Graduate Theses & Dissertations

This Is It, I Guess
Queer youth are an at-risk group, with an incredibly high rate of harm and death as they grow into themselves. They are often advised to wait until they finish school to express their sexuality more openly, when they can leave to somewhere that is “better”, which in this context can mean safer, more accepting, or far away from friends and family who may reject them. Unfortunately, much of the media representation of queer people is regressive or stereotypical, usually involving the suffering or death of its queer-identified characters. It is telling that a recurring theme in queer stories is that empathy and understanding for queer people can only be attained through their suffering. Non-queer people do not have to suffer to be understood. In this thesis I discuss the potential of creativity in academic works, I examine queer stories that buck the trend of tragedy through queer and pop culture theory, and I write a queer young adult novel in response, featuring a self-actualized protagonist whose sexuality does not cause him pain or trauma. Author Keywords: creative writing, queer literature, queer protagonist, queer theory, queer youth, young adult literature
Making Mockeries, Making Connections
Parody has been a strategy within cultural production since the ancient Greeks: “paraodia” referred to a song sung alongside the main narrative thread of a dramatic work; the prefix “para-” also signifies “against.” In A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-century Art Forms, Linda Hutcheon offers this core definition: parody is “a form of repetition with ironic critical distance, marking difference rather than similarity … [with] tension between the potentially conservative effect of repetition and the potentially revolutionary impact of difference” (xii). This and other aspects of Hutcheon’s theory guide my interpretations of works by three contemporary artists working in Canada: Sybil Lamb’s novel I’ve Got a Time Bomb; Ursula Johnson’s (Mi’kmaq) three-part exhibition Mi’kwite’tmn (Do You Remember); and Kent Monkman’s (Cree and Irish) exhibition Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience. I argue that the presence of parodic elements in these artists’ works enables them to do two things: to claim spaces that enable recognition of their subject positions, and to critique an aspect of hegemonic norms in contemporary society. I read Lamb’s novel as a critique of the heteronormative gender binary via parody of the picaresque genre and of heteronormative discourse/language. Certain pieces in Monkman’s exhibition parody the epistemological and display strategies of traditional Eurocentric anthropological museums and archives, as can Johnson’s work; her sculptural-installations may also be read as parodying the traditions of Mi’kmaw basket-making. The work of both artists critiques colonial narratives that sought (and may still seek) to denigrate and/or erase Indigenous peoples; such narratives of cultural genocide were both tacitly and directly propagated by museums. I analyze these three artists’ works, considering key features of parody (ambiguity; irony and “double-voicedness”; trans-contextualization; and humour), and their effects (defamiliarization; ontological instability; complicity; and laughter). Parody challenges the post-structuralist emphasis on the “decoder,” (viewer/reader) reinstating the “encoder” (artist/author) as agent. Decoders recognize their complicity within the context of the hegemonic narrative, whether the heteronormative gender binary or colonialism, and may come to shift perception – as per Hutcheon’s “potentially revolutionary impact.” Author Keywords: contemporary art, Indigenous art, museum history, parody, picaresque, transgender literature
Reassessing Bioarchaeological Sex Determination and Research into Gender at the Early Anglo-Saxon Worthy Park Burial Ground Round in Hampshire, England
When bioarchaeologists investigate ancient gender identity, they typically place skeletal remains into one of six sex assessment categories: male, female, possible/probable male, possible/probable female, ambiguous, and indeterminate. However, the study samples are often reduced to male and female reproducing a male/female gender and sex binary prevalent in the "Western" cultural milieu and bioarchaeology when inferences are made about gender and sex in the past. In order to allow for the existence of non-binary cultural genders and biological sexes, this thesis: 1) demonstrates the multitude of ethnographic, ethnohistoric, historic, and medical evidence relating to non-binary sex and gender expression; 2) tests a method inspired by Whelan (1991) that looks at gender as an identity not fully inspired by biological sex; 3) keeps all sex assessment categories used by bioarchaeologists separate in analysis and interpretation; and 4) analyses patterns relating to all available material culture and biological attributes in a mortuary sample to investigate gender identity. This thesis used the Early Anglo-Saxon (470-600 AD) burial ground at Worthy Park in Hampshire to achieve these objectives. This thesis found that when examining all sex assessment categories among all mortuary variables, only the male sex was clearly defined by its mortuary assemblage. This suggests a one gender structure corresponding to linguistic evidence for one gender in Old English. Author Keywords: Anglo-Saxon, Bioarchaeology, Gender identity, Mortuary archaeology, Osteoarchaeology, Sex determination
Abject Utopianism and Psychic Space
This dissertation utilizes the psychoanalytic theories of French psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva as a lens through which to read the novels of American author Samuel R. Delany. I argue that concepts proper to Kristeva's work--namely abjection and/or the abject--can provide a way to think what it might mean to be utopian in the 21st century. Delany's novels are received historically, which is to say his work speaks from a certain historical and cultural viewpoint that is not that of today; however, I claim that his novels are exceptional for their attempts to portray other ways of being in the world. Delany's novels, though, contain bodies, psychologies, and sexualities that are considered abject with respect to contemporary morality. Nonetheless, this dissertation argues that such manifestations of abject lived experience provide the groundwork for the possibility of thinking utopianism differently today. Throughout, what I am working toward is a notion that I call Abject Utopianism: Rather than direct attention toward those sites that closely, yet imperfectly, approximate the ideal, one should commit one's attention to those sights that others avoid, abscond, or turn their nose up at in disgust, for those are the sites of hope for a better world today. Author Keywords: Abject, Delany, Kristeva, Literary Criticism, Psychoanalysis, Utopia

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