Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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
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
Agony of Writing Or Ambivalent Reversal In Baudrillard's Stylistic Metamorphoses
Following Baudrillard's conceptual and stylistic shift of the mid-70s, this thesis argues that said shift is accounted for by understanding the ontological quandary Baudrillard found himself in after developing a theoretical agonism impossible to divorce from the practice of writing. By tracing the conceptual metamorphoses of key terms including semiotic ambivalence, symbolic exchange and theoretical writing itself as a total agonistic process, this thesis demonstrates that theory is not reducible to epistemic production but is rather the contentious site of challenge and aesthetic (dis)appearance. Each chapter examines a conceptual tension revealing insoluble, conflicting social forms. These forms reveal the reversibility Baudrillard finds at work in all social phenomena. These culminate in a chapter that tackles Baudrillard's writing itself as a social form that endeavours to embody the agonistic theoretical concept as a process rather than remaining a representation, or commentary on, ambivalent social conflict. Author Keywords: agonist, ambivalence, Baudrillard, reversibility, style, writing
Dennis Lee's Testament
The future-poetry of Dennis Lee published in Testament (2012) is the culmination of four cycles of creativity in his lifetime, each seeking a Real beyond the nihilism of technological modernity. Ultimately, Lee wagers the role of the poet and the future of poetic language on Earth on a non-modern that risks entangling the poet who enters void and embodies its meaninglessness. CHAPTER ONE: To approach this wager, the thesis first identifies the sources in philosophy of a Canadian Romantic modernism embraced by George Grant in collegial exchanges with Dennis Lee during the period of Civil Elegies (1972). Grant elicits a politics out of Nietzsche; Lee extends a poetics out of classical experimental modernism, made intelligible in this thesis by Mallarmé’s “cadence” or “rhythm” of things in nothingness and by Beckett’s word-play at the impasse of naming. CHAPTER TWO: To think beyond the mastery of the world by technique is to encounter a choice between silence as assumed by Grant and nonsense as explored by Lee during the period of Alligator Pie (1974) and The Gods (1979). CHAPTER THREE: The example of Paul Celan and his revisiting of Hölderlin provokes Lee to attend upon cadence at the level of the discrete word, an experiment with the dissolution of language and selfhood anticipated in the period of Riffs (1993) and Nightwatch (1996). Here, the undermusic felt to belong to the life-world (Lebenswelt) impacts as affect, in contrast to Celan’s alienated death-walk. CHAPTER FOUR: In the spirit of “post-internet poetry,” and by means of the spontaneous polyphonic scoring of cadence, Lee transforms the modernist impasse at the void into a further contradiction, the living of which may allow the poet access to a non-modern, but at a cost: the loss of poetry to incomprehension and insignificance, the reduction of the poet to a medium of the void, the dissolving of structure into materialities colliding in chance. Author Keywords: Dennis Lee, George Grant, Nonsense, Paul Celan, Technological Modernity, Void
Politics of Muslim Intellectual Discourse in the West
The dissertation explores and defends the theory and practice of a Western-Islamic public sphere (which is secular but not secularist and which is Islamic but not Islamist), within which a critical Islamic intellectual universe can unfold, dealing hermeneutically with texts and politically with lived practices, and which, moreover, has to emerge from within the arc of two alternative, conflicting, yet equally dismissive suspicions defined by a view that critical Islam is the new imperial rhetoric of hegemonic orientalism and the opposite view that critical Islam is just fundamentalism camouflaged in liberal rhetoric. The Western-Islamic public sphere offers a third view, arising from ethical commitment to intellectual work, creativity, and imagination as a portal to the open horizons of history. Author Keywords: Critical Islam, critique, history, Islamic reformation, public sphere, secular

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