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  Partner: UNT Libraries
 Degree Discipline: English
 Degree Level: Doctoral
 Collection: UNT Theses and Dissertations
Everything and Nothing at the Same Time

Everything and Nothing at the Same Time

Date: May 1999
Creator: Ballenger, Hank D.
Description: This paradoxically titled collection of poems explores what the blues and blindness has come to mean to the author.
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What Spins Away

What Spins Away

Date: May 1999
Creator: Irwin, Keith
Description: What Spins Away is a novel about a man named Caleb who, in the process, of searching for a brother who has been missing for ten years, discovers that his inability to commit to a job or his primary relationships is both the result of his history with that older missing brother, and his own misconceptions about the meaning of that history. On a formal level, the novel explores the ability of traditional narrative structures to carry postmodern themes. The theme, in this case, is the struggle for a stable identity when there is no stable community against which or in relationship to an identity might be defined.
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Night of No Exile

Night of No Exile

Date: August 1999
Creator: Jones, Marie C.
Description: Night of no Exile is a collection of poems preceded by a critical article entitled "‘Exile seems both a blessing and a curse': A Blissful Reading of Li-Young Lee's Poetry." That article discusses Lee's quest to achieve communication, truth, and transcendence through poetic language and concludes that he finally reaches his goal through a leap from narrative poetry to lyricism. The "exile" alluded to in the title of the article is not only geographic, but also interioran exile due to the natural limitations of all languages, and which can be bridged only in linguistic ways. Lee's solution to that problem (lyricism) turns his poetry into what Roland Barthes would call "a text of bliss," a text that manages to deeply destabilize language, while simultaneously achieving a new kind of meaning. In the main body of the manuscript, the first section contains short love lyrics. The second section, "Night of no Exile," is an attempt at the demanding genre of the longer lyric poem. The third section uses short lyrics to explore various topics, such as discovering one's identity, friendship and solidarity between women, family history, and childhood memories. Finally, the last section includes poems, four of them longer, attempting to ...
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Animals-as-Trope in the Selected Fiction of Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison

Animals-as-Trope in the Selected Fiction of Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison

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Date: August 1999
Creator: Erickson, Stacy M.
Description: In this dissertation, I show how 20th century African-American women writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison utilize animals-as-trope in order to illustrate the writers' humanity and literary vision. In the texts that I have selected, I have found that animals-as-trope functions in two important ways: the first function of animal as trope is a pragmatic one, which serves to express the humanity of African Americans; and the second function of animal tropes in African-American women's fiction is relational and expresses these writers' "ethic of caring" that stems from their folk and womanist world view. Found primarily in slave narratives and in domestic fiction of the 19th and early 20th centuries, pragmatic animal metaphors and/or similes provide direct analogies between the treatment of African-Americans and animals. Here, these writers often engage in rhetoric that challenges pro-slavery apologists, who attempted to disprove the humanity of African-Americans by portraying them as animals fit to be enslaved. Animals, therefore, become the metaphor of both the abolitionist and the slavery apologist for all that is not human. The second function of animals-as-trope in the fiction of African-American women writers goes beyond the pragmatic goal of proving African-Americans's common humanity, even ...
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Asleep in the Arms of God

Asleep in the Arms of God

Date: December 1999
Creator: Clay, Kevin M.
Description: A work of creative fiction in the form of a short novel, Asleep in the Arms of God is a limited-omniscient and omniscient narrative describing the experiences of a man named Wafer Roberts, born in Jack County, Texas, in 1900. The novel spans the years from 1900 to 1925, and moves from the Keechi Valley of North Texas, to Fort Worth and then France during World War One, and back again to the Keechi Valley. The dissertation opens with a preface, which examines the form of the novel, and regional and other aspects of this particular work, especially as they relate to the postmodern concern with fragmentation and conditional identity. Wafer confronts in the novel aspects of his own questionable history, which echo the larger concern with exploitative practices including racism, patriarchy, overplanting and overgrazing, and pollution, which contribute to and climax in the postmodern fragmentation. The novel attempts to make a critique of the exploitative rage of Western civilization.
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The Afro-British Slave Narrative: The Rhetoric of Freedom in the Kairos of Abolition

The Afro-British Slave Narrative: The Rhetoric of Freedom in the Kairos of Abolition

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Date: December 1999
Creator: Evans, Dennis F.
Description: The dissertation argues that the development of the British abolition movement was based on the abolitionists' perception that their actions were kairotic; they attempted to shape their own kairos by taking temporal events and reinterpreting them to construct a kairotic process that led to a perceived fulfillment: abolition. Thus, the dissertation examines the rhetorical strategies used by white abolitionists to construct an abolitionist kairos that was designed to produce salvation for white Britons more than it was to help free blacks. The dissertation especially examines the three major texts produced by black persons living in England during the late eighteenth centuryIgnatius Sancho's Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho (1782), Ottobauh Cugoano's Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery (1787), and Olaudah Equiano's The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789)to illustrate how black rhetoric was appropriated by whites to fulfill their own kairotic desires. By examining the rhetorical strategies employed in both white and black rhetorics, the dissertation illustrates how the abolitionists thought the movement was shaped by, and how they were shaping the movement through, kairotic time. While the dissertation contends that the abolition movement was rhetorically designed to provide redemption, ...
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A Sensory Tour of Cape Cod: Thoreau's Transcendental Journey to Spiritual Renewal

A Sensory Tour of Cape Cod: Thoreau's Transcendental Journey to Spiritual Renewal

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Date: December 1999
Creator: Talley, Sharon
Description: Predominantly darker than his other works, Cape Cod depicts Henry David Thoreau's interpretation of life as a struggle for survival and a search for salvation in a stark New England setting. Representing Thoreau's greatest test of the goodness of God and nature, the book illustrates the centrality of the subject of death to Thoreau's philosophy of life. Contending that Thoreau's journey to the Cape originated from an intensely personal transcendental impulse connected with his brother's death, this study provides the first in-depth examination of Thoreau's use of the five senses in Cape Cod to reveal both the eccentricities inherent in his relationship with nature and his method of resolving his fears of mortality. Some of the sense impressions in Cape Cod--particularly those that center around human death and those that involve tactile sensations--suggest that Thoreau sometimes tried to master his fears by subconsciously altering painful historical facts or by avoiding the type of sensual contact that aggravated the repressed guilt he suffered from his brother's death. Despite his personal idiosyncrasies, however, Thoreau persisted in his search for truth, and the written record of his journey in Cape Cod documents how his dedication to the transcendental process enabled him to surmount ...
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Redemption and the Other: The Supernatural Narrator and the Intertextual (Sub)version of the Miltonic Command

Redemption and the Other: The Supernatural Narrator and the Intertextual (Sub)version of the Miltonic Command

Date: May 2000
Creator: Gowdy, Robert Douglas
Description: In literary discourse from the Genesis creation myth through John Milton's Paradise Lost and beyond, Eve has been patriarchally considered to be the bringer of Sin and Death into the world. In Paradise Lost Eve is depicted as deceiving Adam into the Fall by way of the Serpent. Paradise Lost creates a Miltonic command that helps to further blame Woman for Sin and Death. Milton's poem is based on the Genesis creation myth written by Canaanite authors. In this myth the Canaanite authors wished to rid the world of Goddess worship and, by humanizing Eve, they successfully obliterate that form of worship. As a result of this obliteration of the Goddess, Eve, as a humanized form of the ancient Goddess Asherah, remains unredeemed for her sin and forever held to blame. Throughout what Michel Foucault calls the archive, or discourse in which power resides, Eve/Woman continues to be seen by patriarchal discourse as to blame for the Fall. There has never been a successful redemption for Eve in the archive. Although Samuel Richardson's Clarissa has been suggested as a successful redeemer of Eve, Clarissa's blatant will to death and, therefore, will to power precludes a successful redemption of Eve. The ...
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No Slip-Shod Muse: A Performance Analysis of Some of Susanna Centlivre's Plays

No Slip-Shod Muse: A Performance Analysis of Some of Susanna Centlivre's Plays

Date: May 2000
Creator: Herrell, LuAnn R. Venden
Description: In 1982, Richard C. Frushell urged the necessity for a critical study of Susanna Centlivre's plays. Since then, only a handful of books and articles briefly discuss herand many attempt wrongly to force her into various critical models. Drawing on performativity models, my reading of several Centlivre plays (Love's Contrivance, The Gamester, The Basset-Table and A Bold Stroke for a Wife) asks the question, "What was it like to see these plays in performance?" Occupying somewhat uneasy ground between literature and theatre studies, I borrow useful tools from both, to create what might be styled a New Historicist Dramaturgy. I urge a re-examination of the period 1708-28. The standard reading of theatre of the period is that it was static. This "dry spell" of English theatre, most critics agree, was filled with stock characters and predictable plot lines. But it is during this so-called "dry spell" that Centlivre refines her stagecraft, and convinces cautious managers to bank on her work, providing evidence that playwrights of the period were subtly experimenting. The previous trend in scholarship of this cautious and paranoid era of theatre history has been to shy away from examining the plays in any depth, and fall back on ...
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Body Matters: Gary Snyder, The Self and Ecopoetics

Body Matters: Gary Snyder, The Self and Ecopoetics

Date: May 2000
Creator: Murray, Matthew
Description: Gary Snyder has offered, in poems and essays, ways to acknowledge the interrelationships of humans with the more-than-human. He questions common notions of selfness as well as understandings of what it is to be human in relationship to other species and ecosystems, and he offers new paradigms for the relationship between cultures and the ecosystems in which these cultures reside. These new paradigms are rooted in a reevaluation of our attitudes toward our physical bodies which impacts our relationship to the earth and raises new possibilities for an ecological spirituality or philosophy. The sum of Snyder's endeavors is a foundation for an understanding of ecopoetics. Snyder's poem "The Trail is Not a Trail" is an interesting place to begin examining how human perceptions of the self are central to the kinds of relationships that humans believe are possible between our species and everything else. In this poem there is a curious fusion of the speaker and the trail. In fact, with each successive line they become increasingly difficult to separate. The physical self is central to Snyder's poetry because his is a poetry of the self physically rooted in ever-shifting relationship with the biosphere. The relationship of the self to ...
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Wayward Women, Virtuous Violence: Feminine Violence in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British Literature by Women

Wayward Women, Virtuous Violence: Feminine Violence in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British Literature by Women

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Date: May 2000
Creator: Collins, Margo
Description: This dissertation examines the role of "acceptable" feminine violence in Restoration and eighteenth-century drama and fiction. Scenes such as Lady Davers's physical assault on Pamela in Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740) have understandably troubled recent scholars of gender and literature. But critics, for the most part, have been more inclined to discuss women as victims of violence than as agents of violence. I argue that women in the Restoration and eighteenth century often used violence in order to maintain social boundaries, particularly sexual and economic ones, and that writers of the period drew upon this tradition of acceptable feminine violence in order to create the figure of the violent woman as a necessary agent of social control. One such figure is Violenta, the heroine of Delarivier Manley's novella The Wife's Resentment (1720), who murders and dismembers her bigamous husband. At her trial, Violenta is condemned to death "notwithstanding the Pity of the People" and "the Intercession of the Ladies," who believe that although the "unexampled Cruelty [Violenta] committed afterwards on the dead Body" was excessive, the murder itself is not inexcusable given her husband's bigamy. My research draws upon diverse archival materials, such as conduct manuals, criminal biographies, and legal records, ...
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Playing Jonah's Hand: Poems

Playing Jonah's Hand: Poems

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Date: May 2000
Creator: Dyer, Gregory A.
Description: Playing Jonah's Hand: Poems is a collection of poems with a critical introduction. The introduction consists of two independent essays, both of which examine intersections between poetry and Christian theology. In the first essay I identify the imaginative faculty as the primary source of agency for the speaker in John Donne's "Holy Sonnets." Working upon Barbara Lewalski's assertion that these sonnets represent "the Protestant paradigm of salvation in its stark, dramatic, Pauline terms," I consider the role of the imagination in the spiritual transformation represented within the sequence. Donne foregrounds a Calvinistic theology that posits both humanity's total depravity and God's grace and mercy as the only avenue of transcendence. Whatever agency the speaker exhibits is generated by the exercise of his imagination, which leads him to a recognition of his sinfulness and the necessity of God's grace. In the second essay I investigate the presence of a negative theology within "Lachrimae, or Seven Tears Figured in Seven Passionate Pavans," a sonnet sequence by Geoffrey Hill. In this sequence, Hill demonstrates the possibilities that surface through an integration of negative theology with postmodern theories of language, both of which have been influenced by the philosophical writings of Martin Heidegger. The ...
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Sorry Guard

Sorry Guard

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Date: May 2000
Creator: Poch, John
Description: Sorry Guard is a collection of poems with a critical introduction on poetic form. Form in poetry can be revealed vocally (how the poem sounds), temporally (how the poem makes use of time), and spatially (how the poem is visualized, both physically on the page due to typography and imagistically due to the shape and movement of its subject matter). In this preface, I will address these three aspects of form in relation to three distinct twentieth century poets: Robert Hass, W.S. Merwin, and W.H. Auden. I am most interested in how particular formal decisions shape meaning and value in poetry. My aesthetic approach here primarily dwells on what Helen Vendler calls, "the music of what happens." The urgency of Robert Hass's spoken word is important to me because I wish to make poems that should be spoken aloud and remembered. While W.S. Merwin's rejection of punctuation is not my own aesthetic outlook, I strive to achieve through close attention to temporal form the mythic voice of his poemsthe immediacy of his lines and images, especially in his second four books. And Auden's deft use of spatial form is only a small aspect of his remarkable verse. All three poets ...
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Calling Up the Dead

Calling Up the Dead

Date: May 2000
Creator: Weaver, Brett
Description: Calling Up the Dead is a collection of seven short stories which all take place over the final hours of December 31, 1999 and the first few hours of January 1, 2000. The themes of time, history, and the reactions toward the new millennium (positive, negative, indifferent) of a variety of cultures are addressed. Each of the six major continents has a story, along with its cultural perspective, delivered by narrators both young and old, three female, three male and one balcony.
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The Evolution of AIDS as Subject Matter in Select American Dramas

The Evolution of AIDS as Subject Matter in Select American Dramas

Date: August 2000
Creator: Sorrells, David J.
Description: Dramatic works from America with AIDS as subject matter have evolved over the past twenty years. In the early 1980s, dramas like Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, William Hoffman's As Is, and Robert Chesley's Night Sweat educated primarily homosexual men about AIDS, its causes, and its effects on the gay community while combating the dominant discourse promoted by the media, government, and medical establishments that AIDS was either unimportant because it affected primarily the homosexual population or because it was attributed to lack of personal responsibility. By the mid-eighties and early nineties, playwrights Terrence McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!)and Paul Rudnick (Jeffrey)concentrated on relationships between sero-discordant homosexual couples. McNally's "Andre's Mother" and Lips Together, Teeth Apart explored how families and friends face the loss of a loved one to AIDS. Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America epic represents living beyond AIDS as a powerful force. Without change and progress, Angels warns, life stagnates. Angels also introduces the powerful drugs that help alleviate the symptoms of AIDS. AIDS is the centerpiece of the epic, and AIDS and homosexuality are inextricably blended in the play. Rent, the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical by Jonathan Larson, features characters from an assortment of ethnic and social ...
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Imagining The Reader: Vernacular Representation and Specialized Vocabulary in Medieval English Literature

Imagining The Reader: Vernacular Representation and Specialized Vocabulary in Medieval English Literature

Date: August 2000
Creator: Walther, James T.
Description: William Langland's The Vision of Piers Plowman was probably the first medieval English poem to achieve a national audience because Langland chose to write in the vernacular and he used the specialized vocabularies of his readership to open the poem to them. During the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, writers began using the vernacular in an attempt to allow all English people access to their texts. They did so consciously, indicating their intent in prologues and envois when they formally address readers. Some writers, like Langland and the author of Mankind, actually use representatives of the rural classes as primary characters who exhibit the beliefs and lives of the rural population. Anne Middleton's distinction between public-the readership an author imagined-and audience-the readership a work achieved-allows modern critics to discuss both public and audience and try to determine how the two differed. While the public is always only a presumption, the language in which an author writes and the cultural events depicted by the literature can provide a more plausible estimate of the public. The vernacular allowed authors like Gower, Chaucer, the author of Mankind, and Langland to use the specialized vocabularies of the legal and rural communities to discuss societal ...
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Jezebel's Daughters: A Study of Wilkie Collins and His Female Villains

Jezebel's Daughters: A Study of Wilkie Collins and His Female Villains

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Date: August 2000
Creator: Colvin, Trey Vincent
Description: The term "feminist," when applied to Wilkie Collins, implies he was concerned with rectifying the oppression of women in domestic life as well as with promoting equal rights between the sexes. This study explores Collins the "feminist" by analyzing his portrayals of women, particularly his most powerful feminine creations: his villainesses. Although this focus is somewhat limited, it allows for a detailed analysis of the development of Collins's attitudes towards powerful women from the beginning to the end of his career. It examines the relationship between Collins's developing moral attitudes and social beliefs, on the one hand, and the ideas of Victorian feminists such as Josephine Butler and feminist sympathizers such as John Stuart Mill, on the other. This interaction, while never overt, reveals the ambivalence and complexity of Collins's "feminist" attitudes. Of the five novels in this study, Antonina (1850), Basil (1852), Armadale (1866), Jezebel's Daughter (1880), and The Legacy of Cain (1889), only one was published at the zenith of Collins's career in the 1860s. Each of the villainesses in these novels, their ideas and experiences, are crucial to understanding Collins's "feminist" impulses. Looking at them as powerful women who detest domestic oppression, one becomes aware that Collins ...
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Questioning Voices: Dissention and Dialogue in the Poetry of Emily and Anne Brontë

Questioning Voices: Dissention and Dialogue in the Poetry of Emily and Anne Brontë

Date: August 2000
Creator: Kalkwarf, Tracy Lin
Description: My dissertation examines the roles of Emily and Anne Brontë as nineteenth-century women poets, composing in a literary form dominated by androcentric language and metaphor. The work of Mikhail Bakhtin, particularly concerning spoken and implied dialogue, and feminists who have pioneered an exploration of feminist dialogics provide crucial tools for examining the importance and uses of the dialogic form in the development of a powerful and creative feminine voice. As such, I propose to view Emily's Gondal poetry not as a series of loosely connected monologues, but as utterances in an inner dialogue between the dissenting and insistent female voice and the authoritative voice of the non-Gondal world. Emily's identification with her primary heroine, Augusta, enables her to challenge the controlling voice of the of the patriarchy that attempts to dictate and limit her creative and personal expression. The voice of Augusta in particular expresses the guilt, shame, and remorse that the woman-as-author must also experience when attempting to do battle with the patriarchy that attempts to restrict and reshape her utterances. While Anne was a part of the creation of Gondal, using it to mask her emotions through sustained dialogue with those who enabled and inspired such feelings, her ...
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Wandering Women: Sexual and Social Stigma in the Mid-Victorian Novel

Wandering Women: Sexual and Social Stigma in the Mid-Victorian Novel

Date: August 2000
Creator: Jackson, Lisa Hartsell
Description: The changing role of women was arguably the most fundamental area of concern and crisis in the Victorian era. Recent scholarship has done much to illuminate the evolving role of women, particularly in regard to the development of the New Woman. I propose that there is an intermediary character type that exists between Coventry Patmore's "angel of the house" and the New Woman of the fin de siecle. I call this character the Wandering Woman. This new archetypal character adheres to the following list of characteristics: she is a literal or figurative orphan, is genteelly poor or of the working class, is pursued by a rogue who offers financial security in return for sexual favors; this sexual liaison, unsanctified by marriage, causes her to be stigmatized in the eyes of society; and her stigmatization results in expulsion from society and enforced wandering through a literal or figurative wilderness. There are three variations of this archetype: the child-woman as represented by the titular heroine of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Little Nell of Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop; the sexual deviant as represented by Miss Wade of Dickens' Little Dorrit; and the fallen woman as represented by the titular heroine ...
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A Thousand Miles Out of My Mind

A Thousand Miles Out of My Mind

Date: August 2000
Creator: Sisk, Grant
Description: The dissertation is a collection of creative and non-fiction work, including a novel with critical introduction, four short stories, and three essays. The novel is a modern day Grail quest that takes place primarily in the Southwestern United States. The short stories are mostly set in the southwest as well, and take for their topic what Paul Fussel refers to as "hope abridged." The essays are non-fiction.
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Dark Houses: Navigating Space and Negotiating Silence in the Novels of Faulkner, Warren and Morrison

Dark Houses: Navigating Space and Negotiating Silence in the Novels of Faulkner, Warren and Morrison

Date: December 2000
Creator: Berger, Aimee E.
Description: Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," as early as 1839, reveals an uneasiness about the space of the house. Most literary scholars accept that this anxiety exists and causes some tension, since it seems antithetical to another dominant motif, that of the power of place and the home as sanctuary. My critical persona, like Poe's narrator in "The House of Usher," looks into a dark, silent tarn and shudders to see in it not only the reflection of the House of Usher, but perhaps the whole of what is "Southern" in Southern Literature. Many characters who inhabit the worlds of Southern stories also inhabit houses that, like the House of Usher, are built on the faulty foundation of an ideological system that divides the world into inside(r)/outside(r) and along numerous other binary lines. The task of constructing the self in spaces that house such ideologies poses a challenge to the characters in the works under consideration in this study, and their success in doing so is dependant on their ability to speak authentically in the language of silence and to dwell instead of to just inhabit interior spaces. In my reading of Faulkner and Warren, this ideology of ...
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Happiness Is a By-Product of Function: William Burroughs and the American Pragmatist Tradition

Happiness Is a By-Product of Function: William Burroughs and the American Pragmatist Tradition

Date: December 2000
Creator: Goeman, James Robert
Description: This dissertation examines the techniques and themes of William Burroughs by placing him in the American Pragmatist tradition. Chapter One presents a pragmatic critical approach to literature based on Richard Rorty and John Dewey, focusing on the primacy of narration over argumentation, redescription and dialectic, the importance of texts as experiences, the end-products of textual experiences, and the role of critic as guide to experience rather than judge. Chapter Two uses this pragmatic critical lens to focus on the writing techniques of William Burroughs as a part of the American Pragmatist tradition, with most of the focus on his controversial cut-up technique. Burroughs is a writer who upsets many of the traditional expectations of the literary writing community, just as Rorty challenges the conventions of the philosophical discourse community. Chapter Three places Burroughs within a liberal democratic tradition with respect to Rorty and John Stuart Mill. Burroughs is a champion of individual liberty; this chapter shows how Burroughs' works are meant to edify readers about the social, political, biological, and technological systems which work to control individuals and limit their liberties and understandings. The chapter also shows how Burroughs' works help liberate readers from all control systems, and examines the ...
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Themes of Exodus and Revolution in Ellison's Invisible Man, Morrison's Beloved, and Doctorow's Ragtime

Themes of Exodus and Revolution in Ellison's Invisible Man, Morrison's Beloved, and Doctorow's Ragtime

Date: December 2000
Creator: Turner, Tracy Peterson
Description: In my dissertation I examine the steps in and performance of revolution through the writings of three Postmodern authors, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and E. L. Doctorow, in light of the model of the biblical Exodus journey and the revolution which precipitated that movement. I suggest that the revolution which began with the Israelites' bondage in Egypt has provided the foundation for American literature. I show that Invisible Man, Beloved, and Ragtime not only employ the motif of the Exodus journey; they also perpetuate the silent revolution begun by the Israelites while held captive in Egypt. This dissertation consists of six chapters. Chapter One provides the introduction to the project. Chapter Two provides the model for this study by defining the characteristics of the Exodus journey, Moses as the leader of the Israelites, and the pattern of revolution established by Michael Walzer in Exodus and Revolution. In Chapters Three, Four, and Five, I apply the model established in Chapter Two to the individual texts. In Chapter Six, I draw three conclusions which arise from my study. My first conclusion is that the master story of the Exodus journey and the Israelites' liberation from Egypt informs all Western literaturewhether the literature ...
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Anne Brontë's New Women:  Agnes Grey and  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as Precursors of New Woman Fiction

Anne Brontë's New Women: Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as Precursors of New Woman Fiction

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Date: August 2001
Creator: Phillips, Jennifer K.
Description: Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were published more than forty years before the appearance of the feminist type that the Victorians called the “New Woman;” yet, both novels contain characteristics of New Woman fiction. By considering how Brontë's novels foreshadow New Woman fiction, the reader of these novels can re-enact the “gentlest” Brontë as an influential feminist whose ideology informed the construction of the radical New Woman. Brontë, like the New Woman writers, incorporated autobiographical dilemmas into her fiction. By using her own experiences as a governess, Brontë constructs Agnes Grey's incongruent social status and a morally corrupt gentry and aristocracy through her depiction of not only Agnes's second employers, the Murrays, but also the morally debauched world that Helen enters upon her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Moreover, Brontë incorporates her observations of Branwell's alcoholism and her own religious beliefs into The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Although Brontë's novels contain autobiographical material, her heroines are fictional constructions that she uses to engage her readers with the woman question. Brontë accomplishes this engagement through her heroines' narrative re-enactments of fictional autobiographical dilemmas. Helen's diary and Agnes's diary-based narrative produce the ...
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