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

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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

An incomplete story: Luigi Giussani and his encounter with modernity

Author: 
Date created: 
2015-02-20
Abstract: 

Luigi Giussani (1922–2005) was an Italian Catholic philosopher and educator. He founded the lay movement Comunione e Liberazione and produced a large written body of work, including The Religious Sense. Particularly in that text, he developed a critique of contemporary culture intended to elucidate a religious attitude to reality that is natural to humanity and a range of contingent social conditions that obstruct that attitude. He presented those conditions as limiting the horizons of human possibility and rendering the Catholic proposal obscure. My concern is with Giussani as a figure in confrontation with modernity and liberalism, and this essay builds to an examination of his work as a critique of liberalism. It argues that this critique lacks the specificity and detail to be successful, and that this has serious consequences for his attempts to advance Catholicism as a liveable possibility.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Christine Jones
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences:
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

A Pragmatic Examination of A Secular Age

Date created: 
2015-01-28
Abstract: 

Inspired by William James’ description of pragmatism, this thesis investigates some conceivable effects of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age. It is argued that Taylor’s articulation of a shared pre-ontological outlook, referred to as the immanent frame, is pragmatically valuable because it exposes and invalidates a pervasive entrenchment between people of varied metaphysical outlooks. This thesis begins by recapitulating Taylor’s grand narrative explaining the origins and conditions of the immanent frame. It then analyzes selected works and social organizations created by Karen Armstrong andPaul Kurtz, which exemplify typical open and closed perspectives within the immanent frame. This analysis demonstrates how disparate agendas become appreciable as structurally opposed when recognized as typical orientations in the immanent frame, and how this recognition challenges each polemic. Finally, the Quebec Charter of Values is exposed as an attack on those who frame their lives in relation to something that transcends the immanent frame.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Eleanor Stebner
Department: 
Arts and Social Sciences:
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Master of Arts

Herodotus: The Greek Struggle for Freedom

Date created: 
2014-12-12
Abstract: 

The narrative that Herodotus offers in the Histories relates how and why Persia and Greece clashed in mighty conflicts over power. Throughout his narrative, Herodotus includes descriptions of clashes over freedom in societies in the ancient known world. Herodotus approaches the conflicts between political systems in autonomy and autocracy with a measured and objective tone. He illustrates how geography, climate, and culture affect the various political systems. The present analysis is based on M.H. Hansen’s nine principles of freedom in the classical Greek world and shows how Herodotus weaves the motif of freedom into his narrative in writing the Histories. Herodotus states that he makes a “display” of his “history” (research) to show the deeds of both Greeks and non-Greeks and to explain how they gain, maintain, and lose freedom, and why they wage war. The reason they clash turns out largely to do with their different approaches to freedom.

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

Between Fantasy and Reality: Time-Travel Romance and Media Fandom in Chinese Cyberspace

Author: 
Date created: 
2014-05-01
Abstract: 

The popularity of time-travel romance genre in Chinese cyberspace has become a phenomenon in recent years. Between Fantasy and Reality examines the most-read time-travel romance texts, fans’ participation and the affective space between the texts and their fans at Jinjiang Literature City. Going beyond traditional literary studies, this thesis analyzes fans’ interpretations, responses and discussions to reveal how much this literary practice has meant for young Chinese women on communicational, cultural and social levels. I argue that there exists a motive of utopian realism behind their daily practices. Focusing on Web-based romance reading and writing, my thesis also reveals the new trends of Chinese popular literature.

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

Breaking the Gaze: Ressentiment, Bad Faith, and the Struggle for Individual Freedom

Date created: 
2014-01-23
Abstract: 

Taking on a relatively unexplored topic, this thesis investigates the connection between Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre by revisiting both philosophers’ focus on individual choice and freedom. To do so, it first outlines the restraints placed on the individual by the gaze of the other. From there, it lays out the necessary steps towards liberation, emphasizing individual authenticity and responsibility, and the burden attached to the constant tasks of self-becoming and self-overcoming. This subsequently leads to an analysis of creative action and aesthetics, more specifically, of music and prose-writing’s ability to generate meaning. Through these discussions, this thesis aims to renew interest in Nietzsche’s and Sartre’s philosophies, and prove that an existential reading of their thoughts is still relevant to contemporary societies and can, therefore, offer some possible solutions to the current and ongoing issues of human rights and freedom.

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

Modernity or Capitalism? Technology in Heidegger and Marx

Author: 
Date created: 
2013-11-20
Abstract: 

Modernity or Capitalism? explores a parallelism that can be found in the work of Martin Heidegger and Karl Marx. The two share a similar ontology of labour that forms the basis of their distinct understandings of the technological world. I first outline the respective critiques of technology by Heidegger and Marx, then argue that the global system comprises both modern techno-scientific representation and capitalism. Everything must fall within the system’s self-enclosed logic. Abstraction, thus, becomes the structuring force. I argue that the system cannot account for the concrete character of human labour. Through a close reading of Heidegger and Marx I explore the possibility of concrete practical activity as a potential structuring force of the system.

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

Restoring knowledge: John of Salisbury’s “return to the tree”

Date created: 
2013-04-24
Abstract: 

In 1159 CE, the English diplomat and ecclesiastic John of Salisbury published two books, the Policraticus and the Metalogicon, the former a treatise on the nature of good governance, and the latter a defence of classical education. Believing that political leadership should be based on moral precepts, John observed that moral judgment seemed to have been largely replaced in both church and state by personal ambition for wealth and power. Believing further that the knowledge required for moral judgment should be gained through proper education, John reasoned that knowledge itself had become fractured, and that it was necessary to return to that point and rebuild knowledge anew. Concluding that the fracture occurred with Adam’s expulsion from paradise for eating from the tree of knowledge, John reasoned that mankind must ‘return to the tree.” This thesis analyzes John’s “return to the tree” within the intellectual context of the twelfth-century renaissance.

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