Graduate Theses & Dissertations


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
Nietzsche and Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze claims that understanding the eternal recurrence as a recurrence of the same is a misreading of Friedrich Nietzsche, yet, this assertion is not supported by Nietzsche’s texts. In all instances where Nietzsche describes the eternal recurrence, he emphasizes that it is one of the same events. One’s willingness to love one’s fate and to will the eternal recurrence of the same represents the psychological state of the Overman and his achievement of joyousness. However, this is at odds with Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s conception of the nomad. Consequently, the nomad and the Overman are not congruous at all. Rather, the nomad is Nietzsche’s lion. The eternal return of the different then describes the psychological state of the lion as a precursor to the psychological state of the Overman. The lion cannot will the eternal recurrence of the same; he must will the eternal recurrence of the different. When the lion becomes the child, he has the psychological perspective within which to will the eternal recurrence of the same. It is in this sense that Nietzsche and Deleuze’s versions of the eternal recurrence are not antithetical – they are complementary and represent a progression of psychological thought. Author Keywords: Eternal Recurrence, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, Nihilism, Nomad, Overman
Ludic Fictions, Lucid Games
This thesis elucidates the role of play and games—the ludic—in Julio Cortázar’s novel Hopscotch (1966; translation of Rayuela, 1963) through a range of resonant theories. Literary gameplay dominates the formal, linguistic, affective, reflexive, and thematic dimensions of Hopscotch, which are analyzed through concepts borrowed from play theorist Roger Caillois, among others, and literary theorists including Mikhail Bakhtin and Wolfgang Iser, whose ludic theories of fiction begin to map the field of ludic fiction. The analysis positions Hopscotch as an exemplar of the ludic counter-tradition within the novel, a perennial tendency from Don Quixote to postmodernism and beyond. Hopscotch, like other ludic fictions, enacts a complex convergence of the ludic and the lucid. It provokes active reading over passive consumption, diminishes the hegemonic function of serious mimesis to elevate other forms of gameplay, notably chance, competition, vertigo, and enigma, to dominant positions, and ultimately demonstrates a profound affinity between play and critical consciousness. Author Keywords: Bakhtin, Cortazar, Iser, Ludic, Novel, Play
On the Cyberflaneur
This thesis is a critical response to Evgeny Morozov’s article proclaiming the death of the cyberflâneur. Suspicious of the superficiality of his argument, I developed a practico-theoretical project to prove that the cyberflâneur is not dead but alive – or, if it were dead, to rescue it from its grave and bring it back to life. In the course of my response to Morozov, I develop a theoretical foundation that allows me to continue thinking about the concept and practice of the cyberflâneur in the context of the Internet. In doing so, I rely on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s “Treatise on Nomadology: The War Machine” (2011), in combination with a history of the tradition of wandering. We are living in a postmodern-posthuman era driven by the chaotic and confusing forces that are manifested through the Internet. As such, it is no longer enough to be concerned with opening the space where we live, move and think; we cannot retreat to nature, we can’t escape society. However, I see potential in the Internet. The Internet, as a physical and material network, can be actualized as an apparatus of capture. It operates as a medium for accelerating or limiting speed, or as an apparatus for the control of the transmission of information. I develop the cyberflâneur as an aesthetic figure that reveals the Internet’s potential. If these revelations happen to be transmitted, then everyday life can again become an object of dispute, rather than unmeditated habituation. Author Keywords: Cyberflâneur, Everyday Life, Internet, Nomadology, Research-creation, Wandering
Shaman Detective
This thesis examines a specific figure that appears throughout contemporary Japanese detective fiction (across different media), which I have termed the Shaman detective. A liminal figure that combines Japanese folk cosmologies with contemporary detective work, the Shaman detective is at once similar to, yet separate from, western postmodernist detective fiction. Invested in narratives of enchantment the Shaman detective is marked by his rejection of the epistemological ties of the modern and classical detectives that cause his counterparts to fail in the face of postmodern subjectivism. Committed to il-logic, dreaming, play, and intuition, the Shaman detective exists in the realm of the Fantastic, bridging the gap between mundane and marvellous realities. This thesis reads Shaman detective texts using western postmodernist theory with Todorov’s theory of the Fantastic and Jane Bennett’s New Materialism. This is synthesized with Japanese thought traditions, cosmologies and philosophies, in order to draw out the Shaman detective. Author Keywords: Enchantment, Japanese Fiction, New Materialism, Postmodern Fiction, Shamanism, the Fantastic
Becoming and Destiny in Deleuze and Guattari
This thesis is an investigation of the theme of freedom in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Chapter One investigates Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming as it is articulated in their book A Thousand Plateaus, and seeks to resolve a problem related to their shifting descriptions of the role of agency in the process of becoming, at times described as voluntary, and at other times described as involuntary. We conclude that chapter with a defense of the claim that their shifting descriptions are unproblematic and are, in fact, attempts to illustrate the paradoxical experience of becoming. Chapter Two investigates Deleuze’s earlier text, The Logic of Sense, and attempts to make sense of his use of the term destiny. Our conclusion in that chapter is that destiny is neither necessity, pure self-authorship, nor passive resignation, but rather consists of a mixture of activity and passivity, willfulness and chance. Author Keywords: Agency, Becoming, Counter-actualization, Deleuze and Guattari, Destiny, Freedom
Denizens of Virtual Worlds
This thesis studies a subset of players of video games called “power-gamers” who play games in a way that mirrors labour as opposed to leisure. Through ethnographic fieldwork and exploration this thesis examines what constitutes “power-gaming” and seeks to unpack the differences between skill, fun, and labour. Chapter One analyzes how ethnographic fieldwork is performed in virtual worlds, and the necessary frameworks inherent to this. Chapter Two explores facets of technical hobbies, masculinity, skill, and how they relate to power-gaming. Chapter Three explores how different cultures globally choose to play-games, and the forms of sociability involved in this play. Chapter Four examines reality in relation to virtual worlds, and how players in virtual worlds explore and unpack their surroundings, which mirrors many scientific practices in the real world. Chapter Five explores narrative structure in games, and their relation to power-gaming practices. Chapter Six concludes with a discussion of power-gamers as a neo-liberal workforce. Author Keywords: game design, neo-liberalism, playbour, power-gamer, sociability, virtual-ethnography
Scientificity of Psychology and the Categorical Paradigm of Mental Illness
There is little research devoted to exploring psychology's historical and discursive development. Psychological knowledge is generally presented as the contributions of individuals, but without context. The social, political, and economic aspects of psychology's development are scarcely discussed, including how the discipline came to be considered a science. This thesis project explored the history of the development of psychology. Specifically, psychology's claim to scientificity via the appropriation of the medical model of disease, and accordingly, the instantiation of the categorical paradigm of mental illness were examined. The discontinuous events that shaped psychology and its hallmark of scientificity were explored, including extensive concept transformations, political agendas, and marketing strategies. These practices were then explored in a practical way using the conception of clinical depression and the role of antidepressants as the first-line treatment for depression in the USA. This exploration revealed psychology's socio-historical contingencies and its agenda of prediction and control. Author Keywords: Categorical Paradigm, Concept Transformations, Historicity, Knowledge Products, Psychology, Scientificity
(un)Natural Provocation
My thesis examines anthropomorphism and many avenues in which humans represent nonhumans to evaluate their own lives. Using Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno webseries, a collection of two-minute films starring Rossellini as a multitude of nonhumans with costumes transforming her into nonhuman, I posit that a new form of anthropomorphism -- one that values the nonhuman in all his or her nonhumanity -- is emerging in contemporary media. Rossellini describes the mating, seduction, and maternal instincts of these nonhumans, regularly drawing parallels between nonhuman and human behavior and uncovering crucial intersections in femininity, masculinity, queer theory, and abjection. In more recent films, I see Rossellini performing certain nonhumans to critique particular characteristics of Western human society and incredulously addressing the human viewer as a member of a species that might not be as high in the caste system of living beings as he or she is led to believe. In turning this sense of grotesque Otherness onto the human, I identify Rossellini as engaging in counterabjection, or the reversal of extreme degradation often projected upon nonhuman bodies by humans. Author Keywords: abjection, animal studies, nonhuman, queer studies
This project is a Heideggerian critique of the subject/object metaphysic presupposed in the Representationalist claim that the world is made intelligible solely in virtue of internal states that bear representations. It is comprised of two sections. The first is a critique of the ontological primacy of representational-intentionality/action in which I argue that where Brentano, Husserl, and Searle have erred is not in their model of intentionality/action, but in assigning a priori status to a derivative mode of being. The second is a critique of representation-driven artificial intelligence whereby I argue that belief-fixation and action selection that is context-dependent produces an insurmountable problem that prevents the parsing of context-specifying relevance; the corollary being that the world is not disclosed despite that system having a structurally isomorphic internal constitution to that which is purported by the Representationalist to obtain in human beings. With the issue thus framed, I conclude by arguing that this problem is dissolved within a Heideggerian phenomenological framework. Author Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Heidegger, Phenomenology, Representationalism, Skillful Coping, The Frame Problem
the sex killer drives a panel pin into his ear-hole
I have two goals. One, to offer new insights into Vienna Actionism (VA) and their notorious performances, through Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s notion of the body without organs (BwO); and two, not simply to provide descriptions of the Vienna Actionists’ performances, but also to write what I am calling a thesis without organs. Documents from the Vienna Actionists, specifically Muehl’s Leda and the Swan (1964), Brus’ Vienna Walk (1965) and Nitsch’s O.M. Theatre (1960-present), become documents without organs; they are documents that do not simply document original performances, but re-perform original performances while acting as performances themselves. Challenging the notion of live performance as fundamentally separate from its documentation (as performance theorist Peggy Phelan argues) through what Philip Auslander calls the document’s performativity and what Christopher Bedford calls a viral ontology of performance, my thesis becomes a performance in and of itself. A thesis without organs. Keywords: performance, performativity, viral ontology of performance, body without organs, rhizome, dirt, metaphor, metonymy, Vienna Actionism, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Peggy Phelan, Philip Auslander, Christopher Bedford, Mary Douglas. Author Keywords: Body without Organs, Performance, Performativity, Vienna Actionism
Visions of the Sedantary “I”/eye
This thesis explores the seemingly innocuous call to “grow up,” which is never simply a biological imperative. It is also a moral one. Demanding that one should “grow up” is not demanding that one grow older, but that one transform into a specific kind of subject – the “grown up.” In the reading advanced here, The Little Prince thermalizes the suppleness of the figure of the grown up through a series of fantastic encounters. In particular, perception and corporeality will be taken up as the two interlocking ways we are often pushed towards an understanding of adulthood that is coextensive with an Enlightenment conception of subjectivity. Perception, having emerged from a sedimented economy of looking, produces norms and practices of attentiveness where much of our perceptual field is consigned to infrastructural obliviousness. This intensification of attention, in turn, coincides with a broader project of corporeal discipline that began with the body’s sedation through the chair. The chair is itself an element of the disciplinary machine that regulates attention, where the pedagogical injunction to “pay attention” is often accompanied by the postural injunction to “settle down” and “sit up straight.” The chair, then, not only individuates and renders those individuated bodies docile, but also readies them for an entry into the world of grown-ups. Author Keywords: Attention, Enlightenment, Maturation, Saint-Exupery, Sedantariness, Subjectivation


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