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  Partner: UNT Libraries
 Degree Discipline: English
 Degree Level: Doctoral
 Collection: UNT Theses and Dissertations
The Human Body is Not Designed for Ambivalence: Odes

The Human Body is Not Designed for Ambivalence: Odes

Date: December 2007
Creator: Walker, Tammy
Description: The critical analysis section of this dissertation seeks to define the ode using examples in translation from Greek and Latin odes and examples in English written from the 1500s to the 2000s. Although most definitions of the ode contend that this subgenre of the lyric is an occasional poem of praise that includes a meditative or mythological element, the ode is far more complex. An ode is an occasional poem, but it works to privilege rather than strictly praise its subject, allowing for the speaker's ambivalence toward the subject. Meditation is a key element of the ode, since the poet uses the subject as a means for moving to the meditation or as a conduit through which the meditation occurs. The meditation in the poem is also a way for the poet or speaker to negotiate the relationship between the subject and herself; thus, the ode is concerned with power, since the poet must place herself or the speaker in relation to the subject. Power thus may be granted to either the speaker or the subject; the poet names and speaks of the subject, and often the poet names and speaks of himself in relation to the subject. Additionally, odes ...
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Iconic Ida: Tennyson's The Princess and Her Uses

Iconic Ida: Tennyson's The Princess and Her Uses

Date: May 1997
Creator: Guidici, Cynthia (Cynthia Dianne)
Description: Alfred Lord Tennyson's The Princess: A Medley has posed interpretative difficulties for readers since its 1847 debut. Critics, editors, and artists contemporary with Tennyson as well as in this century have puzzled over the poem's stance on the issue of the so-called Woman Question. Treating Tennyson as the first reader of the poem yields an understanding of the title character, Princess Ida, as an ambassador of Tennyson's optimistic and evolutionary views of human development and links his work to that of visionary educators of nineteenth-century England. Later artists, however, produced adaptations of the poem that twisted its hopefulness into satirical commentary, reduced its complexities to ease the task of reading, and put it to work in various causes, many ranged against the improvement of women's condition. In particular, a series of editions carried The Princess into various nations, classrooms, and homes, promoting interpretations that often obscure Tennyson's cautious optimism.
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Idea of Natural Law in Milton's Comus and Paradise Lost

Idea of Natural Law in Milton's Comus and Paradise Lost

Date: May 1998
Creator: Koo, Youngwhoe
Description: This dissertation tries to locate Milton's optimistic view of man and nature as expressed in Comus, Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, and Paradise Lost in the long tradition of natural law that goes back to Aristotle, Cicero, and Aquinas.
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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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In Awesome Wonder

In Awesome Wonder

Date: August 1996
Creator: McMurtry, William Charlie
Description: The dissertation is a collection of eighteen short stories. These stories relate the life experiences of the first-person narrator and chronicle a period of twenty years. They are arranged in five thematic groups: Expectations, Questions, Lighter Moments, Answers, and Separation. The focus of each one represents the narrator's experiences with his father, as the narrator attempts to understand a man who exerts such control over his life. Expectations contains three stories, with the first depicting the narrator's earliest association with his father. The other two represent significant growth experiences. The five stories in the Questions portion focus on the youthful narrator as he tries to understand the reasons behind his father's values and moral lessons. In the section, Lighter Moments, there are four stories in which the narrator is in his late teens and recalls four incidents that lacked the usual serious undertones prevalent in most of his experiences with his father. Answers is composed of three stories in which the narrator, nearing manhood, struggles with feelings of disillusionment with the life his father has planned for him, as well as the realization that his father controls every aspect of his life. The final section of three stories, Separation, depicts ...
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The Incest Taboo in Wuthering Heights : A Modern Appraisal

The Incest Taboo in Wuthering Heights : A Modern Appraisal

Date: August 1992
Creator: McGuire, Kathryn B. (Kathryn Bezard)
Description: A modern interpretation of Wuthering Heights suggests that an unconscious incest taboo impeded Catherine and her foster brother, Heathcliff, from achieving normal sexual union and led them to seek union after death. Insights from anthropology, psychology, and sociology provide a key to many of the subtleties of the novel by broadening our perspectives on the causes of incest, its manifestations, and its consequences. Anthropology links the incest taboo to primitive systems of totemism and rules of exogamy, under which the two lovers' marriage would have been disallowed because they are members of the same clan. Psychological studies provide insight into Heathcliff and Catherine's abnormal relationship—emotionally passionate but sexually dispassionate—and their even more bizarre behavior—sadistic, necrophilic, and vampiristic—all of which can be linked to incest. The psychological manifestations merge with the moral consequences in Bronte's inverted image of paradise; as in Milton's Paradise, incest is both a metaphor for evil and a symbol of pre-Lapsarian innocence. The psychological and moral consequences of incest in the first generation carry over into the second generation, resulting in a complex doubling of characters, names, situations, narration, and time sequences that is characteristic of the self-enclosed, circular nature of incest. An examination of Emily Bronte's ...
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Inter

Inter

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Date: May 2016
Creator: Haines, Robert M.
Description: This dissertation is has two parts: a critical essay on the lyric subject, and a collection of poems. In the essay, I suggest that, contrary to various anti-subjectivists who continue to define the lyric subject in Romantic terms, a strain of Post-Romantic lyric subjectivity allows us to think more in terms of space, process, and dialogue and less in terms of identity, (mere self-) expression, and dialectic. The view I propose understands the contemporary lyric subject as a confluence or parallax of imagined and felt subjectivities in which the subject who writes the poem, the subject personified as speaker in the text itself, and the subject who receives the poem as a reader are each repeatedly drawn out of themselves, into others, and into an otherness that calls one beyond identity, mastery, and understanding. Rather than arguing for the lyric subject as autonomous, expressive (if fictive) "I,” I have suggested that the lyric subject is a dialogical matrix of multiple subjectivities—actual, imagined, anticipated, deferred—that at once posit and emerge from a space whose only grounded, actual place in the world is the text: not the court, not the market, and not a canon of legitimized authors, but in the relatively ...
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Interactions Between Texts, Illustrations, and Readers: The Empiricist, Imperialist Narratives and Polemics of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Interactions Between Texts, Illustrations, and Readers: The Empiricist, Imperialist Narratives and Polemics of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Date: December 1995
Creator: Favor, Lesli J.
Description: While literary critics heretofore have subordinated Conan Doyle to more "canonical" writers, the author argues that his writings enrich our understanding of the ways in which Victorians and Edwardians constructed their identity as imperialists and that we therefore cannot afford to overlook Conan Doyle's work.
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Into the Woods: Wilderness Imagery as Representation of Spiritual and Emotional Transition in Medieval Literature

Into the Woods: Wilderness Imagery as Representation of Spiritual and Emotional Transition in Medieval Literature

Date: August 1997
Creator: Sholty, Janet Poindexter
Description: Wilderness landscape, a setting common in Romantic literature and painting, is generally overlooked in the art of the Middle Ages. While the medieval garden and the city are well mapped, the medieval wilderness remains relatively trackless. Yet the use of setting to represent interior experience may be traced back to the Neo-Platonic use of space and movement to define spiritual development. Separating themselves as far as possible from the material world, such writers as Origen and Plotinus avoided use of representational detail in their spatial models; however, both the visual artists and the authors who adopted the Neo-Platonic paradigm, elaborated their emotional spaces with the details of the classical locus amoenus and of the exegetical desert, while retaining the philosophical concern with spiritual transition. Analysis of wilderness as an image for spiritual and emotional transition in medieval literature and art relates the texts to an iconographic tradition which, along with motifs of city and garden, provides a spatial representation of interior progress, as the medieval dialectic process provides a paradigm for intellectual resolution. Such an analysis relates the motif to the core of medieval intellectual experience, and further suggests significant connections between medieval and modern narratives in regard to the ...
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An Investigation of the Semantics of Active and Inverse Systems

An Investigation of the Semantics of Active and Inverse Systems

Date: May 1992
Creator: Yang, Lixin
Description: This study surveys pronominal reference marking in active and inverse languages. Active and inverse languages have in common that they distinguish two sets of reference marking, which are referred to as Actor and Undergoer. The choice of one series of marking over another is shown to be semantically and pragmatically determined.
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Irony, Humor, and Ontological Relationality in Literature

Irony, Humor, and Ontological Relationality in Literature

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Date: August 2012
Creator: Kim, Soon Bae
Description: The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate ontological relationality in literary theory and criticism by critically reflecting on modern theories of literature and by practically examining the literary texts of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and Oscar Wilde. Traditional studies of literary texts have been oriented toward interpretative or hermeneutic methodologies, focusing on an independent and individual subject in literature. Instead, I explore how relational ontology uncovers the interactive structures interposed between the author, the text, and the audience by examining the system of how the author's creative positioning provokes the reader's reaction through the text. In Chapter I, I critically inquire into modern literary theories of "irony" in Romanticism, New Criticism, and Deconstructionism to show how they tend to disregard the dynamic dimension of interactive relationships between different literary subjects. Chapter II scrutinizes Wilde's humor in An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) in order to reveal the ontological relationships triggered by a creative positioning. In chapter III, I examine Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (c. 1400) and the laughter in "The Miller's Tale" in particular, to examine the ethical and aesthetic dimensions of its interactive relationships. In Chapter IV, I explore Much Ado About Nothing ...
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"Is She Going to Die or Survive with Her Baby?": The Aftermath of Illegitimate Pregnancies in the Twentieth Century American Novels

"Is She Going to Die or Survive with Her Baby?": The Aftermath of Illegitimate Pregnancies in the Twentieth Century American Novels

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Date: August 2006
Creator: Liu, Li-Hsion
Description: This dissertation is mainly based on the reading of three American novels to explore how female characters deal with their illegitimate pregnancies and how their solutions re-shape their futures and affect their inner growth. Chapter 1 discusses Dorinda Oakley's premarital pregnancy in Ellen Glasgow's Barren Ground and draws the circle of limits from Barbara Welter's "four cardinal virtues" (purity, submissiveness, domesticity, and piety) which connect to the analogous female roles (daughter, sister, wife, and mother). Dorinda's childless survival reconstructs a typical household from her domination and absence of maternity. Chapter 2 examines Ántonia Shimerda's struggles and endurance in My Ántonia by Willa Cather before and after Ántonia gives birth to a premarital daughter. Ántonia devotes herself to being a caring mother and to looking after a big family although her marriage is also friendship-centered. Chapter 3 adopts a different approach to analyze Charlotte Rittenmeyer's extramarital pregnancy in The Wild Palms by William Faulkner. As opposed to Dorinda and Ántonia who re-enter domesticity to survive, Charlotte runs out on her family and dies of a botched abortion. To help explain the aftermath of illicit pregnancies, I extend or shorten John Duvall's formula of female role mutations: "virgin>sexually active (called whore)>wife" to ...
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Jeans, Boots, and Starry Skies: Tales of a Gay Country-and-Western Bar and Places Nearby

Jeans, Boots, and Starry Skies: Tales of a Gay Country-and-Western Bar and Places Nearby

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Date: May 2010
Creator: Gay, Wayne Lee
Description: Fourteen short stories, with five interspersed vignettes, describe the lives of gay people in the southwestern United States, centered around a fictional gay country-and-western bar in Dallas and a small town in Oklahoma. Various characters, themes, and trajectories recur in the manner of a short story cycle, as explained in the prefatory Critical Analysis, which focuses on exemplary works of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Shirley Jackson, Italo Calvino, Yevgeny Kharitonov, and Louise Erdrich.
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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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Jinxed

Jinxed

Date: August 2003
Creator: Davis, Richard
Description: My dissertation, Jinxed, developed out of my interest in the movement between the comic and the tragic by tracing the evolution of a romantic relationship. While employing biblical, classical, literary, and pop-cultural traditions, my manuscript has its most clear affinities with Renaissance poetry that navigates between the erotic and the spiritual. The sequence of poems recreates the character of Petrarch's Laura in the Little Redhead Girl, Charlie Brown's first love. My Laura, however, is a feisty secular Irish woman who simultaneously frustrates and attracts a religious narrator. To explore the multifaceted nature of their love, I employ a variety of poetic techniques, such as the repetition inherent in the villanelle to express the powerlessness of the narrator as he begins to fall in love. In "To a Young Philosopher," a sestina, one of the repeated words ("ephemeral") triggers a philosophical discussion that is a proposal of marriage. The manuscript also uses other forms such as the sonnet, Spenserian stanza, terza rima, couplets, and blank verse. Narratively, it ends with Charlie Brown after he has missed kicking Lucy's football, falling to earth literally and symbolically. Poems in the manuscript have appeared in journals such as The Wallace Stevens Journal, Talking River ...
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John Graves and the Pastoral Tradition

John Graves and the Pastoral Tradition

Date: August 2001
Creator: Anderson, David Roy
Description: John Graves's creative non-fiction has earned him respect in Texas letters as a seminal writer but scarce critical commentary of his work outside the region. Ecological criticism examines how language, culture and the land interact, providing a context in which to discuss Graves in relation to the southwestern literary tradition of J. Frank Dobie, Walter P. Webb, and Roy Bedichek, to southern pastoral in the Virgilian mode, and to American nature writing. Graves's rhetorical strategies, including his appropriation of form, his non-polemical voice, his experimentation with narrative persona, and his utilization of traditional tropes of metaphor, metonymy, and irony, establish him as a conservative and Romantic writer of place concerned with the friction between traditional agrarian values and the demands of late-twentieth-century urban/technological existence. Sequentially, Graves's three main booksGoodbye to a River (1960), Hard Scrabble (1974), and From a Limestone Ledge (1980)represent a movement from the pastoral mode of the outward journey and return to the more domestic world of georgic, from the mode of leisure and contemplation to the demands and rewards of hard work and ownership. As such they represent not only progression or maturation in the arc of the narrator's life but a desire to reconcile ideological ...
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Joy Harjo's Poetics of Transformation

Joy Harjo's Poetics of Transformation

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Date: December 2003
Creator: Rose-Vails, Shannon
Description: For Muscogee Creek poet Joy Harjo, poetry is a real world force that can empower the reader by utilizing mythic memory, recovery of history, and a spiral journey to regain communal identity. Her poetic career transforms from early lyric poems to a hybridized form of prosody, prose, and myth to accommodate and to reflect Harjo's concerns as they progress from personal, to tribal, and then to global. She often employs a witnessing strategy to combat the trauma caused by racism in order to create the possibility for renewal and healing. Furthermore, Harjo's poetry combats forces that seek to define Native American existence negatively. To date, Harjo's poetic works create a myth that will refocus humanity's attention on the way in which historical meaning is produced and the way difference is encountered. In an effort to revise the dominant stories told about Indians, Harjo privileges the idea that Native Americans are present and human, and it is this sense of humanity that pervades her poetry. Sequentially, Joy Harjo's volumes of poetry-She Had Some Horses (1983), In Mad Love and War (1990), and The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (1994)-create a regenerative cycle that combats the effects of oppressive history and ...
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Knowing is Seaing: Conceptual Metaphor in the Fiction of Kate Chopin

Knowing is Seaing: Conceptual Metaphor in the Fiction of Kate Chopin

Date: May 1997
Creator: Green, Suzanne Disheroon, 1963-
Description: This paper examines the metaphoric structures that underlie Chopin's major novel, The Awakening, as well as those underlying selected short stories. Drawing on the modern theory of metaphor described by Mark Turner, George Lakoff, and Mark Johnson, the author argues that conceptual metaphors are the structural elements that underlie our experiences, thoughts, and words, and that their presence is revealed through our everyday language. Since these conceptual structures are representative of human thought and language, they are also present in literary texts, and specifically in Chopin's texts. Conceptual metaphors and the linguistic forms that result from them are so basic a part of our thinking that we automatically construct our utterances by means of them. Accordingly, conceptual metaphor mirrors human thought processes, as demonstrated by the way we describe our experiences.
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Language and Identity in Post-1800 Irish Drama

Language and Identity in Post-1800 Irish Drama

Date: May 1994
Creator: Duncan, Dawn E. (Dawn Elaine)
Description: Using a sociolinguistic and post-colonial approach, I analyze Irish dramas that speak about language and its connection to national identity. In order to provide a systematic and wide-ranging study, I have selected plays written at approximately fifty-year intervals and performed before Irish audiences contemporary to their writing. The writers selected represent various aspects of Irish society--religiously, economically, and geographically--and arguably may be considered the outstanding theatrical Irish voices of their respective generations. Examining works by Alicia LeFanu, Dion Boucicault, W.B. Yeats, and Brian Friel, I argue that the way each of these playwrights deals with language and identity demonstrates successful resistance to the destruction of Irish identity by the dominant language power. The work of J. A. Laponce and Ronald Wardhaugh informs my language dominance theory. Briefly, when one language pushes aside another language, the cultural identity begins to shift. The literature of a nation provides evidence of the shifting perception. Drama, because of its performance qualities, provides the most complex and complete literary evidence. The effect of the performed text upon the audience validates a cultural reception beyond what would be possible with isolated readers. Following a theoretical introduction, I analyze the plays in chronological order. Alicia LeFanu's The ...
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The Laureates’ Lens: Exposing the Development of Literary History and Literary Criticism From Beneath the Dunce Cap

The Laureates’ Lens: Exposing the Development of Literary History and Literary Criticism From Beneath the Dunce Cap

Date: December 2015
Creator: Moore, Lindsay Emory
Description: In this project, I examine the impact of early literary criticism, early literary history, and the history of knowledge on the perception of the laureateship as it was formulated at specific moments in the eighteenth century. Instead of accepting the assessments of Pope and Johnson, I reconstruct the contemporary impact of laureate writings and the writing that fashioned the view of the laureates we have inherited. I use an array of primary documents (from letters and journal entries to poems and non-fiction prose) to analyze the way the laureateship as a literary identity was constructed in several key moments: the debate over hack literature in the pamphlet wars surrounding Elkanah Settle’s The Empress of Morocco (1673), the defense of Colley Cibber and his subsequent attempt to use his expertise of theater in An Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber (1740), the consolidation of hack literature and state-sponsored poetry with the crowning of Colley Cibber as the King of the Dunces in Pope’s The Dunciad in Four Books (1742), the fashioning of Thomas Gray and William Mason as laureate rejecters in Mason’s Memoirs of the Life and Writings of William Whitehead (1788), Southey’s progressive work to abolish laureate task writing ...
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Laying the foundation for successful non-academic writing: Professional communication principles in the K-5 curricula of the McKinney Independent School District.

Laying the foundation for successful non-academic writing: Professional communication principles in the K-5 curricula of the McKinney Independent School District.

Date: December 2009
Creator: Treviño, Marlea
Description: Traditionally, K-5 students' writing has had a primarily academic aim-to help students master concepts and express themselves. Even if students take a professional writing course later, they typically do not have the opportunity to practice-over the long period of time mastery requires-the non-academic writing skills they will be required to use as part of their jobs and in their civic life. Based on a limited K-5 study, Texas' McKinney Independent School District is doing a good job of preparing students at the elementary-school level in the areas of collaboration and presentation. A fair job of helping elementary-school students understand the communication situation, define audience, clarify purpose, gather and evaluate resources, and test usability. [And] a poor job of helping elementary-school students with analysis and organization. With their teachers' help, K-5 students eventually grasp the communication situation and can broadly identify their audience and purpose, but they do not appear to select words, format, communication style, or design based on that audience and purpose. Their writer-based focus affects their presentations as well, although they do present frequently. If teachers routinely incorporated audience and purpose considerations into every aspect of communication assignments (format, communication style, design), students would be better prepared for ...
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Let His Conscience be her Guide: Ethical Self-Fashionings of Woman in Early-Modern Drama

Let His Conscience be her Guide: Ethical Self-Fashionings of Woman in Early-Modern Drama

Date: August 2003
Creator: Penque, Ruth Ida
Description: Female characters in early-modern drama, even when following the dictates of conscience, appear inextricably bound to patriarchal expectations. This paradoxical situation is explained by two elements that have affected the Renaissance playwright's depiction of woman as moral agent. First, the playwright's education would have included a traditional body of philosophical opinion regarding female intellectual and moral capacities that would have tried to explain rationally the necessity of woman's second-class status. However, by its nature, this body of information is filled with contradiction. Second, the playwright's education would have also included learning to use the rhetorical trope et utramque partem, that is arguing a position from all sides. Learning to use this trope would place the early-modern dramatist in the position of interrogating the contradictory notions of woman contained in the traditional sources. Six dramas covering over a sixty-year period from the mid-sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries suggest that regardless of the type of work, comedy or tragedy, female characters are shown as adults seeking recognition as autonomous moral beings while living in a culture that works to maintain their dependent status. These works include an early comedy Ralph Roister Doister, a domestic tragedy A Woman Killed With Kindness, a ...
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Letters from Jack and Other Cadavers

Letters from Jack and Other Cadavers

Date: May 2010
Creator: Leis, Aaron
Description: My dissertation, Letters from Jack and Other Cadavers, developed out of my interest in using persona, narrative forms, and historical details collected through thorough research to transform personal experience and emotions in my poems. The central series of poems, "Letters from Jack," is written in the voice of Jack the Ripper and set up as a series of poems-as-letters to the police who chased him. The Ripper's sense of self and his motivations are troubled by his search for a muse as the poems become love poems, contrasting the brutality of the historical murders and the atmosphere of late 19th century London with a charismatic speaker not unlike those of Browning's Dramatic Monologues. The dissertation's preface further explores my desire for a level of personal removal while crafting poems in order to temper sentimentality. Drawing on Wallace Stevens's notion that "Sentimentality is failed emotion" and Tony Hoagland's assessment that fear of sentimentality can turn young poets away from narrative forms, I examine my own poems along with those of Scott Cairns, Tim Seibles, and Albert Goldbarth to derive conclusions on the benefits distance, persona, narrative, and detail to downplay excessive emotion and the intrusion of the personal. Poems from the ...
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The Lexicographer's Daughter: A Memoir

The Lexicographer's Daughter: A Memoir

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Date: May 2011
Creator: Lovell, Bonnie Alice
Description: This creative nonfiction dissertation is a memoir of the author's search for the somewhat mysterious hidden past of her father, the lexicographer Charles J. Lovell, who died in 1960, when the author was nine. Her father's early death left the author with many unanswered questions about his past and his family and so she undertakes a search to answer, if possible, some of those questions. Her search takes her to Portland, Maine; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Pasadena, California, where she tries to discover the facts and uncover the forces that shaped her father's life. Along the way, she realizes how profoundly his death affected and shaped her own life, contributing to the theme of loss that pervades the memoir. In addition, she begins to realize how much her mother, Dixie Hefley Lovell, whose significance she previously overlooked, shaped her life. Ultimately, she comes to understand and accept that some of her questions are unanswerable.
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