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

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Musical dreams: Examining musical elements in Thomas Bernhard’s “Reunion” and "Goethe Dies”

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-11-18
Abstract: 

This thesis provides a reading of Thomas Bernhard’s prose understood as prosaic music. Comparing Ludwig Wittgenstein’s struggle to write philosophy with Bernhard’s use of literary-musical elements, I shed light on how Bernhard’s disturbing stories, inhabited by unlikable characters and composed in a fragmented, alienating, figurative style, create not only a joyful, but meaningful experience, because Bernhard’s linguistic music-making illuminates the background of destructive and annihilated lives. Studies of Bernhard’s work that only focus on direct structural similarities between music and literature, or only on the historical or biographical narrative, neglect the intrinsic importance of the aesthetic of his musical prose and its comic, mocking musical form. People, places and memories are foregrounded as musical leitmotifs. Exaggerations, repetitions and comic authorship result in skilfully designed, intimate musical dreaming. Bernhard’s stories “Reunion” and “Goethe Dies” are examined with reference to other stories in Chapters entitled “Welcome to Bernhard’s World”, “Whereof One Cannot Speak: Catastrophes in Thomas Bernhard’s ‘Reunion’”, “Whereof One Cannot Speak, Thereof One Must Make Music,” “‘Goethe Dies:’ A Wittgenstein Ensemble,” and conclude with “Composing Wittgenstein.”

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
David Mirhady
Jerald Zaslove
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

Symbolic collisions: Short-circuits in the libidinal economy

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-09-19
Abstract: 

The logic of late capitalism is a logic of deterritorialization, spurning demythologized, denarrativized and desacralized social relations that emanate from a collapsing symbolic order. Austere neoliberal political governance and the business ontology characterizing neoliberal ideology reduces all that exists on the symbolic plane to mere exchange value where the only subject position available is that of the consumer-spectator – libidinally mined for their addictive, and therefore highly profitable, disposition. At nearly every hour of the day, the debtor-addict subject experiences their attention solicited and short-circuited. In this process, the parasitical metaspectacle of platform capitalism short-circuits desire as well as reason, giving way to reactionary modes of thinking and acting. The dissolution of symbolic frameworks for sociality and total immersion in imaginary realms of relating seeds the soil of a fraught, fragmenting and therefore politically reactive social bond. This project traces, through a psychoanalytic lens, the tension between the imaginary and the symbolic emerging in an era dominated by rights discourse, where entitlements are contested, removed and granted at an accelerated cultural pace. It is within this tension that we find an increasing desire for representation as a victim in virtual spheres of competing symbolic orders. The central question of this project asks how economic antagonisms, issues of class, are continually inscribed, ignored and displaced into the realm of culture in a hyperperformative and informationally intoxicated social milieu.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Samir Gandesha
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

Chinese medicine as hermeneutic knowledge? On the role of classical works such as Huangdi neijing suwen in Chinese medicine

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-07-30
Abstract: 

The worldviews of Chinese and modern medicine are fundamentally different. Chinese medicine views the human body, not simply as a biological system, but as a holistic microcosm, whose health depends on maintaining harmonious function at the level of internal microcosm and in relation to the wider context understood as parallel macrocosm. Without denying the success of natural science, philosophers have developed alternative epistemological conceptions that aim to better capture the nature of knowledge specifically related to human phenomena. Wilhelm Dilthey draws a distinction between understanding (Verstehen) and explanation (Erklären) as the specific form of knowing in human and natural sciences respectively. In contrast to positivistic knowledge of natural sciences, knowledge in human sciences is essentially hermeneutic in nature, knowledge that involves interpretation and understanding that takes into account variant contexts and perspectives. The thesis applies the hermeneutic conception to Chinese medical knowledge with the aim to develop a promising framework for understanding the nature of Chinese medicine and explaining the role of Chinese medical classics.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Paul Crowe
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

Herodotus: Historian, proto-feminist, and proto-biographer

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-08-29
Abstract: 

Claims that Herodotus reveals himself as a proto-biographer are not yet widely accepted. To advance this claim, I have selected three women and four men from one side or the other of the Helleno-Persian Wars whose activities are recounted in his Histories. It is to a near contemporary, Heraclitus, to whom we attribute the maxim—character is human destiny. It is the truth of his maxim—which implies effective human agency—that makes Herodotus’ creation of historical narrative possible. Herodotus is often read for his off-topic vignettes, which colour-in the character of the individuals depicted without necessarily advancing his narrative. By hop scotching through the nine books of his Histories, we can assemble a largely continuous narrative for these seven remarkable individuals. This permits us to attribute both credit and moral responsibility for their actions. Arguably this implied causation demonstrates that Herodotus’ writings include much that amounts to proto-biography.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
David Cyrus Mirhady
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

The part Heloise and her life played in shaping the ethical doctrine of intentionality

Author: 
Date created: 
2017-05-05
Abstract: 

Today, scholarship gives the credit for the medieval, ethical doctrine of intentionality to Abelard who late in his career wrote Ethica or Scito te ipsum (“Know Thyself”) where it received its fullest expression, but we see the roots of the doctrine in Heloise’s life, especially the crises she faced during and after the affair. A case can be made that Heloise herself invented the doctrine, with Abelard functioning as the philosophical mouthpiece.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Paul Dutton
Emily O'Brien
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

The Labours of Heracles as Labours of Love

Date created: 
2016-10-27
Abstract: 

In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche describes Euripides’s unique place in the history of Greek thought. This thesis considers the implications of Nietzsche’s case by analyzing Euripides’s fifth-century tragedy Herakles. It argues that, for Euripides, the Heracles figure characterizes the shift from a mythic to a tragic worldview. As Heracles’s role in myth suggests the struggle of an individual repressed by society, Euripides’s use of allegory, which he sharply contrasts with tragic realism, reveals the consequences of an increase in self-consciousness. This shift from myth to tragedy suggests the importance of René Girard’s theory of mimetic rivalry and a scapegoat mechanism, the efficacy of which is shown by comparing Heracles and Job. Because an elevated figure is disgraced in both literary works, the comparison is illustrative of foundational anthropology. Job and Heracles, in their respective traditions, represent the central position of a virtual scapegoat onto whom communal violence is directed, displaced, and even transcended.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
David Mirhady
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

The Fame of Abelard

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-09-27
Abstract: 

Abelard pushed the boundaries of group culture by establishing himself as a medieval celebrity, famous to a wider circle of people in medieval France. Fame in the Middle Ages was normally limited to the divine, the holy, and great rulers. But, with the arrival and adventures of Abelard, it came to include a new kind of scholar-celebrity from the minor nobility. This thesis examines how Abelard formed a new type of celebrity culture by adding new dimensions to the meanings, possibilities, and rewards of medieval fame. The complex nature of celebrity culture and Abelard’s life sparks interesting questions about how Abelard achieved fame and whether his fashioning of such was an intentional strategy, how people reacted to the emerging idea of individual fame, and the benefits and damages it brought in his case.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Paul Edward Dutton
Emily O’Brien
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

The Negativity of Place: Capital Accumulation and Ecological Limitations

Author: 
Date created: 
2016-04-22
Abstract: 

Humanity has achieved planetary scale influence without planetary scale understanding. The historical conceptualization of space has created a rootless understanding of place to the extent that local concerns occurring within place are overruled by the concerns of those who are situated at a distance with an assumption of authority and the resources to dominate conflicts. The rationality of place is conceptualized abstractly to fulfill a particular objectivity that resembles more of an imposition rather than an understanding situated within the social and natural dynamics of a locality. The historical assumption of terra nullius, that land is uninhabited and available for exploitation, remains intact and in use despite many costly attempts by those who reside in that land to contradict this. Framed within the context of anthropogenic climate change, its perceptions, and the struggles surrounding it, this thesis examines, with the help of Frankfurt School Critical Theory and Hannah Arendt’s politics of space, the relationship between the dynamics of capitalism and its inherent social and natural placed-based limitations. What the contemplation of these dominated places reveals is that another way of understanding the built environment is struggling to emerge

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Dr. Samir Gandesha
Dr. Ian Angus
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

Character and the Art of Memory: Interpreting Virginia Woolf's "A Sketch of the Past"

Date created: 
2015-09-18
Abstract: 

The thesis examines Virginia Woolf's memoir, "A Sketch of the Past," in relation to her statement that in 1910, human character changed. A Freudian theoretical framework, Woolf's essays on character, and her novel, To the Lighthouse, are used to interpret and analyze the first thirty pages of the memoir, which cover the period from Woolf's first memories to the death of her mother, when Woolf was thirteen. The main character in this part is Woolf's mother, and the thesis argues for the centrality of Woolf's mother in shaping Woolf's later belief that character is the most important aspect of a work of fiction. The difficulty Woolf had in describing her mother is shown to relate to the challenge that her generation of writers faced in creating character, representing memory and existence, and capturing truth, either in a memoir or in a finished work of art, such as a novel.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Anne-Marie Feenberg-Dibon
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Humanities
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

The Font of Well-Being: Fitted Dynamics in Avicenna's Natural Philosophy

Date created: 
2015-05-28
Abstract: 

This thesis reads Avicenna’s (d. 1037) treatise, The Canon of Medicine, alongside his philosophical and esoteric works to uncover the material conditions of human well-being. For Avicenna, well-being is complex; it is not only a state of being, but also an activity. For Avicenna, in order for a person to flourish, he/she must exercise the uniquely human part of his/her psyche, viz. the rational soul. Framing Avicenna’s perspective: a doctor cannot be considered a good doctor if he/she does not perform the activities of a doctor and a person cannot be considered a good person if he/she does not perform the activities of a person. In order for these potential activities to become actualized they must occur within fields of action that are fitted to humanity’s unique nature. This thesis argues that Avicenna’s Canon is philosophically relevant, offering insights into the most intimate of these fields: the human body.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Ian Angus
Paul Dutton
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences:
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts