time, space, and subjects; second, that throughout the 1950s, novels approached the most pressing political and social questions of their moment through the language, imagery, and symptomology of shock. In short, I suggest that shock acts as what Fredric Jameson terms an “ideologeme” of the social and political struggles of the 1950s. This dissertation opens by framing the problem of shock in the 1950s novel through Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The following chapters trace how three seemingly disparate novels—Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, and William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch—offer a series of narrative solutions to the problem of shock. I conclude by suggesting that after Catch 22 a new novelistic regime emerges, one in which shock moves to the centre of the form. Looking ahead to the works of Thomas Pynchon, Kathy Acker, Samuel Delaney and William Gaddis, I suggest that the neoliberal novel emerges, in a sense, from Snowden’s wound.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Carolyn Lesjak
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Vertiginous Space: Poetics of Disorientation in Charles Olson, Susan Howe, and Steve McCaffery

Date created: 
2012-11-26
Abstract: 

This dissertation is a critical study of how representations of space in selected post-war North American avant-garde poetry produce a poetics of disorientation. Reading space as a characteristic of postmodern experience and a medium of subjectivity in the globalizing stage of late capitalism, this study analyzes spatial poetry and the theory of the spatial turn as forms of knowledge that disclose the changing perceived spatiality of the globe and of the subject. The spatial turn to the postmodern supplies an analytic frame through which to trace a reemphasis of space in particular avant-garde poetics, including the work of Charles Olson, Susan Howe and Steve McCaffery. Engaging with the socio-cultural, geographic, political and psychological effects of spatial poetics as interventions in social space, this study investigates an aesthetic that alternates dialectically between a sense of spatial disorientation and a process of cognitive mapping. These representations track the development of a doubly decentered spatial subject, displaced in Marxist-geographical terms with respect to the space of the planet, and displaced in psychoanalytic terms with respect to the subject’s own intention, meaning, and self-coherence.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Jeff Derksen
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Mirror of princes: René Girard, Aristotle, and the rebirth of tragedy

Date created: 
2005
Abstract: 

RenC Girard is a theorist who finds evidence in literature and drama for his anthropological hypothesis of human origin and the role of scapegoating in human affairs. The originary scene of human evolution is described by the generative anthropology of Eric Gans in a way that refines Girard. Generative anthropology also permits an evolutionary model of esthetic form founded on the originary scene that can account for Aristotle's insights into both esthetic and political affairs. As a comparison of Girard's postmodern analysis with the classical analysis of Aristotle's Poetics suggests, there are constants in esthetic evolution. A fivefold pattern of narrative universals can be abstracted from Aristotle and Girard as a model for tracking evolutionary progress and cultural rebirth. This model for esthetic history may also be developed to account for political form as evolved in particular cultures and mirrored in their drama (Aeschylus' Athens and Shakespeare's England). Girard's political model is impractically apocalyptic because it demands the end of the allegedly one and only earthly regime ("scapegoating"). But Aristotle's many mixed regime types in the Politics afford a better evolutionary model for how regime change is mirrored in esthetic form to commemorate real transitions between historical epochs. Such cultural change is initiated by the deliberate "firstness" of statesmanlike prudence. As generative anthropology suggests, the classical and neoclassical esthetics are distinct eras in the evolution of human experience. This evolution is visible in the transitions commemorated in Aeschylus' Oresteia and Shakespeare's Henriad. In the classical esthetic, the separation of office from person, which establishes a secure basis for territorial loyalty, is signified in Aeschy1u.s' Oresteia. This is what Athena's Eumenides represent in the new context of the Areopagus, as society evolves from Orestes, who represented requisite divine justice in the context of Agamemnon's murder. In the neoclassical esthetic, the binding of territorial loyalty to the corporate personality of the human sovereign who rules by consent is signified in Shakespeare's Henriad. This is what Henry V represents in the new context of Agincourt, as society evolves from Henry IV, who represented requisite human ceremony in the context of Richard 11's deposition.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Department: 
Special Arrangements: Humanities and English - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)

You are here: in pursuit of a contemporary literature of the mall

Author: 
Date created: 
2010
Abstract: 

This thesis examines social activities productive of “mallspace”—a dynamic term I employ to designate a range of retail spaces, from familiar malls to pedestrian promenades and new lifestyle centres—in a variety of fictional, poetic and filmic texts produced within the last thirty years. Engaging a somatic or bodily understanding to achieve a new perspective on the postmodern spaces of daily life, I conceptualize the moving body as a source and site of social agency. I work to identify methods of corporeal activity that embody cultural and ideological structures, physically standing up against the representational problems that entangle postmodern literary practice. Focusing on mallspaces as commercial sites where literary experimentation, cultural critique, and architectural quandaries converge, my thesis emphasizes that current economic crisis and dramatic social and political changes need to be approached as individual spatialized concerns.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
D
Department: 
Department of English - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)

Community, culture, nature: northern BC women?s ecopoetry

Date created: 
2010
Abstract: 

Community, culture, nature: Northern BC Women's Ecopoetry examines an approach of bioregionalist co-habitation, including sustainability as a keynote and the understanding that community includes human and non-human beings. I discuss the poetry of women nature poets based in Northern British Columbia: Donna Kane, Si Transken, Gillian Wigmore, Dani Pigeau, Heather Harris, Sheila Peters, and Joan Conway. My thesis is that bioregionalist co-habitation, as explored by these Northern British Columbian women poets, challenges embedded Judeo-Christian ideology which asserts humankind?s dominion over the natural world, and supposes that humans are superior to and separate from flora, fauna, and landforms. Ecocriticism has many theories and modes. One predominant mode asserts ?all that is green is good? while ?all culture represents decay.? This body of scholarly and creative writing produces in readers a kind of reverence but does not necessarily guarantee action. Romanticism in nature writing has not prevented ecological disasters. Thus this dissertation argues in favour of a bioregionalist approach, which guides us in devising intimate, place-based ways of living with the land in relation to larger global forces and innovative ways of considering the environment through literature. The pragmatic aspect of bioregionalism mitigates the tendencies in ecocriticism to romanticize nature. I analyse representative poems by these poets and show that their co-construction with nature can inform a larger audience on how to pay attention to differences in nature. This dissertation has two aims. It shows how these poets articulate an understanding of place, flora, fauna, and landform as here and as home. The second aim is to foreground Northern BC women?s poetry. While Chapter 1 of my dissertation analyses critical debates informing ecocriticism and ecofeminism, Chapter 2 maintains that these women poets produce and promote a community of flora, fauna, humans, and landforms in relation to culture. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 examine the poetry of Kane, Transken, and Wigmore respectively, and the last chapter provides readings of selected poems by Pigeau, Harris, Peters, and Conway. The importance of this study lies in demonstrating what the local has to offer a global world that has become ecologically unbalanced.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
D
Department: 
Department of English - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)