Liberal Studies - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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On work and war: The words and deeds of Dorothy Day and Simone Weil

Author: 
Date created: 
2005
Abstract: 

Dorothy Day (1 897-1980), American organizer of the Catholic Worker movement, is a heroic figure among peace and social justice activists. Simone Weil(1909 -1943), French mystic and philosopher, is celebrated in intellectual circles. Both women trained their attention on a liberating vision of work and were unsparing in their critique of war. Both adopted Catholicism as the home that best reflected their spiritual aspirations. The interplay of radicalism and religion was the compelling feature of their lives. As political activists and spiritual innovators, Day and Weil framed the challenges of their generation in unorthodox ways. Their encounters with suffering and injustice led them to stretch the fabric of political thought to include human experience on an intimate level. This paper is a case study of how two extraordinary twentieth-century women, politically rebellious yet religiously obedient, responded to their times.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Department: 
Liberal Studies Program - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Project (M.A.)

Drinks at Plato’s: creating a contemporary Symposium, or: “My big fat Greek thesis”

Date created: 
2010
Abstract: 

To the philosopher and the screenwriter, The Symposium is a masterwork. The philosopher admires Socrates’ inspired thinking as he gives us a glimpse of the highest form of beauty. The screenwriter esteems the skill with which the characters are drawn and their sparkling dialogue. Both may feel that the event evoked in The Symposium is so real that, rather than having taken place over 2,400 years ago, it might have occurred last night, anywhere in the world. How does Plato transcend his Volkergedanken (Folk ideas) and touch the Elementargedanken (Elementary ideas)? What are his "mechanics of eternity?" Part One of the thesis is a theoretical essay examining the mythic landscape beneath The Symposium, revealing a “marriage” between mythos and logos that gives Symposium its transcendent quality. Part Two is a screenplay entitled Drinks at Plato’s, set in Los Angeles and demonstrating how the mythos-logos marriage transcends time and place.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
H
Department: 
Liberal Studies Program - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Project (M.A.L.S.)

Implications of still life representation of the domestic object

Date created: 
2010
Abstract: 

Still life representation is a curious tension between the banal and the vital. The genre of still life has always been considered a minor artistic category, marginalized in critical discourse and rejected by artists in favour of weightier subjects. Though constantly disparaged and/or ignored, the depiction of small, inanimate objects has endured, persisted, and prevailed since ancient history - traceable back to Greco-Roman antiquity and beyond - while other, loftier forms of representation have fallen in and out of favour through the ages. The genre’s historical and continuing vitality and magnitude in the face of mediocrity and discrimination are explored through research of particular artistic examples. Also documented here is the process of the creation of several of my own visual works which were produced specifically in response to this research.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
J
Department: 
Liberal Studies Program - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Project (M.A.L.S.)

Explaining Sarah Palin: cultural hegemony in America

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

I argue that 2008 U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s massive popularity among white working class voters was a product of what Antonio Gramsci would have called consensual control. Just as Gramsci took notice of the unique ensemble of forces that he dubbed Americanism, this paper argues that American liberalism has perpetuated a myth of classlessness that tends to mystify the lived reality of working class Americans and deceives them into embracing a system of values and belief that serves the interests of the ruling class at the expense of their own. I demonstrate that the so-called culture war, re-activated by Sarah Palin in the 2008 election, is significant terrain upon which American hegemony is negotiated. Finally, I make the case that during a period of hegemonic crisis Sarah Palin’s role was to intensify hegemonic activity by personifying the American Dream and reinforcing it in white working class voters.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
S
Department: 
Graduate Program in Liberal Studies - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Project (M.A.L.S.)

The impasse of the left in western thought: Laclau and Mouffe's critique of classical Marxism - and - Everyday life in Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts

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

The Impasse of the Left in Western Thought: Laclau and Mouffe's Critique of Classical Marxism explores the possibilities for social change in democratic Western societies. While Laclau and Mouffe’s project has revolutionised the Left, their optimistic view of the future has yet to come true. The final part of the essay discusses the limitations of Laclau and Mouffe’s project, including the rise of individualism and the decreased relevance of antagonistic political identities. "Everyday Life in Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts" aims to show that Virginia Woolf’s works and critical social theory share a common interest in the creative and subversive potential of everyday moments. Through the works of Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau, critical social theory has witnessed a revived interest in the sphere of everyday life. This growing interest in the everyday has been initiated in fiction by modernist authors, such as Virginia Woolf.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
K
Department: 
Graduate Program in Liberal Studies - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Extended Essays (M.A.L.S.)

Just listen, yes?”: Maus as traumatic communication – and – Articulations of absence: memory, space and mourning in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

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

This essay deals with the transmission and reception of trauma inspired communication. Considering Art Spiegelman’s, Maus as a creation inspired by trauma and as Holocaust testimony I reflect on the notion of suffering as an axis between isolation and community, identity and annihilation, silence and creation; the repercussions of recognizing the pain of another; the impact of this recognition on the identity of the witness, and; the role of the created object in the communication of pain. Using the memorial in CRAB Park as a focal point, this essay explores the values and assumptions that lie beneath the dominant construction of the notion of ‘other’ as it pertains to residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I investigate the ways in which this community is perceived by those who call it home contrasted with those who live outside it, and how these assessments inform and enforce reality within its borders.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
J
Department: 
Graduate Program in Liberal Studies - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Extended Essays (M.A.L.S.)

My mind and memory: an exploration of history, narrative, and story in the work of Primo Levi and Art Spiegelman

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

This thesis attempts to frame the fundamentals by which we tell and preserve history, narrative, and story. The exploration seeks to understand the necessity and complexity of the preservation of memory and of narrative and story. Culture may be understood as a collection of narratives. Understanding ourselves requires an understanding of how and why we create history, narrative, and story. Two Holocaust narratives of cultural and literary importance are investigated – Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Two different ways of telling and preserving stories about the Holocaust have had great impact upon Cultural and Holocaust studies, these stories have raised lasting questions on morals and ethics. By framing these works within my own narrative, and narrative theory, I have attempted to personalize and understand the construction of narrative and the relationship between writer/artist, and memory, and the larger relationship to history, narrative, and story.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
J
Department: 
Graduate Program in Liberal Studies - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Project (M.A.L.S.)

The act of pilgrimage

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

The Act of Pilgrimage discusses the identifying elements of both religious and secular pilgrimages and how a pilgrimage differs from other travel experiences. The author and 20 respondents to a questionnaire made a pilgrimage to one or more of four sacred sites in France: Buddhist Plum Village, the Christian healing waters of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Goddess-worship-related labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, and the dark pilgrimage site of Drancy Transit Camp where WWII French and refugee Jewish deportees were held. It became apparent to the author that intent and transformation are the core elements of a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a physical journey that can result in profound spiritual and psychological transformation. In a post-modern, consumer society a pilgrimage is still an effective catalyst for evoking experiences of reverence, defined here as heightened intellectual and emotional responses to the world, tinged with awe.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
J
Department: 
Graduate Program in Liberal Studies - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Project (M.A.L.S.)

Joe somebody: the social origins of collective violence

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

This research examines factors that lead ordinary people to commit extraordinarily evil acts in war, genocide, and collective violence. The paper examines the development of moral sentiments within human cultural groups, and examines their impact on the individual operating within such a Culture of Cruelty. The moral sentiments of perpetrators are contrasted with those of rescuers, focusing particularly on rescuers of Jewish persons in Nazi-occupied Europe. Rescuers demonstrated a strong sense of acceptance, expressed in universal and expansive sentiments of sympathy towards others. Rescuers tended not to hold sentiments of victimization, hatred, or repugnance towards target groups, and evinced a strong sense of personal conscience, with an integrated and centroverted personality.

Document type: 
Thesis
Supervisor(s): 
S
Department: 
Graduate Program in Liberal Studies - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Project (M.A.L.S.)

Arctic artist: the changing nature of George Back’s Arctic land expeditions, 1819 - 1835

Author: 
Date created: 
2008
Abstract: 

This essay examines the art and writing of nineteenth-century British explorer George Back. It shows how Back’s strong personality and artistic temperament resulted in a response to the nature of northern Canada that was far from conventional, even though he employed some of the aesthetic conventions of the picturesque and the sublime, popular at that time. It also discusses how Back’s writing changed to a more conventional style as he rose in rank, contrasting his sketches, which did not strictly adhere to the rules governing picturesque landscape art. It also challenges some earlier criticisms of Back’s work through the use of photographs taken on three separate expeditions to retrace Back’s journeys and examines his work in the context of the landscape today. It will show how Back resisted the aesthetic conventions to produce artistic but accurate renditions of the northern landscape, setting him apart among northern explorers of his era.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
J
Department: 
Graduate Program in Liberal Studies - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Project (M.A.L.S.)