Graduate Theses & Dissertations


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
Technology of Consent
The 1980s in the United States have come into focus as years of extensive ideological and socioeconomic fracture. A conservative movement arose to counter the progressive gains of previous decades, neoliberalism became the nation’s economic mantra, and détente was jettisoned in favour of military build-up. Such developments materialized out of a multitude of conflicts, a cultural crisis of ideas, perspectives, and words competing to maintain or rework the nation’s core structures. In this dissertation I argue that alongside these conflicts, a crisis over technology and its ramifications played a crucial role as well, with the American public grasping for ways to comprehend a nascent technoculture. Borrowing from Andrew Feenberg, I define three broad categories of popular conceptualization used to comprehend a decade of mass technical and social transformations: the instrumental view, construing technology as a range of efficient tools; the substantive view, insisting technology is an environment that determines its subjects; and a critical approach, which recognizes the capacity for technology to shape subjects, but also its potential to aid new social agendas. Using Feenberg’s categories as interpretive lenses, I foreground these epistemologies in three of the decade’s most popular formations of literary science fiction (sf), and describe the broader discourses they participated in: military sf is connected to military strategy and weapons development (instrumental), cyberpunk to postmodernism and posthumanism (substantive), and feminist sf to feminist theory and politics (critical). These were not just discursive trajectories, I claim, but vital contributors to the material construction of what Antonio Gramsci would call hegemonic and counterhegemonic formations. While the instrumental paradigm was part of the decade’s prevailing hegemonic make-up, substantive and critical discourses offered an alternative to the reality of cowboy militarism and unchecked technological expansion. By engaging with the decade’s texts—from There Will Be War to RoboCop to “A Cyborg Manifesto”—I hope to illuminate what I call the technology of consent, the significance of technological worldviews for modern technocultures, where such views are consented to by subaltern groups, and at the same time the existence of consent itself as a kind of complex social technology in the first place. Author Keywords: American History, Discourse, Hegemony, Science Fiction, Technoculture, Technology
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
Genre Trouble and Extreme Cinema
This dissertation re-evaluates theories of genre and spectatorship in light of a critic-defined tendency in recent art cinema, coined extreme cinema. It argues that the films of Mexican director Carlos Reygadas and French director Catherine Breillat expand our generic classifications and, through the re-organization of the visual presentation of genre-specific clichés and devices, their films transform sense experience and thought. My approach loosely follows Stanley Cavell’s various assertions of film as a medium of thought or, simply, that films think. Reygadas and Breillat allow spectators to reflect on the genre-film experience; I contend that their films make it apparent that genre is not established prior to the viewing of a work but is recollected and assembled by spectators in ways that matter for them. In fostering this experience of collection, these two directors propose a kind of ethics of curatorship: spectators are tasked with collecting and recollecting their film experience to generate particular social, cultural, and political critiques. To further accomplish and foster film as thought, the directors appeal to spectators’ sense experiences. I therefore deploy contemporary film theories on the senses, both phenomenological and affect theory, and partake in close readings of the films’ forms and narratives. The Introduction outlines my intervention in genre theory, discusses the key theoretical texts, develops the phenomenological framework I employ for the chapters to follow, develops my methodology through a description of Cavell’s style, and presents the stakes of my argument. Chapter one considers the place of experimental narrative cinema in Reygadas’s Post Tenebras Lux (2012). I argue that through his realist style, this film aims at an experience for spectators “as if” in a dream and through this film experience I posit the critique I find internal to the film. The second chapter turns to Catherine Breillat’s oeuvre and the confrontation her work poses to conceptions of pornography. I bring her 2001 feature Fat Girl (À ma soeur!) to bear on what I claim to be a new style of pornographic work and its challenge to patriarchy. The final chapter brings together Reygadas’s Battle in Heaven (Batalla en el cielo, 2005) and Breillat’s Sex is Comedy (2002) to accomplish an analysis of sexual performances in otherwise dramatic films. Author Keywords: art cinema, Carlos Reygadas, Catherine Breillat, contemporary cinema, film theory, genre theory
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
Finding Space, Making Place
Independent music venues are important hubs of social activity and cultural production around which local punk scenes are both physically and conceptually organized. Through interactions with participants over extended periods of time, these spaces become meaningful places that are imbued with the energy, history and memories of local music scenes. When a venue is shut down, local punk scenes experience a temporary disruption as participants struggle to begin the process of re-establishing a new autonomous social space free from outsider interference. Therefore, moving from the local, to the national, to the international, from the small and personal to the vast and global, as well as from the physical to the virtual, this dissertation illustrates the actual, everyday practices of local scenes across Canada, addressing the larger issue of the loss of alternative music venues occurring on a global scale and the resulting impact on punk scene participants. Through the use of ethnographic research methods such as participant observation, photographic documentation, interviews and surveys, this dissertation engages with contemporary punk scene participants in order to give voice to those often ignored in grand narratives of punk history. As such, traditional concepts of punk as a utopic countercultural space are challenged to reveal the complexity and diversity that exists within contemporary local punk scenes, where participants often experience equal amounts of cooperation, competition, tension and struggle. By choosing to engage with contemporary experiences and interpretations of punk culture, this research addresses the changing landscape of local scenes, as punk participants attempt to carve out spaces of representation for themselves in an exceedingly mediated world. Author Keywords: Canada, music venues, punk, scene, social space, subculture
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
All Things Fusible
This dissertation presents the work of the American science fiction writer Neal Stephenson as a case study of mediations between literature and science by mobilizing its resonances with contemporary science studies and media theory. Tracing the historical and thematic trajectory of his consecutively published novels Snow Crash (1992), The Diamond Age; or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (1995), Cryptonomicon (1999), Quicksilver: The Baroque Cycle I (2003), The Confusion: The Baroque Cycle II (2004), and The System of the World: The Baroque Cycle III (2004), it approaches Stephenson’s fiction as an archaeology of the deep history of science that leads from late twentieth-century cyberculture, to world-war-two cryptography, and the seventeenth-century rise of the Royal Society. Refracted through a parallel reading of Stephenson’s novels and the theoretical work of Michel Serres, Bruno Latour, Friedrich A. Kittler, Isabelle Stengers, Donna Haraway, and others, this dissertation offers a literary discussion of the relations among cybernetics, complexity theory, information theory, systems theory, Leibnizian metaphysics, and Newtonian alchemy. Recognizing these hybrid fields as central to contemporary dialogues between the natural sciences and the humanities, Stephenson’s work is shown to exhibit a consistent engagement with the feedback loops among physical, artistic, narratological, and epistemological processes of innovation and emergence. Through his portrayal of hackers, mathematicians, natural philosophers, alchemists, vagabonds, and couriers as permutations of trickster figures, this dissertation advances a generalized notion of boundary transgressions and media infrastructures to illustrate how newness emerges by way of the turbulent con-fusion of disciplines, genres, knowledge systems, historical linearities, and physical environments. Uninterested in rigid genre boundaries, Stephenson’s novels are explored through the links among artistic modes that range from cyberpunk, to hard science fiction, historiographic metafiction, the carnivalesque, and the baroque. In a metabolization of the work performed by science studies, Stephenson’s fiction foregrounds that scientific practice is always intimately entangled in narrative, politics, metaphor, myth, and the circulation of a multiplicity of human and nonhuman agents. As the first sustained analysis of this segment of Stephenson’s work, this dissertation offers a contribution to both science fiction studies and the wider field of literature and science. Author Keywords: Complexity Theory, Cyberpunk, Michel Serres, Neal Stephenson, Science Fiction, Science Studies
"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
On Tilt
On Tilt: The Inheritance and Inheritors of Digital Games accepts and extends Eric Zimmerman’s contention that literacies currently being developed during video-game play will be more broadly applicable (outside games) in the next hundred years as Western work, education, entertainment, and citizenship spaces become ever more shaped like video games. To the end of better understanding both video games and the players and literacies contiguous with them, this dissertation interrogates comparisons between video games and... non-digital games, film and other fictional texts and worlds, blogs, casinos’ games of chance, and the strategies employed by face-to-face criminals, always asking about the roles and responsibilities the human participants in these systems take; that is, this dissertation investigates what video games inherit from other forms of art, including non-digital games, and what the gamers and audience of today and tomorrow inherit through their contact with video games. The dissertation examines in detail works by Jodi Dean, Bernard Suits, Bruce Sterling, T. L. Taylor, Walter Benjamin, Gavin de Becker, N. Katherine Hayles and Nicholas Gessler, and Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, considering their work, the video game, and gamers, in terms of power gaming, genre, fiction and suspension of disbelief, audience, motivations, fungibility, the zombie vs. the robot, value vs. meaning, agency, slipstream, capitalism, and ontology. Ultimately, the dissertation suggests that there are two disparate strains of gamification building Zimmerman’s future, arguing first that the penetration of video games into culture is changing the way we behave and exist as audience and more generally, and, second, that what is at stake, in terms of the attitudes, labels, and gameplay that we accept in terms of games and gamification is significant to what it means to be human, especially within systems that are only partly human, in the next hundred years. Author Keywords: digital, gamification, genre, literacy, new media, videogame
Socioloegal Mediation of Rave Sound System Technologies
The central scholarly contribution of this dissertation develops through bringing the theories of Michel Foucault to bear in a sociolegal study of rave culture's criminalization by the United Kingdom's 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. My methodology develops rave as a cultural keyword. This keyword navigates through a quasi-materialist definition of rave as a cultural codification of sound system technologies. I theorize the way in which sociocultural discourse indexes aestheticized representations and the cultural mythologies that rave sound system's technical mediation generate. These ideas trace the facticity of the legal documentation of rave’s criminalization. I inform this sociolegal history by situating Foucault's work on the genealogy of liberalism as a practical toolkit for associating the legal discourse on rave culture with the genealogy of festival. This opens up a dialogue with the work of Mikhail Bakhtin's theorizing of the festival’s ambivalent political climate. Such ideas are useful in documenting rave as an enduring mimicry of the tension between State and civil society. Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1559 painting, “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”, captures this tension beautifully. The aptness of reading rave's criminalization in relation to Bruegel’s portrayal of landscape is accomplished by returning to Foucault, who defines liberalism's political technologies in relation to Judaeo-Christian precedents. I explore how these political technologies, pastoral power in particular, are helpful in tracing rave's genealogical relation to the festival's sociotechnical cartography. Author Keywords: Bakhtin, Carnival, Christianity, Festival, Liberalism, Materialism
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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