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

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The ground of radical fantasy: Imagining a critical theory of fantastic literature

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-04-15
Abstract: 

To what extent can fantasy offer a radical critique of society? What does it take to imagine genuine alternate possibilities in modernity, while we remain under the hegemony of technocratic rationalization? This is not simply a question of what we think; it is a question of how we think, and in that context, fantasy may offer surprising insights. Ideas for a critical theory of fantasy should be concerned with how we imagine and how we can re-imagine ourselves in the world, constituting an approach toward possibility and potentiality. This thesis argues that radical fantasy is a way of looking to the past, to the margins of society, and to the human imaginative capacity to conceive of that which is not possible under the horizon of late capitalism.

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

Exposing the corporate myth: A re-thinking of the legal conception of corporate personhood

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-09-30
Abstract: 

This thesis provides a critical view of the way the Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”) has applied rights and freedoms under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”) to corporations. I argue that a close reading of SCC cases involving corporations seeking protections under the Charter reveals that the SCC is bound by a conception of corporate personhood that binds judicial decision-making. This result seems to stem from the SCC’s unconscious use of language that is consistent with Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This results in a slavish commitment to revealing the truth of corporations and applying the Charter accordingly. In place of this, I argue that Wittgenstein’s subsequent approach to language in the Philosophical Investigations helps reveal that corporations are not objects with internal states of affairs; rather, “corporation persons” is just another language game. Seeing language this way helps do away with a commitment to truth about corporations and frees the SCC to see them as economic tools that are subject to our control.

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

A materialist approach to Heideggerian anxiety

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-10-20
Abstract: 

Martin Heidegger’s radical conception of the ‘subject’ as Dasein (the human being, whose essence is Existence) was meant to deconstruct traditional Cartesian conceptions of the subject based purely on consciousness in the name of retrieving a fundamental ontology. For Heidegger, Dasein is the only entity that can grasp primordial Being, which only becomes accessible in a breakdown of the world in anxiety (Angst). Although Heidegger contends that consciousness is irrelevant to Dasein’s experience of anxiety, I argue that consciousness remains crucial to the concept. While this discovery results in what Theodor W. Adorno calls a pseudo-concrete (abstract and individualistic) ontology, I approach anxiety through a materialist lens via Georg Lukács’s social ontology of the proletariat and Herbert Marcuse’s Heideggerian Marxism to argue that consciousness of social being may emerge out of anxiety, which may lead to revolutionary social action. In doing so, I underscore the emancipatory potential of anxiety.

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

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