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

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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.)

Reproducing and representing reproductive politics in contemporary North American texts

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

My dissertation examines representations of reproductive politics in North American fictional texts since the early 1980s. I comparatively analyze texts by authors Toni Morrison, Kathy Acker, Shelley Jackson, Margaret Atwood, Nancy Huston, and Larissa Lai, and by film director Alfonso Cuarón, in order to argue that the anxiety surrounding reproductive politics, and especially the abortion debate, has increased since Roe v. Wade both inside and outside the US. I claim that the ideologies of individual “choices” and “rights,” which publicly frame reproductive politics, have been inadequate in making sense of the topic’s complexities, and that these fictional texts offer representations of abortion and other reproductive technologies, such as cloning, outside the confines of this discourse. They therefore present a chance to explore how these politics function culturally and creatively, as they tell stories about reproductive technologies and politics in a variety of ways different from traditional debates about whether or not certain reproductive acts are right or wrong, and in a manner that is often critical of the terms of the debates themselves. The texts help reveal the important connections between narrative and reproduction and highlight fiction’s ability to imagine alternate realities. At the same time, they reveal fiction’s ability to engage with the cultural and creative theories structuring the world in which it is produced, and I also argue that the texts engage with both political history and with feminist cultural and psychoanalytic theories in a way that productively complicates popular understandings of reproductive politics. Ultimately, I argue that the fictional texts help us see that reproductive technologies, and their associated politics, are deeply connected to cultural ideas about maternity, family, citizenship, race, technology, and, more recently, ideas about terror and terrorism— anxieties that cannot be contained under the rubrics of individual “rights” and “choices.”

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

Laurence Sterne and the “uncrystalized flesh:” discursive maiming, textual healing, and the hermeneutics of the body in Tristram Shandy

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2009
Abstract: 

This thesis addresses the significance of corporeality in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. It argues that a closely highlighted relationship between body and dialogical language counters Enlightenment objectification of the body, as manifest in the emerging sciences, philosophy, and culture. It applies historical and current theoretical frameworks to Sterne’s novel—looking to eighteenth-century medicine and philosophy and broadly to Bakhtin’s twentieth-century theories upon dialogue and the carnival—in order to elucidate its rejuvenation of dead tropes like the “grotesque body” and its heavy reliance upon conventions of dialogue that involve a commanding corporeal presence. As the thesis explores these narrative qualities, it reveals the body in Tristram Shandy to effectively displace the growing importance of epistemological certainty, and in the process reassert the ethics of a view of the body as an integral aspect of human nature and human understanding, rather than an impediment to it or a mere vessel of it.

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

The Ladies’ Diary and the emergence of the almanac for women, 1704-1753

Author: 
Date created: 
2008
Abstract: 

The almanac genre was immensely popular throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yet published almanacs for women were nonexistent at the turn of the eighteenth century. This dissertation, drawing on archival research undertaken in Great Britain and North America, foregrounds The Ladies’ Diary, a pioneering almanac for women, from its founding in 1704 until 1753, a period when the publication’s character and influence were established. Though scholars increasingly acknowledge the significance of almanacs as cultural catalysts, they have rarely attended to the eighteenth-century almanac for women. My examination contextualizes the genre broadly according to its instructional, creative, and social functions. The Diary was one of the longest running publications of the eighteenth century, allowing for the development of an interactive mode of editorship and of reader agency, and the popularization of subject matter such as the enigma poem. The Diary’s expansion of audience and content enabled women, among other contributors, to mark their presence as almanac readers, writers, and even self-reflexive editors. While most critics of this almanac have discussed its public value as a mathematical magazine, the Diary invites a more multifaceted interpretation. My Introduction presents the scholarly foundation and context surrounding the emergence of the almanac for women that serves as the framework for this thesis. Chapter One attends to seventeenth-century precursors of the Ladies’ Diary, astrological and burlesque almanacs that incorporated discursive female tropes. Early almanacs by women are also examined here. Chapter Two introduces the Diary in relation to public perceptions of the almanac genre, underscoring its originator’s innovative editorial methodology (1704-1713). The chapter also invokes eighteenth-century periodicals for comparison and to demonstrate patterns of influence. Chapter Three focuses on the editorial shifts within the Diary that led to its expanded and then compromised cultural capital (1714-1753). It also explores the complex position of the female almanac editor (1744-1753). Chapter Four studies the construction of the Diary’s audience and traces its actual readers. It then analyzes the readers’ favored genre, the enigma. The dissertation concludes with an overview of the originality and significance of the Diary.

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

Unthinkable biotechnology: the standing-reserves and sacrificial structures of life itself

Date created: 
2008
Abstract: 

The emergence of biotechnology has resulted in intense debates about its promises and dangers. Advocates hail its promises, ranging from alleviating starvation through genetically engineered food to curing major diseases through gene therapy and pharmacological discoveries. Opponents decry its dangers, drawing attention to the inherent risks of genetic engineering, cloning, and the patenting of life forms. As these debates have continued, biotechnology has become a dominant mode of understanding the very life of living beings. There is, however, the need to examine the double-edged dynamics by which the discourse takes place. A theoretical framework informed by Heidegger, Foucault, and Agamben reveals that biotechnology is a structure of thought in which living-in-general is constructed as a metabolic “standing-reserve” (Heidegger). In this structure, biotechnological archives hold “life itself” as an ontologically unthinkable placeholder for a general mass of metabolic activity. The discourse of biotechnology constitutes its standing-reserves of the living-in-general by way of three modes that bring forth life for some, while sacrificing others. The first mode is eating, whereby the resources of the world were used to feed the bodies of Western Man, a prerequisite, according to Foucault, for the development of modern democracy. The second mode is incineration, exemplified by hot box experiments conducted by the U.S. Air Force during World War Two, ranging from analysis of heating systems to fire bombing strategies. These experiments enacted the fiery incorporation of bodies in militarized systems that ultimately signified U.S. power. The third mode is feverish genomics, by which scientists store the genomic sequences of all living things in global bioinformatic archives. Intellectual Property Rights, whose prime example is the U.S. Supreme Court’s approval of a patent on a genetically engineered life form (Diamond v. Chakrabarty 1980), defends all three modes as a right and expression of freedom by instituting the force of law. It is only by understanding biotechnology as a sacrificial structure that theoretical work on its privileging of U.S. interests can become more ethically charged.

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

Heart of Darkness: The unconventional adventure story

Date created: 
2008
Abstract: 

This research re-situates Heart of Darkness within the contexts of the English adventure fiction genre during the period of high imperialism and brings to light a feature of the novel that has escaped scholarly analysis, that of the racialization of white Eureopeans. In re-situating Heart of Darkness in its literary historical contexts, this thesis identifies the adventure genre as a whole as more complex and ambivalent concerning both race and Empire than has previously been recognized. Although these inconsistencies complicate the genre, adventure fiction nonetheless reinforces the status of whiteness in order to promote contemporary racial hierarchies and imperialism. Heart of Darkness, however, does not. Conrad presents his adventure story and its white heroes with a substantial degree and frequency of unconventionality that both critiques imperialism and disrupts its promotion. Moreover, through his unconventional representation of whiteness, Conrad generates a rather startling ambivalence toward white racial identity.

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

Space, time and the pilgrimage in modernist literature

Date created: 
2005
Abstract: 

The changes in temporal and spatial orientation that occur at the turn of the twentieth century in visual arts, science and philosophy provoke a re-evaluation of one of the defining myths of modernist literature. When time is shown to be neither objective nor constant and the notions of a single, unified perspective in space are revealed as illusory, the quest's sequential outcome; unified, authoritative view; and reliance on an exclusively aristocratic, male protagonist are shown to be inadequate. The search by modernist writers for a new paradigm uncovers the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage focuses on goalless activity where meaning and significance are determined not temporally, but spatially, through relationships between characters or words on the page. This endeavour is linked to the recovery of the archetypal feminine, associated with cyclical and eternal time, which is repressed in Western culture since it may appear chaotic and disruptive to the linearity of the quest. The transition in mythic form from quest to pilgrimage in literature is neither uniform nor immediate and is approached with some ambivalence as modernist writers acknowledge the inadequacy of the classical inheritance and the simultaneous difficulty of relinquishing the potential for accomplishment afforded by the quest. However, the loss of the quest motif is less troubling for some modernist writers than others, particularly women who were not afforded a subject position within the quest. This thesis will consider the development of the pilgrimage as a literary trope through a study of six modernist texts: Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage, James Joyce's Ulysses, T.S. Eliot's poems, The Waste Land and Four Quartets, H.D.'s long poem, Trilogy, and a final text, generally considered to be postmodern, Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient.

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