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

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Peter Trower: A Poet Laureate For British Columbia

Date created: 
2006
Abstract: 

While poet, author, and musician Peter Trower has been part of the literary community of Canada for over forty years, his work has largely been ignored by academics. This thesis attempts to rectify this deficiency by presenting Trower’s poetry as crucial to understanding aspects of British Columbia’s history and culture, and the flow of poetic tradition from Europe to Canada in the twentieth century. Further, this project delineates the unique poetic of Trower and how it affirms typically negative human experiences such as absence and sorrow. For contemporary readers, Trower’s poetry addresses concerns of gender; it reveals how masculinity is constructed in terms of a systemic hegemony as well as how the view of masculinity as homogenous and inevitable is inadequate. This project solidifies Trower’s proper location and importance in the literary and academic community.

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

Alter/nations - long(ing) poems: reconfiguration of the nation-discourse in experimental Canadian poetry (1960s-1980s).

Date created: 
2006
Abstract: 

In Canadian literature, the discourse of the long poem has been both constitutive of, and excessive to, the formation of a national imaginary. The experimental poetics of this genre is evident in the poetry of Phyllis Webb, Roy Kiyooka, George Bowering and Daphne Marlatt from the early 1960s to the late 1980s. These poetics intervened critically at a powerful moment in the definition of a Canadian cultural identity, between the cultural and political nationalism marked by the institution of the Massey Commission in 1949 and anxieties around the demise of the nation-state marked by the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in 1987. Desires saturate the political language and socio-cultural representations of this significant period: national and cultural identity (the 1967 Centennial); national or provincial autonomy (the 1982 repatriation of the Constitution and Quebec separatism); regional identity; the management of ethnic diversity (official multiculturalism); contested sovereignties (First Nations); and globalism (free-trade ideology and NAFTA). The concept of "genre as social action" (Carolyn R. Miller) is valuable in demonstrating the ways in which experimental poetic practices enter signifying systems of cultural formation and, by making such desires inhabitable, subvert the fixity of meaning (and deployment of closure) of liberal nationalist ideologies. To the 'lack' posited by cultural nationalists, the contemporary long poem opposes a poetics of 'excess' which escapes the logic of fixity and containment, utility and consumption, and transforms notions of nationness and belonging. This strategy of poetic excess is also a textuality of desire, yet one that interrupts the powerful identifications produced by nationalist ideologies, no longer allowing for their safe habitation. As a creative discourse, it extends the textual possibilities of language and opens up spaces of critical intervention that help in rethinking the meaning of nationness and citizenship, as these become again highly contested notions in this time of late modernity and global capitalism.

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

Textual standardization and the 'common language' of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Date created: 
2012-12-07
Abstract: 

This dissertation analyzes the textual standardization of discursive and pragmatic practices in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Specifically, this study examines psychiatrists’ prescriptive and proscriptive discursive practices in the diagnostic manuals. This study claims psychiatrists’ metadiscourse about the textual standardization of discursive and pragmatic practices in the DSMs as a distinct object of study. This project focuses on the textual standardization of a professional discourse community’s communicative practices by asking about the ways in which the DSMs help to constitute psychiatric knowledge. In order to answer the question, the project examines psychiatrists’ metadiscourse about style, standards, and standardization in the DSMs themselves, in psychiatric journals, and in journalistic coverage of the DSMs. The three chapters of analysis focus on different processes and stages in the textual standardization of the DSMs. The analysis of psychiatrists’ metadiscourse demonstrates that, in an effort to standardize disciplinary knowledge, sometimes the object of scientific inquiry in the DSMs is the discursive practices of psychiatrists. When this happens, the development of a professional style for American psychiatry contributes to knowledge-making because psychiatrists locate the evidence for knowledge claims in discourse structures. In addition to the many other purposes the diagnostic manuals fulfill (e.g., diagnostic, statistical, forensic, actuarial, and so on), the textual standardization of the professional style constitutes a handbook of usage, and in this sense, then, the DSMs are a rhetoric. A central claim of this project is that the professional style facilitates the cultural shareability and portability of the APA's “common language” across a range of rhetorical situations. The study concludes that the development of a professional style and the textual standardization of that style in the APA's diagnostic manuals are central to the discursive construction of the APA as a professional scientific society and to the discursive production of psychiatric knowledge.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Peter Cramer
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

"Deep in mines of old belief": Gnosticism in modern Canadian literature

Date created: 
2012-07-10
Abstract: 

This dissertation offers an original contribution to Canadian literary studies by examining how – following the historical exegesis of Gnosticism in a series of publications in the late 1970s – Canadian writers began to incorporate the Gnostic heresies of antiquity into their writing as a subversive, imagistic framework or “language” with which to explore wisdom, salvation, spirituality, sexuality, and gender outside of conventional Christian thought. Using Robertson Davies’s The Rebel Angels (1981), Morley Callaghan’s A Time for Judas (1983), and Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace (1996) as the project’s focus, I demonstrate how these literary works use the heresy of Gnosticism as a conceit to confront both the reader and the novels’ characters with the paradoxes and contradictions inherent in knowing the self and the attainment of wisdom. Curiously, as I show, all three novels stand as exceptions within the authors’ respective oeuvres, using meta-fictional techniques such as multiple narrators, mise en abyme, and the blending of the present with an invented biblical or historical past to unsettle the possibility of achieving self-knowledge in a personal or, at times, a national sense. For each novel, the multiple narratives recapitulate the notion of multiple perspectives as found in the historical gospels. Likewise, the incorporation of Gnosticism highlights what the characters (and occasionally the authors themselves) identify as deficits in orthodox religion’s ability to account for the spiritual and moral lives of women and the individual’s role in salvation. That Gnosticism found its way into Canadian literature can be attributed, in part, to the sudden availability of Gnostic materials in translation, New Age thinking and spirituality, and – in some cases – a broader (and border) anxiety concerning Canada’s understanding of religion in terms of its own national character, and particularly in relation to its southern neighbour. To this end, a close examination of these three particular novels suggests that these are not separate, unrelated efforts; but rather, that they gesture collectively to alternative interpretations of a constructed past.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Kathy Mezei
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Beyond truth: materialist approaches to reconciliation theories and politics in Canada

Date created: 
2012-06-19
Abstract: 

In the last decade, reconciliation, apology, and forgiveness have become omnipresent forces in the international political sphere. Since the Nuremberg trials, strict retribution is no longer the responsible method for dealing with atrocity. Reconciliation offers conflict resolution that redresses historical injustice by appealing to reparative models of justice aimed at healing the rifts between victims and perpetrators. In 2006, Canada became the latest country to adopt a state-sponsored process of reconciliation. The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to “contribute to truth, healing and reconciliation” (“Schedule ‘N’”, 1) between Native and non-Native groups in Canada. This dissertation maps out the history of reconciliation as it is connected to Canada and identifies the ways in which the TRC facilitates and confounds conflict resolution in a colonial state. By critically analysing contemporary literature, film, politics and social movements, my dissertation develops a materialist approach to reconciliation via the ideas of “the call,” apology, reparation and forgiveness, applying these ideas to the lived experience (emotional, political, financial) that individuals and communities have to contend with in the reconciliatory process. In this dissertation I argue against those who suggest that the emergence of reconciliation in the modern era indicates that the international community is “returning to harmony” (Wagamese 134). As opposed to defining it as an indicator of burgeoning ethical politics, I suggest that “reconciliation,” particularly in how it is being articulated in settler states, is being deployed as a means to close off difference and contradiction and facilitate self-interest. As such, reconciliation must be approached as an ideological instrument rather than as “a potentially new international morality” (Barkan ix).

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Sophie McCall
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Affect, audience and genre: reading the connection between the Restoration playhouse and the secret history

Date created: 
2012-03-12
Abstract: 

Bringing together two understudied and underappreciated Restoration literary genres—pathetic tragedy and secret history—I argue for a realignment of genre through reception practices and affect. Traditional attempts to reconcile Restoration tragedy and secret history within broader generic traditions (of tragedy and of the novel respectively) have led to a devaluation of many of these complex texts. By considering the socially oriented reception practices associated with these genres, I argue that, for contemporary readers and audiences, they would have been more closely associated to each other than with a generic tradition. The affective element of social reception further reveals an ideological complexity within the texts, specifically surrounding notions of female virtue and political subjecthood. Authors treated in some length include Delarivier Manley, Thomas Otway, Nicholas Brady and Elkanah Settle. Other texts examined include Gabriel de Brémond’s Hattige and the anonymous texts The Player’s Tragedy and The Perplex’d Prince.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Betty Schellenberg
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Play dead: the living and the dead on the Shakespearean stage, 1587-1612

Date created: 
2011-12-15
Abstract: 

In late medieval English society the dead remained amongst the living through the Church’s all pervasive intercessory practices (memorial, commemorative, and liturgical services) to send succour to souls in Purgatory. In 1576 the Church of England officially dismissed the doctrine of Purgatory as an invented fiction and all intercessory services were abandoned effectively separating the living from the dead. Such cultural and religious changes were traumatic for many and even those who welcomed the reformed religion had to find new ways to remember the dead. My dissertation looks at four of Shakespeare’s great works (the Henry VI plays, Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, and Macbeth) and examines the ways in which, through performance, these plays create a space inhabited by the living and the dead which simultaneously evokes traditional dealings with the dead and mourning for those traditions thus allowing a re-imagining of relationships between the living and the dead.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Paul Budra
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

"With no outcome in mind": improvisation and improvisational poetics in 20th century North American poetry

Date created: 
2011-06-02
Abstract: 

Using an interdisciplinary methodology drawn from musicology, poetics, cultural theory and the branch of musical improvisation known as "free improvisation," this dissertation defines and categorizes improvisation and improvisational practices in 20th Century North American poetry and poetics. Beginning with the contention that improvisation is an under-articulated concept in the field of Contemporary Poetics, the dissertation proceeds to categorically define the most iconic and successful improvisational strategies in North American poetry. Under the rubric of "idiomatic poetic improvisation," I examine the improvisational strategies in the work of Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey. Under "non-idiomatic improvisation," I discuss the following writers: David Antin, Lyn Hejinian, Steve Benson, William Carlos Williams and Andrew Levy. Steve McCaffery, Jackson Mac Low and the Four Horsemen's approach to performed poetic improvisation also falls under this second category. I also discuss scoring strategies used by performing poetic improvisers.

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

Citizenship, race, and nationalism in contemporary English-Canadian newspaper representations of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians

Date created: 
2011-02-21
Abstract: 

This dissertation critiques national English-Canadian newspaper representations of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians in the context of national narratives about Canada. I explore these tensions in the context of Canadian Literary Studies as a cultural field, exploring the gap produced in the encounter between Canadian literary narratives of nation and actual immigration regimes that produce expanding categories of precarious citizenship status within Canada. Because I approach newspaper texts as narrative, this dissertation weaves together Race Theory, Frames Theory, and the literary practice of reading against the grain to critique newspaper representations in The Globe and Mail, The National Post, and, where relevant, two Vancouver newspapers that contain significant discussion of the national: The Vancouver Sun and The Province. It examines discourses of race and nation in four case studies: Project Thread, the Toronto 18, Security Certificates, and the sanctuary story of Laibar Singh, and juxtaposes these national narratives with critiques of legal citizenship structures emerging within the contemporary migrant justice movement. Bringing Race Theory to bear on news framing within these national media texts, I explore the ways in which the racialization of human bodies within naturalized social hierarchies informs the dominant frame in each case study, and the ways in which contestations of hegemony emerge in the struggle to establish frames. This struggle over framing, which shapes and is shaped by the material realities of the country, reveals tensions over the very definition of nationally resonant concepts such as Multiculturalism, Citizenship, Immigration, or the meaning of Canada.

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

Departure acts: anonymous authorship in the late twentieth century

Date created: 
2011-03-11
Abstract: 

This dissertation explores mid to late twentieth century manifestations of anonymous authorship as both an aesthetic and material site that is co-existent with the textual issues of originality and ownership contained within their fiction. Working out of, among others, Michel Foucault's insights on the institutional function of authorship, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's notion of rhizomatic production and Pierre Bourdieu's understanding of the field of cultural production, I examine how self-reflexive anonymous authorship becomes a textual construction that must be read alongside the privatizing effects of copyright on textual production in the economic-juridical order of neoliberalism through a specific look at the relation between materiality and aesthetics in such figures as J.D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon and Wu Ming. In so doing, I contend that the institutional function authorship reveals a provocative collusion of aesthetics, copyright and corporatization in the late twentieth century. Arguing that self-reflexive anonymous authorship—in its emphasis on its own mediated status and dissembling—acts as a dissident form of cultural production in the economic-juridical order of neoliberalism.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Dr. Stephen Collis
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of English
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.