Department of English Literature Graduate Theses

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    The Life and Opinions of Guy C. White, Christ
    Pettapiece, Dante P.; English Language and Literature; Fanning, Christopher
    This thesis is in two parts, the first being a study of the combination of different styles of the novel, which argues that the most succinct classification for any fusion of multiple genres, such as that of the Menippean satire, the novel of ideas, and the novel-essay, would be what Lydia Davis termed the “intergeneric.” The second part of this thesis, an original fiction called The Life and Opinions of Guy C. White, Christ, is routinely referenced throughout the first part as an illustration of how different genres are arranged to make an intergenic fiction. The Life and Opinions of Guy C. White, Christ, itself, is a narrative about an internet neo-Nazi named Guy, who convinces billions of people through social media that he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. An unnamed Narrator, who lives in an apparent utopia that exists in part due to Guy’s actions, is writing a biography about Guy, in an attempt to square away Guy’s abhorrent ideology with his undeniable historical significance.
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    The Shaping of Generation M: Muslim Millennial Responses to the Rise of Islamophobia in Literature and Cultural Production
    Moussoud, Safa; English Language and Literature; Fachinger, Petra
    This dissertation offers a retrospective examination of the two decades following 9/11 and the declaration of the war on terror from a Muslim millennial point of view. I explore the surge of Muslim literary and cultural production by the millennial generation and suggest that young North American Muslims have been shaping a new Muslim cultural landscape in response to the Islamophobia they witnessed growing up during the ongoing war on terror. Drawing upon theories of cultural trauma and generational consciousness as well as recent scholarship on “The 9/11 Generation,” I argue that the hostile sociopolitical terrain in which young Muslims came of age triggered a cultural trauma that unified them as a distinctive generation that is spiritually connected, socially engaged, and politically aware. In that sense, I regard narratives by Muslim millennials as testimonies of cultural memory and resistance. I explore literary and multimedia texts by North American Muslim authors and artists that centre on their Muslim characters’ adolescent years and suggest that these texts are informed by new Muslim identity politics. I focus my reading on the relationship between identity and social space and demonstrate that young Muslim characters develop their identities in relation to the socially and culturally contradictory spaces they inhabit: the Muslim home, the public education system, and the internet. Through tracing recurring themes in my selected texts, I highlight pivotal experiences during the Muslim characters’ coming-of-age journeys that present them with spiritual and existential conflicts but ultimately strengthen their ties with Islam. I emphasize that the diverse Muslim characters that I discuss are traumatized, flawed, spiritual, and human. Most importantly, they cannot be reduced to notions of “good” or “bad” Muslims. Ultimately, I argue that Muslim millennial authors and artists introduce new depictions of young Muslims that reflect the characteristics of the Muslim millennial generation or “Generation M,” counter Islamophobic stereotypes, and express young Muslim subjectivities. By investigating Muslim millennials’ empowering relationship with literature and cultural production, my dissertation seeks to illuminate the complex conditions that have given rise to this new generation of young Muslims.
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    Monsters, Madness, and the Demonic in Horror from Nineteenth-Century Fiction to Contemporary Film
    Soulodre, Alyce; English Language and Literature; Cameron, Brooke
    This portfolio explores monstrous figures in horror and mystery texts spanning from the 1790s to 1980s, including literature and film, analyzing the ways that they depict monstrosity and anxieties around the Other to promote terror. I argue that this spectre of the Other demonstrates the ways that these ideas are artificially constructed and therefore unstable and open to disruption, as well as how they require careful and consistent maintenance. The texts range from short stories, novels, and feature films, and depict various monsters, demons, creatures, and ghosts, to name a few. I draw attention to many otherwise neglected texts to assert their value and importance to the cultural lexicon, analyzing them in the context of their given historical moment. I trace monstrous figures from Victorian literature to contemporary film through monstrous creatures and landscape; madness and psychological instability in relation to masculinity in late-Victorian horror and mystery fiction; and demonic or haunting figures from 1790s fiction to 1907s-80s film. I analyze dynamics such as relationships to nature, homosocial bonds, curses and cult activity, community narratives, creepy crawlies, and haunting. I explore these figures largely through cultural anxieties about the Other, and what those fears reflect about dominant ideals. By focusing on this Othering and the anxieties it invokes and perpetuates, I examine the ways that these texts depict cultural fears. Through various genres, forms, and time periods throughout these pieces, I analyze the ways that horror articulates cultural fears and anxieties. Ultimately, I argue that these monstrous figures and the anxieties they invoke reveal the actual monstrosity of dominant discourses that must allegedly be maintained at any cost.
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    Ballads of a Thin Man
    Green, Daniel; English Language and Literature; Straznicky, Marta
    This thesis pairs critical literary research, an essay titled "'Improvisations on a Self': Companion Essay and Introduction to Ballads of a Thin Man," with a novella manuscript, Ballads of a Thin Man, to investigate its main inquiries: where do, these–as Philp Roth conceptualizes them–”improvisations on a self" (Deception 98) originate, and how might they more effectively reach "truth" in comparison to other modes of writing? Through an investigation of the self (creative) and autobiographical fiction (critical), authenticity, voice, music, loss, and journey are assessed to quantify the exchanges between the writer and the self, the facts and the imagination, and life and writing.
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    Face to Face with the Sublime: Empathy and Alienation in Romantic Literature and Art
    Sullivan, Jenny; English Language and Literature; Pierce, John
    My thesis explores the primacy and power of the human face, in both its ability to cultivate compassion and to enforce distance between persons. Engaging with eighteenth-century sublime theory, I argue that the face is a source of a sublime, capable of provoking awe and terror in the beholder. The face has disruptive potential, and can transport the person beyond the bounds of self, revealing a likeness as well as an unbridgeable gap between self and Other. The sublime facial gaze thus presents a paradox: while it can evoke empathy, it also exposes empathy’s inevitable limits. In my discussion of the face’s power, I draw on the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. While the face-to-face encounter can have a pragmatic effect, producing a sense of “Responsibility for the Other” (Levinas 83), it can also be subverted through a rejection of the ultimately unknowable Other, who poses a threat to the self. The face acts as an entry point into the person as a whole, confronting the beholder with the mystery and complexity of a being both like and unlike the self, and demanding a response. In my thesis, I begin with discussion of the shift in late eighteenth-century portraiture towards greater subjectivity, and forge a connection between Romantic-era art and literature. I then examine the sublime face’s potential to empower women through consideration of the works of Jane Austen and Mary Hays, looking at both verbal and visual portraits in the texts. Lastly, I analyze Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater for evidence of the face’s transformative effect as well as its ability to provoke sublime terror.