Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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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
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
Thin Line Between Hell and Here
The end of the Cold War and the global triumph of neoliberalism were accompanied by the evolution of certain themes in dystopian fiction. According to some of its advocates, such as Francis Fukuyama, neoliberalism’s success signified the “end of history,” understood as ideological evolution, since the decline of communism left Western liberal democracies without any major opposition in terms of global governing and discursive practices. This thesis critically compares neoliberal rhetoric concerning invisible power, the end of history, technology, freedom of consumption and the commodification of human relationships with the ideologies represented in four neoliberal dystopian works of fiction, namely Black Mirror, Feed, The Circle, and The Fat Years. These examples create a “one-dimensional” dystopian subject who is rendered incapable of possessing the utopian imagination necessary to organize political resistance, precisely as a result of the governance and discourse of neoliberalism. Author Keywords: dystopia, dystopian fiction, dystopian subjectivity, neoliberalism, post cold war fiction, subjectivity
Nature without Balance
This thesis critically analyses the connection between ideology and nature, and in particular, aims to reflect on the dominant discourses on the topic of ecological crisis. The ecological thought framework that I adhere to rests on a combination of Frankfurt School and Žižekian theories. This combination is not without serious tensions and deviations; however, central to this project are the ways in which their respective works extensively critique ideology, and propose subversive alternatives to and new meanings of how we can conceptualize nature without domination. Dominant ideas and critiques of nature and natural history emerged during the Enlightenment era, and as Adorno argues, fell victim to a “reduction ad hominem,” or the claim that in order to free oneself, one must dominate, appropriate, and master nature. I claim that the extreme choices in environmental politics today - namely organic populism on one hand and increased technological intervention on the other - fail to account for the ways ‘nature’ is a socio-historical construct, and moreover, is situated within a false reality wherein the ‘essence of existence’ is reduced to technological mastery. What we encounter in this cautionary armoury of paradoxical approaches to nature, then, is the ideological currents of established belief systems. By exposing the illusions within the concept nature, such as the argumentative persuasion that there exists an inherent balance, the elementary cell of ideology reveals itself alongside revolutionary possibilities. Author Keywords: Crises, Critical Theory, Ideology, Nature, Slavoj Zizek, Theodor Adorno
Understanding the Role of Lived Experience in Community Leaders’ Vision and Governance of Economic Development and Sustainability in Rurally Situated Small Cities
Sustainable development is normative - making decisions in the present that construct the experience of place for the future. It is primarily driven by global measures developed to meet the needs of the present while ensuring future generations can meet their own needs. These measures attempt to balance economic prosperity, social justice, and environmental stewardship in many nations. This attempt to balance a plurality of outcomes creates socio-political tensions in choosing between alternatives. These barriers and tensions are characterized through the neoclassical vision of: economics as a science, utility maximization, and alienation of people. This thesis explores the lived experience of community leaders in Peterborough, Ontario as they navigate a contentious and current debate of where to relocate a casino in the region. The results focus on the tension experienced by community leaders as they seek to balance elements of care, while preserving neoclassical values of growth, individualism, freedom of choice, and interconnectedness. The thesis concludes with a model that works towards an understanding of the role of lived experience in economic development decision-making in rurally situated small cities, and recommendations for further research and policy recommendations. Author Keywords: economic development, governance, lived experience, small city, sustainable development, vision
Becoming Hybrid
Institutional military strategists are developing theories of asymmetric and unconventional warfare that complicate the notion of strategic agency, the idea that military action emanates from a coherent agential source or subjectivity. This thesis attempts to push the conceptual trajectories of the theories of Hybrid War, Unrestricted War and Onto-power towards an even more radical complication of the notion of strategy - towards an ecological understanding of war as an unwinnable, self-perpetuating process. Recent geopolitical events are meticulously examined, as are institutional doctrinal and theoretical frameworks that stop just short of imploding the conventional agential notion of strategy. Insights from the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, as well as Brian Massumi, particularly the concepts of multiplicity, assemblage, and ontopower, are employed in the thesis, which is itself a “heterogeneous assemblage” of elements ranging from Israeli war theory and Chinese military doctrine to etymology and post-structuralist philosophy. Author Keywords: Agency, Assemblage, Deleuze, Hybrid warfare, Multiplicity, Strategy
While the Lonely Mingle with Circumstance
Emmanuel Levinas’ philosophy focuses on the idea that no human subject exists outside of their relationship to other people. Each of us holds a profound degree of responsibility to and for all others. Since responsibility is fundamental to human (co)existence, it does not impede on freedom but proves that the sovereign individual is a dangerous myth: any philosophical, political or economic system which places us in antagonism is inherently violent and arguably fallacious. Many instances of injustice and violence can be attributed to advances in technological rationality and other forces of modern egoism with historical roots. By forwarding a somewhat politicized interpretation of Totality and Infinity and drawing on Jacques Derrida’s landmark reading of Levinas, this thesis explores the implications of Levinas’ thought for modern politics and the potential of Levinasian ethics as a remedy for both the alienation of the modern subject and the continued justification of oppression. Author Keywords: Ethics, Levinas, Other, Relation, Responsibility, Subjectivity
Spatial Bestiary
In my Master’s thesis, I consider how the space of the animal laboratory shapes human-animal relationships, and how, in turn, these relations impact the laboratory, and more specifically, the spatially-bound practices that unfold in this space. I use the frameworks of biopolitics and animal geography, both of which help in illuminating the space of the lab as a site of power, within which human-animal agency becomes exercised. Alongside these analytics, I conducted participant interviews with individuals who work with animals in laboratories or settings similar to laboratories, which animate several themes that I locate at the intersection of biopolitics and animal geography. These themes include a discussion of human-animal relations of power, scientific biopower and scientific market economies, the animal-industrial complex, and the relationship between human binaries and their effects on spatiality. This project is as much about animal lives as it is about human lives. Author Keywords: agency, animal geography, biopower, human-animal relationships, spatiality, the animal laboratory
Materiality and Ontology of Digital Subjectivity
New conditions of materiality are emerging from fundamental changes in our ontological order. Digital subjectivity represents an emergent mode of subjectivity that is the effect of a more profound ontological drift that has taken place, and this bears significant repercussions for the practice and understanding of the political. This thesis pivots around mathematician Grigori ‘Grisha’ Perelman, most famous for his refusal to accept numerous prestigious prizes resulting from his proof of the Poincaré conjecture. The thesis shows the Perelman affair to be a fascinating instance of the rise of digital subjectivity as it strives to actualize a new hegemonic order. By tracing first the production of aesthetic works that represent Grigori Perelman in legacy media, the thesis demonstrates that there is a cultural imperative to represent Perelman as an abject figure. Additionally, his peculiar abjection is seen to arise from a challenge to the order of materiality defended by those with a vested interest in maintaining the stability of a hegemony identified with the normative regulatory power of the heteronormative matrix sustaining social relations in late capitalism. The first chapter analyses the formal aesthetics of legacy media representations of Perelman. The second chapter focuses on new media aesthetic productions pertaining to Perelman and the political ontology of digital media. The third chapter interrogates the political ontology of the materials utilized in Perelman’s work and seeks to clarify the status of the conditions of the challenge of a digital hegemony. Author Keywords: abjection, archive, autistic reason, digital subjectivity, Grigori Perelman, ontological drift
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
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
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

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