Graduate Theses & Dissertations

"Society Doesn't Exist"
This thesis attempts to provide a psychoanalytic discussion of the institution of paternal authority and its crisis in modernity within a theoretical and literary-historical framework. It proceeds from the psychoanalytic view that far from liberating the subject, the decline of the father’s function generates new inhibitions and complexes, and illustrates this with examples from literature, history, and politics. It reads the Freudian Oedipal Father and Lacanian Name-of-the-Father both as symptoms, serving as means of avoiding the libidinal deadlock evoked by the absence of paternal authority. It employs a particular literature on the absurd represented in the works of Franz Kafka’s The Trial and Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s The Time Regulation Institute in order to explore the inconspicuous effects of this deadlock within the politics of nationalism in modern European and Turkish history. While it approaches Kafka’s The Trial as a prophetic text that anticipates the Nazi totalitarian state of the coming decade in its unique fictionalization of the failure of the paternal metaphor, or the Name-of-the-Father, it detects in Tanpınar’s The Time Regulation Institute traces of the trauma of Turkish modernization perceived as a half-hearted patricide which is commonly construed in Oedipal terms. Author Keywords: Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, Franz Kafka, Oedipus complex, paternity crisis, psychoanalysis, turkish literature
Alien Imaginaries
This dissertation offers a cultural analysis of UFOs and extraterrestrials in the United States. In it I look at what I call real aliens — extraterrestrials believed to be real and interacting with humans on Earth. Beliefs in real aliens are often denigrated and dismissed in official discourse, yet they continue to not only persist, but thrive, in American society. Hence, this dissertation asks: Why do so many people believe that extraterrestrials are visiting our planet? Part One begins by tracing the invasion of real aliens in the United States using Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast “The War of the Worlds” as a starting point. Here, I look at how and why the broadcast registered with listeners’ anxieties and created a fantastic and uncanny effect that made it possible for some to conceive of aliens invading the United States. In Part Two, I trace the rise of ufology, which involves the study of extraterrestrials currently interacting with humans on Earth, and I consider how the social and political climate of the Cold War, as well as the cultural environment of postmodernity, provided the necessary conditions for stories about aliens to be made believable. Part Three explores the case study of the Roswell Incident, a conspiracy theory about the origins of an alleged flying saucer crash and government cover-up. I look at the reasons for why many individuals have come to believe in this conspiracy theory and I reflect on the tensions between “official” and “unofficial” discourses surrounding this case. I also consider how and why Roswell has become such an important site for ufology, and I examine the performances given by ufologists at the annual Roswell International UFO Festival to appreciate how ufologists offers seductive explanations of why things are the way they are; for many, their stories offer a better version of events than the purely rational and positivist explanations offered by official sources, especially since they tap into the disillusionment and mistrust that many Americans feel about contemporary politics. Author Keywords: aliens/extraterrestrials, America, conspiracy, official and unofficial, storytelling, ufology
Anarchist Periodical Press in the United States
This dissertation focuses on the English-language anarchist periodical press in the United States in the 1890s and early 1900s. Each of the three chapters of this dissertation examines one anarchist paper and its coverage of a specific issue. The first chapter focuses on Prison Blossoms, which was started by Alexander Berkman, Carl Nold, and Henry Bauer and written and circulated in the Western Penitentiary of Pennsylvania, and its engagement with Alexander Berkman's attempt to assassinate Henry Clay Frick. The second chapter examines Free Society, a weekly edited primarily by Abraham Isaak, and its contributors' writings on the assassination of President William McKinley by self-described anarchist Leon Czolgosz. Finally, the third chapter focuses on The Demonstrator, specifically its first volume which was edited by James F. Morton Jr. from the intentional community of Home, Washington, and the paper's work in supporting John Turner, the first anarchist targeted for deportation under the Immigration Act of 1903. Drawing upon critical discourse analysis, this dissertation incorporates examination of the context in which these papers were written (particularly the immediate concerns to which the papers' authors responded), the form and generic conventions of the anarchist press, including the approaches of the papers' respective editors, and the arguments advanced by their authors. It pays particular attention to the intertextuality of the anarchist press -- the ways in which those writing in anarchist papers addressed one another both within and across periodicals, generating anarchist thought through conversation and debate and enacting their anarchist ideals in the practice of publishing. This dissertation demonstrates that the anarchist periodical press, an element of anarchist history that has received little attention, offers important insights: it details how anarchists immediately responded to important issues of their time, and reveals the ways in which the emergence of anarchism was itself a collective effort, emerging from conversation, debate, and disagreement about how best to create radical change and what that change should look like. Author Keywords: anarchism, anarchist periodicals, critical discourse analysis, Free Society, Prison Blossoms, The Demonstrator
At the Intersection Between History and Fiction in Biography and Autobiography; A Repositioning, Using the Quest for the Historical Jesus as a Case Study
The modern sense of historicism developed over time that brought different textures at the intersection between history and fiction. The life of Jesus of Nazareth, prolifically researched after Herman Reimarus (1694-1768) right until today – a phenomenon known as The Quest for the Historical Jesus – provides an instructive case study for a wider discussion about the intersection between history and fiction in biography and autobiography. As a result of these centuries of Jesuanic research, one can identify a set predictable challenges which life-writing may need to confront. Furthermore, interesting historiographical criteria to detect factual authenticity versus factual inauthenticity for life-writing were also developed. Nevertheless, the depth of disagreement about a well-researched narrative such as the Jesuanic chronicle can eventually feel almost insurmountable. Pessimism, in fact, has become widespread. Thus, this dissertation raises the question: Is it but a vain attempt to search for truth by attempting to draw a sharp line between fiction and history? Hence, the discussion moves to Mikhail Bakhtin whose insistence on dialogism rather than truth seeking provides a more relational approach to appreciating the intersection between history and fiction in biography and autobiography. Author Keywords: biography, Copernicanism, dialogism, fiction, historicism, monologism
Critical Topographies of two films
The following thesis is a work in Critical Topography that choses as its site of study two documentary films. The films being studied are El Sol del Membrillo by Victor Erice and Rivers and Tides by Thomas Riedelsheimer. My approach to critical topography in the thesis is twofold: first, I have traced the topical motifs that have appeared to me as I looked at the two films; second, I have translated the films into writing –with the purpose of creating a sourcebook for my analysis- thus bounding the visual content of the films into the delineated space of the written word. I have sought in my analysis to make visible the numerous conceptual, aesthetic, and philosophical notions that are repeated in each film. These notions include materiality, formal operations, temporality, memory, and failure. All of which are ideas that find expression - despite their significant differences - in both documentary films. Author Keywords: Art, Critical Topography, Film Studies, Land Art, Painting, Time
Eros noir
The dissertation explores the aesthetic anthropology of Georges Bataille and his collaborators in the Collège de Sociologie, a distinguished group of intellectuals including Roger Caillois, Michel Leiris, Pierre Klossowski, and Walter Benjamin among others. At the dissertation's outset the role, influence, discovery and indeed invention of the Marquis de Sade as the almost mythic prefiguring for so much French aesthetic thought in the period beginning after World War One and up until even the present day is advanced. Before Freud in Vienna, Sade in Paris: the central thematic axis of the following addresses Eros noir, a term for reflecting on the danger and violence of sexuality that Freud theorizes with the "death drive." The deconstruction of the nude as an object and form in particular in the artwork of Hans Bellmer and the writing and art of Pierre Klossowski comprises the latter two chapters of the dissertation, which provides examples of perversion through the study of simulacra and phantasms. The thwarted pursuit of community in the vacated space of Nietzsche's death of a God is a persistent leitmotif of the following in the account it offers of the thought of Georges Bataille and other members of the Collège de Sociologie. Eros noir, at the fatal cusp between ascendant manifest sex and a latent diminished Christianity, underwrites much of the French intellectual contribution to the symbology of cultural modernism. Author Keywords: Bataille, Georges, 1897-1962, Collège de Sociologie, Eroticism, Sade, marquis de, 1740-1814, Surrealism, The Uncanny
From Negation to Affirmation
Forensic scientific practice is conventionally understood as a solution to absence. With every technological advance the power and span of the archive grows and with it revives hopes of uncovering facts and locate bodies that might put genocide denial and/or negationism to rest. Destruction, however, continues to define the reality and conditions for testimony in the aftermath of mass atrocity. This means that even as forensic scientific practice grows in its capacity to presence that which was previously unpresentable, destruction and the concomitant destruction of archive require that we consider what it means to remember with and without the archive alike. This dissertation explores the impact of forensic science on cultural memory through a choice of two case studies (set in Kosovo and Srebrenica respectively) where forensic scientific methods were involved in the investigation of atrocities that were openly denied. This dissertation makes an agnostic argument that the biblical example of the empty tomb can serve as a paradigm to understand the terms of witnessing and testifying to absence in the era of forensic scientific investigations. Specifically, it posits the following theses with regards to the empty tomb: it is a structure and an event that emerges at the intersection of forensic science’s dual property as an indexical technique and as a witness function, it cannot be validated through historiographic or forensic scientific methods (it is un-decidable) and as such serves as a corrective the fantasy of the total archive, is represented in the contemporary genre of forensic landscape; and because it breaks with the forensic imperative, it compels alternative uses for testimony and memorial practices that need not be defined by melancholia as it can accommodate forms of testimony that are joyous and life affirming. Author Keywords: Absence, Archive, Forensic, Memory, Testimony, Witness
Instabilities in the Identity of an Artistic Tradition as "Persian," “Islamic," and “Iranian” in the Shadow of Orientalism
This dissertation is a critical review of the discursive formation of Islamic art in the twentieth century and the continuing problems that the early categorization of this discipline carries. It deals with the impact of these problems on the conceptualization of another category, Persian art. The subject is expounded by three propositions. First, the category of Islamic art was initially a product of Orientalism formulated regardless of the indigenous/Islamic knowledge of art. Second, during the early period when art historians examined different theoretical dimensions for constructing an aesthetic of Islamic art in the West, they imposed a temporal framework on Islamic art in which excluded the non-traditional and contemporary art of Islamic countries. Third, after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iranian scholars eventually imposed academic authority over the discipline of Persian/Islamic art, they adopted the same inadequate methodologies that were initially used in some of the early studies on the art of the Muslims. These propositions are elaborated by examples from twentieth-century Iranian movements in painting, The Coffeehouse Painting and The School of Saqqakhaneh, and the incident of swapping Willem de Kooning’s painting Woman III with the dismembered manuscript of the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp in 1994. The conceptualization of Islamic art as a discipline is also discussed in relation to the twentieth-century cultural context of Iran. The argument is divided into three chapters in relation to three important historical moments in the history of contemporary Iran: The Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911), the modernization of Iran (1925-1975), and the Islamic Revolution (1979-onward). The formation of the discourse of Islamic art is the fruit of nineteenth-century Orientalism. Out of this discourse, Persian art as a modern discourse addressing the visual culture of Pre-Islamic and Islamic Iran came into being. I claim that after the Islamic Revolution, Iranian academics demonstrate a theoretical loyalty to the early theorizations of Islamic/Persian art. By this token, visual signs are given a meta-signified in the narrative of Islamic art. The ontological definition of this meta-signified is subjected to the dominant ideology, which determines how different centers of meaning should come into being and disappear. In the post-Revolution academia, the center is construed as the transcendental signified. Such inherence resulted in a fallacy in the reading of the Persian side of Islamic art, to which I refer as the “signification fallacy.” The dissertation draws on the consequences of this fallacy in the critique of Islamic art. Keywords: Persian art, Islamic art, Iranian art; Persian classical literature, Narrative. Image, Representation, Aniconism, Abstraction, Modernity, Tradition, Orientalism, The Constitutional Revolution, Modernization, The Islamic Revolution. Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp, The Coffeehouse Painting, The School of Saqqakhaneh; Modernism: Woman III. Author Keywords: Iranian Art, Islamic Art, Orientalism, Persian Art, The Constitutional Revolution, The Islamic Revolution
Mythopoeia Sylvatica
Since British colonization of North America and the beginning of Anglo-speaking Euro-Canada and the United States, myth-making or representations of the forests have witnessed degradation and loss of old-growth forest ecosystems or intact sylvan landscapes. Canadian and American versions of the story of the North American Forests shared the same trajectory: forests as ‘wasted-land’ or the sylvan wilderness (terra nullius) divided into properties and cleared to “improve” the land for settlement/agriculture, forests as storehouses for timber and imperial expansion, forest landscapes and specific forest trees as identity politics and sources of industrial and economic power. While forests are recognized according to various stakeholders’ values today, what is commonly accepted as a forest varies widely. The meaning given to “forest” determines related terms and concepts, such as “sustainable forestry” and “reforestation.” This thesis addresses the issue of social-bioecological degradation, loss, and dis(re)membering of old-growth forests and problematizes traditional Western relationships with old wildwoods shaped by notions of space, politics, and economy. In the forest topos, the core question becomes which forest(s) are being imagined, represented, and remembered? Whose environmental imagination is shaping the landscape? As a critical topographical exploration of the North American forests through six witness trees, this thesis demonstrates how the meanings imbued in trees and wild woods come to determine the fate of the forests. It reveals how colonial values and trends persist in our societies still, and calls for an ethical social-ecological reimagining of the forests through traditions of ethical storytelling and environmental witnessing. Author Keywords: critical topography, environmental generational amnesia, environmental witnessing, forests, social-ecological systems, witness trees
Nineteenth-Century Aesthetics of Murder
This dissertation examines how sex crime and serial killing became a legitimate subject of aesthetic representation and mass consumption in the nineteenth century. It also probes into the ethical implications of deriving pleasure from consuming such graphic representations of violence. Taking off from Jack the Ripper and the iconic Whitechapel murders of 1888, it argues that a new cultural paradigm – the aesthetics of murder – was invented in England and France. To study the ‘aesthetics of murder’ as countless influential critics have done is not to question whether an act of murder itself possesses beautiful or sublime qualities. Rather, it is to determine precisely how a topic as evil and abject as murder is made beautiful in a work of art. It also questions what is at stake ethically for the reader or spectator who bears witness to such incommensurable violence. In three chapters, this dissertation delves into three important tropes – the murderer, corpse, and witness – through which this aesthetics of murder is analyzed. By examining a wide intersection of visual, literary, and cultural texts from the English and French tradition, it ultimately seeks to effect a rapprochement between nineteenth-century ethics and aesthetics. The primary artists and writers under investigation are Charles Baudelaire, Thomas De Quincey, Oscar Wilde, and Walter Sickert. In bringing together their distinctive styles and aesthetic philosophies, the dissertation opts for an interdisciplinary and comparative approach. It also aims to absolve these writers and artists from a longstanding charge of immorality and degeneracy, by firmly maintaining that the aesthetics of murder does not necessarily glorify or justify the act of murder. The third chapter on the ‘witness’ in fact, elucidates how writers like De Quincey and Wilde transferred the ethical imperative from the writer to the reader. The reader is appointed in the role of a murder witness who accidentally discovered the corpse on the crime scene. As a traumatized subject, the reader thus develops an ethical obligation for justice and censorship. Author Keywords: Censorship, Jack the Ripper, Murder, Trauma, Victorian, Wilde
On (Digital) Photographic Image-Objects
On the first page of the much read, Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes reveals his motive: “I was overcome by an “ontological” desire: I wanted to learn at all costs what Photography was “in itself,” by what essential feature it was to be distinguished from the community of images.” The impetus of this thesis might be called a Barthesian desire to learn what distinguishes digital photographic images from all other photographic images. Throughout, I ask: what is a digital image? The first exploratory turn reflects upon photographs and touch. While photographs are objects that are both touched and touching, digital images are inscrutable data assemblages that resist touch and are predisposed to speed. Digital images cannot be touched, yet are responsive to touch. Through the mediating magic of touch sensitive glass, we command digital images to move. Chapter two considers prevailing late twentieth century theory on the digital photograph that claims the eclipse of film by digital imaging will render [digital] photographs totally unreliable documents. The results have been surprising; although suspicion about digital image bodies has crept into the cultural psychological fabric, I argue that we still believe in the basic veracity of [digital] photographic images. Finally, I turn my attention to the objecthood of digital imageobjects in a discussion of the widely unacknowledged materiality of data. Digital image-objects—those speedy, untouchable, dubious, things—are heavy. The weight of their bodies moving in the vast—unseen—global technological infrastructure is the burden of my final reflection. Author Keywords: death of film, digital materiality, digital photographic realism, ontology of the image, philosophy of photography, photography after photography

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