Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Nineteenth-Century Aesthetics of Murder
This dissertation examines how sex crime and serial killing became a legitimate subject of aesthetic representation and mass consumption in the nineteenth century. It also probes into the ethical implications of deriving pleasure from consuming such graphic representations of violence. Taking off from Jack the Ripper and the iconic Whitechapel murders of 1888, it argues that a new cultural paradigm – the aesthetics of murder – was invented in England and France. To study the ‘aesthetics of murder’ as countless influential critics have done is not to question whether an act of murder itself possesses beautiful or sublime qualities. Rather, it is to determine precisely how a topic as evil and abject as murder is made beautiful in a work of art. It also questions what is at stake ethically for the reader or spectator who bears witness to such incommensurable violence. In three chapters, this dissertation delves into three important tropes – the murderer, corpse, and witness – through which this aesthetics of murder is analyzed. By examining a wide intersection of visual, literary, and cultural texts from the English and French tradition, it ultimately seeks to effect a rapprochement between nineteenth-century ethics and aesthetics. The primary artists and writers under investigation are Charles Baudelaire, Thomas De Quincey, Oscar Wilde, and Walter Sickert. In bringing together their distinctive styles and aesthetic philosophies, the dissertation opts for an interdisciplinary and comparative approach. It also aims to absolve these writers and artists from a longstanding charge of immorality and degeneracy, by firmly maintaining that the aesthetics of murder does not necessarily glorify or justify the act of murder. The third chapter on the ‘witness’ in fact, elucidates how writers like De Quincey and Wilde transferred the ethical imperative from the writer to the reader. The reader is appointed in the role of a murder witness who accidentally discovered the corpse on the crime scene. As a traumatized subject, the reader thus develops an ethical obligation for justice and censorship. Author Keywords: Censorship, Jack the Ripper, Murder, Trauma, Victorian, Wilde
Tests of the Invasional Meltdown Hypothesis in invasive herbaceous plant species in southern Ontario
According to the Invasional Meltdown Hypothesis (IMH), invasive species may interact in their introduced range and facilitate future invasions. This study investigated the possibility that Alliaria petiolata, an invasive allelopathic herbaceous plant in Ontario, is facilitating invasions by additional alien species. Two allelopathic focal species were chosen for this study: the native Solidago canadensis and the invasive A. petiolata. Field surveys in southern Ontario that quantified plant biodiversity in plots that included one or both focal species revealed no support for the IMH, although fewer species co-existed with A. petiolata than with S. canadensis. A year-long recruitment experiment in Peterborough, Ontario, also produced results inconsistent with the IMH, although did provide some evidence that A. petiolata limited recruitment of other species. These results collectively show negative impacts on regional biodiversity by A. petiolata, even in the absence of an invasional meltdown. Author Keywords: allelopathy, Alliaria petiolata, co-occurrence surveys, invasional meltdown hypothesis, invasive species, Solidago canadensis
Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Globality
In this thesis, I use “Trump’s Wall” between Mexico and the US to resist Eurocentrism and the challenges Eurocentric pedagogy poses to the research-practitioner. In my method, I reimagine C. Alejandra Elenes’ borderlands theory as a zone of empowerment within a multicultural Canadian classroom, and braid it in a hybrid assemblage with the rhizome. The “rhizo-borderlands” assemblage uses selected field notes gleaned from my teaching practice to develop themes of a critical pedagogy of globality in personal, local and international dimensions. These are further braided with a “day-in-the-life” narrative of a fictionalized student (Ellie) who navigates her way towards a world literature classroom where the focus is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This assemblage affirms my belief that teaching and learning provides a context where students become “border crossers” and navigate points of intersection between their local and global selves, in order to develop intercultural competencies. Author Keywords: Action Narrative, Critical Pedagogy, Rhizomes
Socio-Ecology and the Sacred
Within the complex socio-ecological systems of South and Southeast Asia, ancient sacred natural sites were created by, and imbued with, cultural and ideological values. These landscapes are liminal spaces or threshold environments between cultivated areas and wilder spaces; the practice of creating and maintaining them persists from ancient to modern times. This thesis examines sacred natural sites in three early state formations from 800 – 1400 CE: the Khmer (Cambodia), the Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) and the Chola (South India), why they persisted over time, and what significance they held. Several ancient sacred natural sites are active parts of societies today, and the ones chosen for this study span several categories: mountains, rivers, forests/groves, and caves. Using the paradigm of entanglement theory in a comparative context, this thesis analyzes sacred natural sites acting as key socio-ecological nodes enmeshed in complex dependent relationships within the landscapes of the South and Southeast Asia. Author Keywords: Comparative study, Entanglement theory, Sacred natural sites, Socio-ecological systems, South Asia, Tropical Societies
Effects of Geographic Factors on the Wild Harvest of Large Mammals across North America
While the harvest of mammals is monitored in each jurisdiction across Canada and the USA, there has been no analysis of this wild harvest at a continental scale across North America. The recreational wild harvest of large mammals varies geographically across North America, and I hypothesized that this variation is influenced by both anthropogenic and other environmental factors on the landscape. I tested this hypothesis using annual harvest tallies collected by Conservation Visions Inc. for mammals for each state, provincial, and territorial jurisdiction in Canada and the USA. I built multiple additive models of the harvest, in one harvest year, 2015 – 2016, to test for landscape gradients that explain the variation in harvest levels for seven large mammal species: white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), black bear (Ursus americanus), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), elk (Cervus canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), and moose (Alces alces). I built these models from a suite of nine putative predictor variables that comprised landcover, human footprint, and evapotranspiration. For all large mammal species except for pronghorn, anthropogenic influence had a positive effect on the wild harvest density, consistent with the idea that the proximity of human populations and roads are important for fostering wild harvest activity by providing hunters access to hunting areas. The harvest of white-tailed deer, elk, and pronghorn were negatively affected by vegetation structure, urbanization, and primary productivity, respectively. Understanding the recreational wild harvest at a broad-spatial scale provides a unique perspective of the North American model of wildlife conservation and spurs future comparative analyses of the wild harvest across spatial scales. Author Keywords: Anthropogenic Influence, Hunting, Large Mammals, Primary Productivity, Vegetation Structure, Wild Harvest
Experience of Being Jewish in a Small Jewish Community
This thesis explores the experience of Jewish individuals living in a small Jewish community in an urban centre of less than 100,000 in Ontario, Canada. The central question I explore is the ways in which Jewish individuals in a small community enact and perform their identity. What are some of the challenges and obstacles faced by Jews in a small community and what kinds of compromises must be made to accommodate members of the community? Do the benefits of living in a small Jewish community outweigh the shortcomings? This thesis examines how Jewish identity is constructed, maintained and challenged within a smaller urban centre. I begin with a brief historical background of the Jewish presence in Canada. I will look through the lens of Jewish identity within the framework of Canadian multiculturalism, and reasonable accommodation. Jewish identity will then be explored through an intersectional framework. Using qualitative interviews conducted with Jewish individuals, an analysis of common themes and issues pertaining to Jewish identity and maintenance is explored. These themes include Religious observance, cultural identity, Jewish customs and traditions, social action and advocacy. These themes were divided between those of a more individual nature and those of a more communal nature. For participants in this research, managing and maintaining their Jewish identity consisted of balancing their religious and cultural life with their social, work, and other obligations outside the sphere of Jewish identity. The relationship between White identity and Jewish identity is a focal point of study. The synagogue/community centre acts as the primary place in which to express, share, and connect with other Jews. Author Keywords: Assimilation, Community, Intersectionality, Jewish Identity, Multiculturalism, Reasonable Accommodation
Politics of Feasting
The goal of this thesis is to explore the role that civic (i.e. state-sponsored) feasting and drinking played in early polis (pl. poleis), or city-state formation on Crete in the Early Iron Age to Archaic transition, ca. 700-500 BCE. Using the two recently excavated civic feasting structures at the site of Azoria as a model for both “inclusive” and “exclusive” forms of civic feasting, this project compares and contrasts the role that it played at a number of other sites in central and east Crete. In order to categorize the structures as either inclusive or exclusive, all forms of published evidence were examined including the buildings’ architecture and the socially valued goods and ceramics found within the structures. Ultimately, this project demonstrates that in the 8th century BCE, inclusive feasting rituals and association with the past were used as means of creating and maintaining a strong group identity, which paved the way for the use of more exclusive practices in the 7th century BCE, where sub-group identities and alliances were formed amongst members of the larger group. However, at the sites where there was evidence for multiple civic feasting venues it appears that by the 7th century BCE, the interplay of both inclusive and exclusive forms of feasting was crucial to the process of identity formation for the citizens of these proto-poleis. Author Keywords: Archaic Crete, Commensality, Feasting, Identity Formation, Polis formation
Supercritical Water Chemistry
Supercritical water (SCW) exhibits unique properties that differentiates it from its low temperature behaviour. Hydrogen bonding is dramatically reduced, there is no phase boundary between liquid and gaseous states, heat capacity increases, and there is a drastic reduction of the dielectric constant. Efforts are underway for researchers to harness these properties in the applications of power generation and hazardous waste destruction. However, the extreme environment created by the high temperatures, pressures and oxidizing capabilities pose unique challenges in terms of corrosion not present in subcritical water systems. Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations have been used to obtain mass transport, hydration numbers and the influence on water structure of molecular oxygen, chloride, ammonia and iron (II) cations in corrosion crevices in an iron (II) hydroxide passivation layer. Solvation regimes marking the transitions of solvation based versus charge meditated processes were explored by locating the percolation thresholds of both physically and hydrogen bonded water clusters. A SCW flow through reactor was used to study hydrogen evolution rates over metal oxide surfaces, metal release rates and the kinetics for the oxidation of hydrogen gas by oxygen in SCW. Insights into corrosion phenomena are provided from the MD results as well as the experimental determination of flow reactor water and hydrogen chemistry. Author Keywords: Flow Studies, Molecular Dynamics, Supercritical Water
Assessing Molecular and Ecological Differentiation in Wild Carnivores
Wild populations are notoriously difficult to study due to confounding stochastic variables. This thesis tackles two components of investigating wild populations. The first examines the use of niche modeling to quantify macro-scale predator-prey relationships in canid populations across eastern North America, while the second examines range-wide molecular structure in Canada lynx. The goal of the first chapter is to quantify niche characteristics in a Canis hybrid zone of C. lupus, C. lycaon, and C. latrans to better understand the ecological differentiation of these species, and to assess the impacts of incorporating biotic interactions into species distribution models. The goal of the second chapter is to determine if DNA methylation, an epigenetic marker that modifies the structure of DNA, can be used to differentiate populations, and might be a signature of local adaptation. Our results indicated that canids across the hybrid zone in eastern North America exhibit low levels of genetic and ecological differentiation, and that the importance of biotic interactions are largely lost at large spatial scales. We also identified cryptic structure in methylation patterns in Canada lynx populations, which suggest signatures of local adaptation, and indicate the utility of DNA methylation as a marker for investigating adaptive divergence. Author Keywords: Ecological Epigenetics, Ecological Genetics, SDM
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
Something out of Nothing? Place-based Resilience in Rural Canadian Youth
This dissertation explored how rural communities enhance the capacity of youth to both navigate and negotiate healthy identities and well-being in the context of social ecological resilience. Resilience refers to the capacity for individuals to have good outcomes in spite of exposure to significant adversity. Rural communities are often identified as places of deficit both in scholarly literature and in general social discourse which can constitute adversity. Given the importance of place as a social determinant of health, rural communities can have a notable impact on the positive development of adolescent identity and well-being of the youth that reside within them. Drawing on the concept of social ecological resilience which draws attention to the importance of environments and relationships to support development, this project engaged with high school aged adolescents (14 to 18 years old) from Haliburton County in Central Ontario. Leveraging mixed model methods, the project featured both quantitative and qualitative approaches. There were 63 participants (33 male, 28 female and 2 non-binary) for the quantitative phase of the research which made use of the Child and Youth Resilience Measure survey instrument. The second phase of the research was qualitative and featured 14 participants who engaged in six focus groups. The focus groups provided context specific awareness of place-based factors which participants found supportive in their development. The results indicated that while the overall resilience scores for the community were lower than the national average (t(62) = 3.20, p <0.01), some study participants found the community to be resilience bolstering. Specifically, participants recognized the importance of supportive people, an awareness of an enriched sense of community, and a powerful sense of the value of nature and the outdoors to be the most significant aspects for the development of their resilience. The results indicate that rural youth are not naïve to the complexity of their circumstances but are able to use their rural contexts to develop the capacity to negotiate and navigate towards healthy identities and well-being. Author Keywords: Adolescent, Place-based, Resilience, Rural, Social Ecological, Youth
Reconceptualising the Heteronormative Curriculum Through Autobiographical Methodology - A Study of Heteronormativity within Ontario Ministry of Education Curriculum Documents
This thesis is about the negative impacts on queer identities caused by the lack of diversity related to sexual orientation within Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum documents, both at the elementary and secondary level. Curriculum documents as well as policy documents are analysed and compared in order to address the lack of diverse sexual orientation representation within Ontario’s education system. The study is guided by the question: “who benefits from the current representations of sexual orientation in the curriculum?” This conceptual study advances autobiographical methodology and the concept of Currere in relation to queer theory that allows researchers to analyse their educational experiences throughout the course of their lives and then become agents of social change. The results of my personal curriculum analysis have shown that curriculum documents lack diverse sexual orientation representation and that this has negative impacts how LGBQQ people identify and on the course of their lives. Author Keywords: Curriculum, Homophobia, LGBQQ, Ontario Curriculum, Ontario Education, Sexual Orientation

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