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 Department: Department of English
“The Angular Degrees of Freedom” and Other Stories
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The preface, " Performing Brain Surgery: The Problematic Nature of Endings in Short Fiction," deals with the many and varied difficulties short story writers encounter when attempting to craft endings. Beginning with Raymond Carver and Flannery O’Connor and moving to my own work, I discuss some of the obscure criteria used to designate a successful ending, as well as the more concrete idea of the ending as a unifying element. Five short stories make up the remainder of this thesis: "In-between Girls," "Crocodile Man," "Surprising Things, Sometimes Amusing," "Good Jewelry," and "The Angular Degrees of Freedom."
"Stealing Dreams" and Other Stories
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The critical preface, "Learning to Break the Rules" discusses workshop rules as guidelines, as well as how and why I learned to break them. The creative portion of this thesis is made up of eight short stories: "The Many Incarnations of Blazer Chief," "Anna's Monsters," "The Pecan Tree's Daughter," "When the Seas Emptied," "The Umbrella Thief," "How to Forget," "Fracture," and "Stealing Dreams."
Elizabeth Bishop in Brasil: an Ongoing Acculturation
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Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979), one of the foremost modern American poets, lived in Brasil during seventeen-odd years beginning in 1951. During this time she composed the poetry collection Questions of Travel, stand-alone poems, and fragments as well as prose pieces and translations. This study builds on the work of critics such as Brett Millier and Lorrie Goldensohn who have covered Bishop’s poetry during her Brasil years. However, most American critics have lacked expertise in both Brasilian culture and the Portuguese language that influenced Bishop’s poetry. Since 2000, in contrast, Brasilian critic Paulo Henriques Britto has explored issues of translating Bishop’s poetry into Portuguese, while Maria Lúcia Martins and Regina Przybycien have examined Bishop’s Brasil poems from a Brasilian perspective. However, American and Brasilian scholars have yet to recognize Bishop’s journey of acculturation as displayed through her poetry chronologically or the importance of her belated reception by Brasilian literary and popular culture. This study argues that Bishop’s Brasil poetry reveals her gradual transformation from a tourist outsider to a cultural insider through her encounters with Brasilian history, culture, language, and politics. It encompasses Bishop’s published and unpublished Brasil poetry, including drafts from the Elizabeth Bishop Papers at Vassar College. On a secondary level, this study examines a reverse acculturation in how Brasilian popular and literary communities have increasingly focused on Bishop since her death, culminating in the 2013 film, Flores Raras (Reaching for the Moon in English). Understanding this extremely rare and sustained intercultural junction of Bishop in Brasil, a junction that no American poet has made since, adds a crucial angle to twentieth-first century transnational literary perspectives.
The Necessity of Movement
This dissertation is a collection of poems preceded by a critical preface. The preface considers emotional immediacy—or the idea of enacting in readers an emotional drama that appears genuine and simultaneous with the speaker's experience—and furthermore argues against the common criticism that accessibility means simplicity, ultimately reifying the importance of accessibility in contemporary poetry. The preface is divided into an introduction and three sections, each of which explores a different technique for creating immediacy, exemplified by Robert Lowell’s "Waking in the Blue,” Sylvia Plath's "Lady Lazarus,” and Louise Gluck's "Eros." The first section examines "Waking in the Blue,” and the poem's systematic inflation and deflation of persona as a means of revealing complexity a ambiguity. The second section engages in a close reading of "Lady Lazarus,” arguing that the poem's initially deliberately false erodes into sincerity, creating immediacy. The third section considers the continued importance of persona beyond confessionalism, and argues that in "Eros," it is the apparent lack of drama, and the focus on the cognitive process, that facilitates emotional immediacy.
Patrol: Excerpts From a Novel
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The dissertation consists of a critical preface and excerpts from the novel Patrol. The preface explores how the novel Patrol utilizes characters that engage with tropes of the Romantic Genius in order to establish their subjectivity while navigating the standardizing mechanisms of twenty-first century information technologies. The preface analyzes how the rise of the organic food movement, the usage of biotech genetic engineering, and the tactics of Big Data-era marketing all inform the critical underpinnings of Patrol, situating the novel in conversation with works of fiction and nonfiction that also explore the interplay of these topics with contemporary American culture. Set primarily in Cincinnati, Ohio, the bifurcated narrative of the novel Patrol enlists the perspectives of both a science-tech father from the Boomer generation, Tim Smith, and his millennial public relations-major daughter, Sarah Smith. Both work in industries that seek to utilize the concept of the individual genius in service of quantification. Tim and Sarah’s interactions with Alexandra Smith, a family member who transitions from female to male over the course of the novel, cause both protagonists to recognize that their own identities are malleable, and this discovery goads each into reexamining their career choices and personal relationships. The plot depicts the outcome of these explorations, culminating in a series of choices for Tim and Sarah that showcase the fundamental change in each character. Unable to simply quantify themselves and those around them, Tim and Sarah instead adopt a more nuanced view of the world that seeks to find a balance between the individualistic conceit of the Romantic genius and the quantifying mandates of technology.
Recklessness and Light
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This dissertation contains two parts: Part I, which discusses the methods and means by which poets achieve originality within ekphrastic works; and Part II, Recklessness and Light, a collection of poems. Poets who seek to write ekphrastically are faced with a particular challenge: they must credibly and substantially build on the pieces of art they are writing about. Poems that fail to achieve invention become mere translations. A successful ekphrastic poem must in some way achieve originality by using the techniques of the artist to credibly and substantially build on the art. The preface discusses three ekphrastic poems: W.H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts,” John Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in Convex Mirror,” and Larry Levis’ “Caravaggio: Swirl and Vortex.” In order to invent, each of these poets connects time within the paintings to time within the poem. The poets turn to techniques such as imprinting of historical context, conflation, and stranging of perspective to connect their work with the paintings. I examine these methods of generating ekphrastic poems in order to evaluate how these poets have responded to one another and to consider emerging patterns of ekphrastic poetry in the twentieth century.
Somebody Else’s Second Chance
Charles Baxter, in his essay “Dysfunctional Narratives: or: ‘Mistakes Were Made,’” implies that all trauma narrative is synonymous with “dysfunctional narrative,” or narrative that leaves all characters unaccountable. He writes: “In such fiction, people and events are often accused of turning the protagonist into the kind of person the protagonist is, usually an unhappy person. That’s the whole story. When blame has been assigned, the story is over.” For Baxter, trauma narrative lets everyone “off the hook,” so to speak. He would say that we write about our bitter lemonade to make excuses for our poor choices, and “audiences of fellow victims” read our tales, because their lemonade and their choices carry equal bitterness, and they require equal excuses. While trauma narrative can soothe us, as can other narrative genres, we should not dismiss trauma fiction because of a sweeping generalization. Trauma fiction also allows us to explore the missing parts of our autobiographical narratives and to explore the effects of trauma—two endeavors not fully possible without fiction. As explained in more detail later, the human mind requires narrative to formulate an identity. Trauma disrupts this process, because “trauma does not lie in the possession of the individual, to be recounted at will, but rather acts as a haunting or possessive influence which not only insistently and intrusively returns but is, moreover, experienced for the first time only in its belated repetition.” Because literature can speak what “theory cannot say,” we need fiction to speak in otherwise silent spaces. Fiction allows us to express, analyze, and comprehend what we could not otherwise.
Across Borders and Barlines: Chicana/o Literature, Jazz Improvisation, and Contrapuntal Solidarity
In this study, I examine Chicana/o writings and Black and Brown musical traditions as they entwine in urban centers and inform local visions of inclusion and models of social change. By analyzing literature and music from South Texas, Southern California, and Northeastern Michigan, I detail how the social particularities of each zone inform Chicana/o cultural productions rooted in the promise of empowerment and the possibility of cross-cultural solidarity. I assert that highlighting localized variations on these themes amplifies contrapuntal solidarities specific to each region, the relationship between different, locally conceived conceptions of Chicana/o identity, and the interplay between Brown and Black aesthetic practices in urban centers near national borders. Through literary critical and ethnomusicological frameworks, I engage the rhetorical patterns that link poetry, jazz improvisation, essays, musical playlists, and corridos to illumine a web of discourses helping to establish the idiosyncratic yet complimentary cultural mores that shape localized social imaginaries in the United States.
Conjugal Rights in Flux in Medieval Poetry
This study explores how four medieval poems—the Junius manuscript’s Genesis B and Christ and Satan and Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and The Parliament of Fowls—engage with medieval conjugal rights through their depictions of agentive female protagonists. Although many laws at this time sought to suppress the rights of women, especially those of wives’, both pre- and post-conquest poets illustrate women who act as subjects, exercising legal rights. Medieval canon and common law supported a certain amount of female agency in marriage but was not consistent in its understanding of what that was. By considering the shifts in law from Anglo-Saxon and fourteenth century England in relation to wives’ rights and female consent, my project asserts that the authors of Genesis B and Christ and Satan and the late-medieval poet Chaucer position their heroines to defend legislation that supports female agency in matters of marriage. The Anglo-Saxon authors do so by conceiving of Eve’s role in the Fall and harrowing of hell as similar to the legal role of a forespeca. Through Eve’s mimesis of Satan’s rhetoric, she is able to reveal an alternate way of conceiving of the law as merciful instead of legalistic. Chaucer also engages with a woman’s position in society under the law through his representation of Criseyde’s role in her courtship with Troilus in his epic romance, Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer disrupts his audiences’ expectations by placing Criseyde as the more agentive party in her courtship with Troilus and shows that women might hope to the most authority in marriage by withholding their consent. In his last dream vision, The Parliament of Fowls, Chaucer engages again with the importance of female consent in marriage but takes his interrogation of conjugal rights a step further by imagining an alternate legal system through Nature, a female authority who gives equal consideration to all classes and genders.
“The Inevitable: Withdrawn”
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The Inevitable: Withdrawn is a critical preface and collection of non-fiction writing: personal essay, lyric essay, fragments, and experimental forms. The work’s cohesive subject matter is the author’s European vacation directly following her divorce. Within the pieces, the author attempts to reconcile who she is when starting over and she begins to ask questions regarding the human condition: How do I learn to exhibit intimacy again, not just with romantic partners, but with also in a familial way with my father, and how does absence in these relationships affect my journey and how I write about it? How do I view, and remake myself, when finding my identity that was tied to another individual compromised? How does a body, both physical and belonging to me, and physical as text, take certain shapes to reflect my understanding? How do I define truth, and how do I interpret truth and authenticity in both experience and writing? How do I define and know the difference between belief and truth? And finally, how does narrative and language protect, or expose me? The Inevitable: Withdrawn considers debates regarding the definition of narrative in order to address a spectrum of non-fiction writing. The collection takes into consideration non-fiction conventions, form as functionality, philosophy, linguistics, cognitive psychology, prose and poetic theory, and the works of other notable writers.
Paralysis As “Spiritual Liberation” in Joyce’s Dubliners
In James Joyce criticism, and by implication Irish and modernist studies, the word paralysis has a very insular meaning. The word famously appears in the opening page of Dubliners, in “The Sisters,” which predated the collection’s 1914 publication by ten years, and in a letter to his publisher Grant Richards. The commonplace conception of the word is that it is a metaphor that emanates from the literal fact of the Reverend James Flynn’s physical condition the narrator recalls at the beginning of “The Sisters.” As a metaphor, paralysis has signified two immaterial, or spiritual, states: one individual or psychological and the other collective or social. The assumption is that as a collective and individual signifier, paralysis is the thing from which Ireland needs to be freed. Rather than relying on this received tradition of interpretation and assumptions about the term, I consider that paralysis is a two-sided term. I argue that paralysis is a problem and a solution and that sometimes what appears to be an escape from paralysis merely reinforces its negative manifestation. Paralysis cannot be avoided. Rather, it is something that should be engaged and used to redefine individual and social states.
Private Affections: Miscegenation and the Literary Imagination in Israel-palestine
This study politicizes the mixed relationship in Israeli-Palestinian literature. I examine Arab-Jewish and interethnic Jewish intimacy in works by Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, canonical Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua, select anthologized Anglophone and translated Palestinian and Israeli poetry, and Israeli feminist writer Orly Castel-Bloom. I also examine the material cultural discourses issuing from Israel’s textile industry, in which Arabs and Jews interact. Drawing from the methodology of twentieth-century Brazilian miscegenation theorist Gilberto Freyre, I argue that mixed intimacies in the Israeli-Palestinian imaginary represent a desire to restructure a hegemonic public sphere in the same way Freyre’s Brazilian mestizo was meant to rhetorically undermine what he deemed a Western cult of uniformity. This project constitutes a threefold contribution. I offer one of the few postcolonial perspectives on Israeli literature, as it remains underrepresented in the field in comparison to its Palestinian counterparts. I also present the first sustained critique of the hetero relationship and the figure of the hybrid in Israeli-Palestinian literature, especially as I focus on its representation for political options rather than its aesthetic intrigue. Finally, I reexamine and apply Gilberto Freyre in a way that excavates him from critical interment and advocates for his global relevance.
“True Image Pictur’d”: Metaphor, Epistemology, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets
In this dissertation, I examine the influence of Pyrrhonist skepticism over Shakespeare’s sonnets. Unlike academic skepticism, which begins from a position of doubt, Pyrrhonist skepticism encourages an embrace of multiple perspectives that, according to Sextus Empiricus, leads first to a suspension of judgment and ultimately to a state of tranquility. The Pyrrhonian inflection of Shakespeare’s sonnets accounts for the pleasure and uncertainty they cultivate in readers. By offering readers multiple perspectives on a given issue, such as love or infidelity, Shakespeare’s sonnets demonstrate the instability of information, suggesting that such instability can be a source for pleasure. One essential tool for the uncertainty in the sonnets, I argue, is the figurative language they draw from a variety of fields and discourses. When these metaphors contradict one another, creating fragmented images in the minds of readers, they generate a unique aesthetic experience, which creates meaning that transcends the significance of any of the individual metaphors. In the first two chapters, I identify important contexts for Shakespeare’s sensitivity to the pliability of figurative language: Reformation-era religious tracts and pamphleteers’ debates about the value and function of the theater. In Chapter 3, I examine Shakespeare’s response to the Petrarchan tradition, arguing that he diverges from the sonneteers, who often use figurative language in an attempt to access and communicate stable truths. Shakespeare creates epistemological instability in sonnets both to the young man and to the dark lady, and, as I argue in Chapter 4, this similarity offers readers an opportunity to think beyond traditional divisions between the two sonnet subsequences.
Underground Men: Alternative Masculinities and the Politics of Performance in African American Literature and Culture
This study explores intersections between performance, race and masculinity within a variety of expressive cultural contexts during and after the African American Civil Rights Movement. I maintain that the work of James Baldwin is best situated to help us navigate this cross section, as his fiction and cultural criticism focus heavily on the stage in all its incarnations as a space for negotiating the possibilities and limits of expressive culture in combating harmful racial narratives imposed upon black men in America. My thesis begins with a close reading of the performers populating his story collection Going to Meet the Man (1965) before broadening my scope in the following chapters to include analyses of the diametric masculinities in the world of professional boxing and the black roots of the American punk movement. Engaging with theorists like Judith Butler, bell hooks and Paul Gilroy, Underground Men attempts to put these seemingly disparate corners of American life into a dynamic conversation that broadens our understanding through a novel application of critical race, gender and performance theories. Baldwin and his orbiting criticism remain the hub of my investigation throughout, and I use his template of black genius performance outlined in works like Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1967) and Just Above My Head (1977) to aid our understanding of how performance prescribes and scrambles dominant narratives about black men after the sexual revolution.
“Werewolves and Time Machines”
This collection consists of a critical preface and five short stories. The preface considers the use of the fantastical in fiction and how it works as a tool to reach readers in comparison with realistic fiction. The stories investigate this in by following several strange characters put in everyday human situations.
Infinite Hallways: “Parabola Heretica” and Other Journeys
This creative thesis collects five fictional stories, as well as a critical preface entitled “Fractals and the Gestalt: the Hybridization of Genre.” The critical preface discusses genre as a literary element and explores techniques for effective genre hybridization. The stories range from psychological fiction to science fiction and fantasy fiction. Each story also employs elements from other genres as well. These stories collectively explore the concept of the other and themes of connection and ostracization.
Shakespeare and Modeling Political Subjectivity
This dissertation examines the role of aesthetic activity in the pursuit of political agency in readings of several of Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet (1600), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595), The Tempest (1610), the history plays of the second tetralogy (1595-9), Julius Caesar (1599), and Coriolanus (1605). I demonstrate how Shakespeare models political subjectivity—the capacity for individuals to participate meaningfully in the political realm—as necessitating active aesthetic agency. This aesthetic agency entails the fashioning of artistically conceived public personae that potential political subjects enact in the public sphere and the critical engagement of the aesthetic and political discourses of the subjects’ culture in a self-reflective and appropriative manner. Furthermore, these subjects should be wary auditors of the texts and personae they encounter within the public sphere in order to avoid internalizing constraining ideologies that reify their identities into forms less conducive to the pursuit of liberty and social mobility. Early modern audiences could discover several models for doing so in Shakespeare’s works. For example, Hamlet posits a model of Machiavellian theatricality that masks the Prince's interiority as he resists the biopolitical force and disciplinary discourses of Claudius's Denmark. Julius Caesar and Coriolanus advance a model of citizenship through the plays’ nameless plebeians in which rhetoric offers the means to participate in Rome’s political culture, and Shakespeare’s England for audiences, while authorities manipulate citizen opinion by molding the popularity of public figures. Public, artistic ability affords potential political subjects ways of not only framing their participation in their culture but also ways of conceiving of their identities and relationships to society that may defy normative notions of membership in the community.
To Be the Child of the Priest
This collection of creative non-fiction essays is written from the perspective of a Protestant Christian church leader’s daughter emerging into adulthood and independence. She labors to define her relationship with God, family, and friends and to determine the complicated, but pervasive role of faith in her life while coping with depression and anxiety; a brain aneurysm and malformation among other health problems; working in an all-male environment in the Houston Chronicle Sports department; the death of her grandparents; the death of a Muslim friend in a murder-suicide shooting; and her troubled relationship with an agnostic friend. Although she expresses her doubts in each scenario, she identifies purpose in the trials and accepts the challenges that accompany being the child of the priest.
This thesis consists of a collection of poems and a critical preface. The preface is a discussion of Elizabeth Bishop's descriptive mode, as demonstrated by three of her poems: "Sandpiper," "The Monument," and "Santarém." I argue for Bishop's descriptions as creative acts, and examine the gestures that help her make the reader aware of the shaping power she exercises.
The Girl Disappeared: the Prostitute of La Isla De Santa Flora
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The novella, The Girl Disappeared, focuses on the life of Emalia, a street kid from Mexico. She is taken from the streets of Veracruz and forced into a life of prostitution on the fictitious island of La Isla de Santa Flora. The primary conflict that drives the action of the story is her pending choice between escaping her life of slavery and saving another young woman who is on the verge of being forced into a life of prostitution as well. The novella, as a literary piece, dwells on the question of character agency and explores the multilayered nature of code switching. Language for these women becomes a tool in their struggle against their captives and a means of self-preservation, or sanctuary, as they use their growing bilingualism to foment a limited agency, to act in their own defense.
Homeward Bound: Short Stories
This collection contains a preface that discusses the role of landscape and place as they are used in fiction, particularly when they are colored by the writer's own memories of home. The preface is followed by four original short stories, three of which relate to a fictional small town in Texas. "Under the Surface" involves two young boys who begin to relate thoughts of the dead body they find to their own absentee mother. "Tommy" explores a young man's memories of his recently deceased friend, as well as the gossip of a small town. "Stubborn" depicts a man's struggle after his wife has delivered an ultimatum. "Out of the Valley" is about a father and daughter questioning what it means to be normal.
Mr Secrets and Social Media: the Confession of Richard Rodriguez
Richard Rodriguez's works create troubling situations for many scholars. Though numerous critics see him as the penultimate Chicano writer, many others see his writing as only pandering to the elite. However, all politics and controversies aside, he is a writer whose ideas upon language and public confession have been revolutionary. Throughout the thesis, I argue that Rodriguez's ideas upon language and identity are applicable to the social media landscape that we reside in currently, especially the public confession. Also, I use deconstructionism, along with postmodern criticism, to illustrate the changing arc of Rodriguez's confession from his first autobiography to his final one. In his first memoir, Rodriguez remains in the closet upon his sexuality, and the reader only catches glimpses of the 'real' character inside his work. In the second memoir, the reader sees a better glimpse because of his coming out; yet, even in this regard, he does not do so wholly and still leaves his confession unfinished. By the third, he applies themes and problems seen in his first and second works to discuss our browning nature, and how we are all sinners and that we desire to confess our sins. In my assessment of Rodriguez, I argue throughout all my chapters upon a measure of irreconcilability between the private world of the Hispanic immigrant family and the public sphere that they are forced to inhabit because of his citizenship and education. This irreconcilability creates a drastic limiting of identity for the author that Rodriguez is forced to navigate which creates his desire for confession.
This dissertation is a collection of poems preceded by a critical preface. The preface considers the major changes within the elegy from the traditional English elegy—the touchstone poems for this genre being Milton's "Lycidas," Shelley's "Adonais," and Tennyson's "In Memoriam"—to the contemporary elegy and argues that many of these changes showcase contemporary elegists' active refusal and reversal of the time-honored traditions of the form. The preface is divided into an introduction and three sections, each of which recognizes and explores one significant alteration—or reversal—to the conventions of the form as established by early English elegists. The first discusses the traditional elegiac tradition of consolation in which the speaker, after displaying a series of emotions in reaction to the death of a loved one, ultimately finds comfort in the knowledge that the deceased lives eternally in heaven. This convention is contrasted with a common contemporary rhetorical movement in which the speaker not only lacks comfort by the end of the poem, but often refuses any kind of consolation, preferring instead to continue his grief. The second recognizes and explores the traditional elegiac tradition in which the speaker, listing the virtues of the beloved, replaces the real, historical person with a symbol which represents what society has lost due to this death. This convention is contrasted against a common contemporary theme in which the speaker, in an attempt to evoke authenticity, portrays the deceased subject not as a romanticized symbol, but as a real human being. The final section discusses the definition of the traditional elegy as a reaction to the literal death of a loved one and contrasts this with the more fluid contemporary understanding of the elegy as a poem about loss—either a literal or metaphorical death—and a poem which need not display conventional aspects of mourning but rather a wide variety of responses to the problem of loss.
Warrior Women in Early Modern Literature
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Fantasies about warrior women circulated in many forms of writing in early modern England: travel narratives such as Sir Walter Ralegh's The Discoverie of Guiana (1595) portray Amazon encounters in the New World; poems like Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1596) depict women's skill with a spear; and the plays of Shakespeare, John Fletcher, and others stage the adventurous feats of women on the battlefield. In this dissertation, I analyze the social anxieties that emerge when warrior women threaten gender hierarchies in the patriarchal society of early modern England. The battlefield has traditionally been a site for men to prove their masculinity against other men, so when male characters find themselves submitting to a sword-wielding woman, they are forced to reimagine their own masculine identities as they become the objects acted upon by women. In their experience of subjectivity, these literary warrior women often allude to the historical Queen Elizabeth I, whose reign destabilized ideas about gender and power in the period. Negative evaluations of warrior women often indicate anxiety about Elizabeth as an Amazon-like queen. Thus, portrayals of warrior women often end with a celebration of patriarchal dominance once the male characters have successfully contained the threat of the warrior woman through marriage or death. I argue that these depictions of containment indicate a common desire to maintain patriarchal superiority during and after Elizabeth's reign.
Bodies and Other Firewood
The chakra system consists of seven energetic vortexes ascending up the spine that connect to every aspect of human existence. These vortexes become blocked and unblocked through the course of a life, these openings and closings have physiological and mental repercussions. Knowledge of these physical and mental manifestations, indicate where the chakra practitioner is in need, the practitioner can then manipulate their mind and body to create a desired outcome. These manipulations are based upon physical exercises and associative meditations for the purpose of expanding the human experience. As a poem can be thought of as the articulation of the human experience, and the chakra system can be thought of as a means to understand and enhance that experience, it is interesting and worthwhile leap to explore the how the chakras can develop and refresh the way we read and write poetry. This critical preface closely reads seven poems, one through each chakra, finding what the chakras unveil. Here, each chakra is considered for its dynamic creative capabilities and for its beneficial potentiality in the reading and writing process, finding each chakra provides tools: idea generators with the potential to free the poet from usual patterns of creativity while broadening vision and expressivity. In this collection of poetry poems are experiences chopped into consumable units that show and tell the constant negotiation between what is actually happening and the stories we tell ourselves about what is happening.
The Fifth Humor: Ink, Texts, and the Early Modern Body
This dissertation tracks the intimate relationship between writing and the body to add new dimensions to humoral criticism and textual studies of Renaissance literature. Most humor theory focuses on the volatile, permeable nature of the body, and its vulnerability to environmental stimuli, neglecting the important role that written texts play in this economy of fluids. I apply the principles of humor theory to the study of handwritten and printed texts. This approach demonstrates that the textual economy of the period—reading, writing, publishing, exchanging letters, performing all of the above on stage—mirrors the economy of fluids that governed the humoral body. Early modern readers and writers could imagine textual activities not only as cerebral, abstract concepts, but also as sexual activities, as processes of ingestion and regurgitation. My study of ink combines humoral, historical materialist, and ecocritical modes of study. Materialist critics have examined the quill, paper, and printing press as metaphors for the body; however, the ink within them remains unexamined. This dissertation infuses the figurative body of the press with circulating passions, and brings to bear the natural, biochemical properties that ink lends to the texts it creates. Considering the influence of written and printed materials on the body in early modern poetry and drama requires consideration of the murky liquid from which these texts were composed. For early moderns, writing began with the precise, anatomical slicing of a goose feather, with the crushing of oak galls into wine or rainwater, with the application of heat and ferrous sulfate. These raw materials underwent a violent transformation to fill early modern inkwells. As a result of that mystical concoction, the fluid inside these vessels became humoral. The ink on a page represented one person's passions potentially invading the body of another. Therefore, ink serves as more than a metaphor for any particular humor. Pen and paper work as extensions of the body, and serve at turns as a mechanism of balance or imbalance.
The Invisible Dragon
This collection of memoir essays chronicles the author's 19 year struggle with chronic depression. "The Invisible Dragon" explores the onset of the disease and its cure. "The Silent Typewriter" looks at how it affected the author as a writer. "Roses for Trish" discusses how it affected his wife. "My Mother's Son" explores the possibility that he inherited depression from his mother. The final essay, "The Dragon Returns" probes the author's life in 2012 with the probability that he has a personality disorder. The preface examines several depression memoirs and explores the strategies used by William Styron, Elizabeth Wurtzel and Kay Redfield Jamison to prevent sliding into the pitfalls inherent in a linear structure. Among these are the use of alternative structures, language, characterization, focus and imagery.
This dissertation contains two parts: Part I, which discusses the elegy of possessive intent, a subgenre of the contemporary American elegy; and Part II, Antigravity, a collection of poems. English elegies have been closely rooted to a specific grief, making the poems closer to occasional poems. The poet—or at least the poet’s speaker—seeks some kind of public consolation for (often) a private loss. The Americanized form does stray from the traditional elegy yet retains some of its characteristics. Some American elegies memorialize failed romantic relationships rather than the dead. In their memorials, these speakers seek a completion for the lack the broken relationship has created in the speakers’ lives. What they can’t replace, they substitute with something personal. As the contemporary poem becomes further removed from tradition, it’s no surprise that the elegy has evolved as well. Discussions of elegies have never ventured into the type of elegy that concerns itself with the sort of unacknowledged loss found in some contemporary American poems of unrequited love. These poems all have speakers who willfully refuse to acknowledge the loss of their love-objects and strive to maintain control/ownership of their beloveds even in the face of rejection.
Challenge the Silence
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This collection of personal essays about incest, abuse, and depression explores the lasting effects of an invisible childhood. The essays follow the protagonist from the age of five to her early twenties. Her brother, at a young age, becomes sexually abusive of her and her sisters, and her parents fail to protect their daughters. The family is divided as the older girls strive to defend their little sisters, while their parents attempt to excuse their son. When her brother is finally sent away, the protagonist is left to salvage what remains of her relationships with her parents.
The Hostess
The following is a critical preface and portion of a novel-in-progress produced during my master's program in creative writing at the University of North Texas. The preface analyzes the way time and point of view work together to create or determine structure in fiction, as well as provide added meaning. In order to explore these topics I focus on two novels, Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, and speak to how these elements have influenced my own writing style in The Hostess. The Hostess is a story about a group of twenty-something’s working together in a restaurant located in a Mid-West, college town, told from multiple character perspectives, as they struggle to choose between pursuing their passions and creating stability in their lives.
Irony, Humor, and Ontological Relationality in Literature
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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 (1598-99), Othello (1603-4), and The Winter's Tale (1609-11) so as to show how artistic positioning creatively constructs a relational system of dynamic interactions to circulate social ideals and values. In so doing, this dissertation is aimed at revealing the aesthetic values of literature and the objective scope of literary discourse rather than providing yet another analytical paradigm dependent primarily on a single literary subject. Thus, the ontological study is proposed as an alternative, yet primary, dimension of literary criticism and theoretical practice.
Practical Astronomy
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This dissertation is a collection of poems preceded by a critical preface. The preface considers Anthony’s Hecht’s long poem, “The Venetian Vespers,” and the ways in which the temporally unsettled situation of the poem’s speaker parallels a problem facing narrative-meditative poets. The preface is divided into two main sections that explore divisions of this larger conflict. The first discusses the origins and effects of the speaker’s uprootedness in time, and the ways in which he tries to both combat and embrace this dislocation by temporarily losing himself in the immediacy of observing visual art. In this section I connect the dilemma of the speaker, who wishes to escape his memory by focusing outwards, to the dilemma of a representational poet who, despite his position towards the past, must necessarily confront or recollect memories and emotions in order to create authentic descriptions or characters. The second section focuses on the production and appreciation of artistic works (both visual and literary) and how the meaning, production and appreciation of beauty are inseparable from its existence within the physical limits of time. Here I discuss the significance of Hecht’s character who is surrounded with beauty yet describes himself as a person who only observes and does not create anything. Through this character, I argue that Hecht reveals a fundamental conflict that exists between artistic creation and chronological time, and that his poem embodies a particular and paradoxical view of beauty that resonates deeply with the motivations and struggles of writing poems.
Set for Life: a Novel
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This collection of six chapters is an excerpt from a novel based on the book of Job, as told through the viewpoint of a contemporary woman from Texas. A preface exploring the act of starting over, fictionally and creatively, precedes the chapters.
The Useful Arts
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This creative nonfiction dissertation is a series of braided narratives that chronicle the author's career as a trombonist in the John Smith Ensemble. As an amateur trombonist, the author is shocked to be hired as a professional musician for an orchestra that plays on PBS and at Carnegie Hall. She quickly realizes, however, that the job requires her to play the trombone quietly in front of an unplugged microphone while a CD recording of another, more talented trombonist is blasted out toward an unknowing audience. The job also requires the author to tour around America. The scenes of from this tour are braided with scenes wherein she reflects on her life as a professional fake musician and her past failed attempts at getting a job.
After the Planes
The dissertation consists of a critical preface and a novel. The preface analyzes what it terms “polyvocal” novels, or novels employing multiple points of view, as well as “layered storytelling,” or layers of textuality within novels, such as stories within stories. Specifically, the first part of the preface discusses polyvocality in twenty-first century American novels, while the second part explores layered storytelling in novels responding to World War II or the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The preface analyzes the advantages and difficulties connected to these techniques, as well as their aptitude for reflecting the fractured, disconnected, and subjective nature of the narratives we construct to interpret traumatic experiences. It also acknowledges the necessity—despite its inherent limitations—of using language to engage with this fragmentation and cope with its challenges. The preface uses numerous novels as examples and case studies, and it also explores these concepts and techniques in relation to the process of writing the novel After the Planes. After the Planes depicts multiple generations of a family who utilize storytelling as a means to work through grief, hurt, misunderstanding, and loss—whether from interpersonal conflicts or from war. Against her father’s wishes, a young woman moves in with her nearly-unknown grandfather, struggling to understand the rifts in her family and how they have shaped her own identity. She reads a book sent to her by her father, which turns out to be his story of growing up in the years following World War II. The book was intercepted and emended by her grandfather, who inserts his own commentary throughout, complicating her father’s hopes of reconciliation. The novel moves between two main narratives, one set primarily in 1951 and the other in the days and weeks immediately prior to September 11, 2001.
“Almost Astronauts”: Short Stories
In this collection of short stories, I abduct experiences from my own life and take them on an imaginative journey. I experiment with elements of structure and point of view, often incorporating the magical or surreal to amplify the narrator’s internal landscape. As demonstrated in the title story, “Almost Astronauts,” these stories all deal with a sudden and sometimes destructive shift in the narrator’s perspective.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Naturalist Playwright
This study explores Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s use of the dramatic form to challenge Herbert Spencer’s social Darwinism by offering feminist adaptations of Darwin’s theories of natural and sexual selection. As she does in her career-defining manifesto, Women & Economics (1898), Gilman in her lesser-known plays deploys her own brand of reform Darwinism to serve the feminist cause. Despite her absence in histories of modern drama, Gilman actively participated in the establishment and development of this literary, historical, and cultural movement. After situating Gilman in the context of nineteenth-century naturalist theater, this thesis examines two short dramatic dialogues she published in 1890, “The Quarrel,” and “Dame Nature Interviewed,” as well as two full-length plays, Interrupted (1909) and the Balsam Fir (1910). These plays demonstrate Gilman’s efforts to use the dramatic form in her early plays to “rehearse” for Women & Economics, and in her later drama, to “stage” the theories she presents in that book.
A New Literary Realism: Artistic Renderings of Ethnicity, Identity, and Sexuality in the Narratives of Philip Roth
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This dissertation explores Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories (1959), the Ghost Writer (1979), the Counterlife (1986), the Facts (1988), Operation Shylock (1993), Sabbath's Theater (1995),and the Human Stain (2000), arguing that Roth relishes the telling of the story and the search for self within that telling. with attention to narrative technique and its relation to issues surrounding reality and identity, Roth's narratives stress unreliability, causing Roth to create characters searching for a more complex interpretation of self. Chapter I examines Roth’s negotiation of dual identities as Neil Klugman in Goodbye, Columbus feels alienated and displaced from Christianized America. the search for identity and the merging of American Christianity and Judaism remain a focus in Chapter II, which explores the implications of how, in the Ghost Writer, a young Nathan Zuckerman visits his mentor E.I. Lonoff to find him living in what he believes to be a non-Jewish environment—the American wilderness. Chapter II also examines the difficulties of cultural assimilation in "Eli, the Fanatic," in which Eli must shed outward appearances of Judaism to fit into the mostly Protestant community of Woodenton. Relative to the negotiation of multiple identities, Chapter III considers Sabbath’s attempt, in Sabbath’s Theater, to reconcile his spiritual and physical self when seeking to avoid his inevitable death. Exploring a further dimension of the search for self, Chapter IV traces the legacy of stereotyped notions of identity, considering ways in which Roth subverts stereotypes in the Human Stain. the search for identity and its particular truths remains a focus of Chapter V, which explores Roth's creation of an unstable reality through the Counterlife, the Facts, Operation Shylock, and the Human Stain, suggesting that the literary imagination matters more than truth in fiction. in its attention to Roth's focus on identity, race, and narrative technique, this dissertation contributes to the evolution of criticism addressing the social significance of the major works of Philip Roth.
Road Debris
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This dissertation comprises two parts: Part I, which discusses the growing trend in project books in contemporary poetry, and Part II, a collection of poems titled, Road Debris. There is an increasing trend in the number of project books, which are collections of poetry unified in both thematic and formal ways. the individual poems in a project book share overt connections which allow the book to work on many different levels, blending elements of fiction and non-fiction or sharing a specific theme or speaker. While these books have the advantage of being easily memorable, which might gain poets an edge in book contests, there are also many risks involved. the main issue surrounding project books is if the individual poems can justify the book, or do they seem too repetitive or forced. As more poets, especially newer ones, try to use the project book as a shortcut to publication, it can result in poorly written poems forced to fit into a particular concept. By examining three successful cotemporary project books—The Quick of It, by Eamon Grennan; Incident Light, by H. L. Hix; and Romey’s Order by Astory Riley—this essay discusses how these books work in order to understand the potential of the project book. All of these books work in distinctly different ways, yet they all fall into the category of project book. While project books will inevitably result in poor imitations, it allows books of poetry to expand and explore in different directions.
Running a Family
This thesis contains two parts. the preface theorizes memory and examines the author’s own experience writing her identity. Part II is a memoir framed with the process of training for a marathon. the marathon acts as a narrative thread that pulls together scenes of memory from the author’s childhood which features the author running away from home on several occasions. Running a marathon and running away from home intertwine to allow the writer to draw conclusions about her life and her family.
Superior Mirth: National Humor and the Victorian Ego
This project traces the wide and varied uses of patriotic (and, at times, jingoistic and xenophobic) humor within the Victorian novel. a culture’s humor, perhaps more than any other cultural markers (food, dress, etc.), provides invaluable insight into that nation’s values and perceptions—not only how they view others, but also how they view themselves. in fact, humor provides such a unique cultural thumbprint as to make most jokes notoriously untranslatable. Victorian humor is certainly not a new topic of critical discussion; neither is English ethno-cultural identity during this era lacking scholarly attention. However, the intersection of these concerns has been seemingly ignored; thus, my research investigates the enmeshed relationship between these two areas of study. Not only do patriotic sentiment and humor frequently overlap, they often form a causational relationship wherein a writer’s rhetorical invocation of shared cultural experiences creates humorous self-awareness while “inside” jokes which reference unique Anglo-specific behaviors or collective memories promote a positive identity with the culture in question. Drawing on and extending the work of James Kincaid’s Dickens and the Rhetoric of Laughter, Harold Nicolson’s “The English Sense of Humor,” and Bergson’s and Freud’s theories of humor as a social construct, I question how this reciprocated relationship of English ethnic identity and humor functions within Victorian novels by examining the various ways in which nineteenth-century authors used humor to encourage affirmative patriotic sentiment within their readers.
“Valentine’s Day” and Other Works
The following collection includes three short stories and two essays compiled with a critical preface. “Valentine’s Day” explores the limits of friendship and love in various situations including, two road trips (one fictional and one factual), pet ownership, and the impersonations of Frank Sinatra.
“The Way It Goes”: Stories
This collection of short stories attempts to examine the role of a changing and often indifferent world has in the way various characters achieve maturity. Though the past is not always obvious in each story, each protagonist is characterized as holding onto some aspect of his or her past life in a way that is detrimental to their growing as human beings. the stories attempt to portray the indifference of the world as it moves forward to the plight of these characters, and to portray the manner in which they each come to terms with such a world and with their own lives.
My Whine, Your Wine
Grapes hold the flavors of the lands where they grow, and when you make wine from them, those flavors of the land come through. Tasting wine from a place you've been can bring you back to that place with aromas and notes indicative of that place. A bottle of wine changes every day, and how it will taste depends on the moment you choose to release it from the glass walls. I have a vested interest in wine, because it is a living thing. I am compelled to make wine because its characteristics are like personality traits. Although some of those characteristics are harsh at times, I appreciate them all. Each trait plays an important role in the balance, the overall personality. Like my own personality flaws, wine's harsh tones can smooth over time. My relationship with wine is constantly evolving, with every new varietal, vintage, batch and blend. Believe me, after some of the jobs I had before my first day at Su Vino, I cherish every moment of my winemaking career. My Whine, Your Wine is the story of how it all started.
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This dissertation is composed of two parts. Part I discusses the evolution of meditative poetry as a genre, with a particular emphasis on the influence of women poets and feminist critical theory. Part II is a collection of poems. Although several popular and critically-acclaimed poets working today write meditative poems, meditative poetry as a genre has not been systematically examined since M.H. Abrams’s essay on the meditative mode in Romantic poetry, “Structure and Style in the Greater Romantic Lyric.” Because one of the driving forces of meditative poetry is a longing for, or recognition of, a state of perception that lies between individual being and some form of universal ordering principle, meditative poetry might seem to be antithetical to a postmodern world that is fragmentary, contingent, and performative; indeed, earlier definitions of meditative poetry, tied to historical and cultural understandings of the individual and the Universal, no longer reflect “how we know” but only “how we knew.” However, this essay argues that there is a contemporary meditative structure that allows for a continued relationship between the individual and the Universal without resorting to the essentialism implicit in the genre as traditionally described. This new structure owes much to feminist theory, in particular écriture féminine, which models a method for recovery of self in language that would seek to efface it. In order to expose the boundaries of the contemporary meditative mode, and to outline its relationship to écriture féminine, this essay analyzes meditative poems from four contemporary poets: Kay Ryan, Jorie Graham, Linda Gregerson, and Linda Bierds, and contrasts contemporary variations on the genre with earlier traditions, identifying an evolved form that better reflects a postmodern rhetoric.
Relativity In Transylvania And Patusan: Finding The Roots Of Einstein’s Theories Of Relativity In Dracula And Lord Jim
This thesis investigates the similarities in the study of time and space in literature and science during the modern period. Specifically, it focuses on the portrayal of time and space within Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim (1899-1900), and compares the ideas presented with those later scientifically formulated by Albert Einstein in his special and general theories of relativity (1905-1915). Although both novels precede Einstein’s theories, they reveal advanced complex ideas of time and space very similar to those later argued by the iconic physicist. These ideas follow a linear progression including a sense of temporal dissonance, the search for a communal sense of the present, the awareness and expansion of the individual’s sense of the present, and the effect of mass on surrounding space. This approach enhances readings of Dracula and Lord Jim, illuminating the fascination with highly refined notions of time and space within modern European culture.
A Boy in a Canoe
The dissertation consists of a collection of personal essays about hunting and fishing. Because the essays are narratives and contain dialogue, characterization, description, themes, etc., they fall under the genre of creative nonfiction. The dissertation has two parts. Part I consists of an essay that discusses the author’s struggle to combine creative nonfiction with outdoor writing and also describes the author’s dilemma of writing about hunting, a topic that is often controversial at the university, while a graduate student. Part II of the dissertation consists of narratives that recount the author’s hunting and fishing experiences that occurred in North Texas and in the mountains of New Mexico. The essays discuss fishing for trout and hunting for deer, wild boars, quail, and duck. Three major themes are developed throughout the dissertation. The first theme describes the close relationship that exists between the author and his father. This closeness is partly due to the time that they have shared during decades of hunting and fishing together. The second theme discusses the ethics of hunting and especially focuses on which methods of hunting are ethical and which methods are not. The third theme explores the complex and sometimes unpleasant interactions that occur between sportsmen when they encounter each other while hunting and fishing. This theme explores the give and take attitude that must exist in order for sportsmen to get along. This attitude is necessary because no two outdoorsmen view the outdoors and hunting and fishing in quite the same way.
“Civilizations without Boats”: Stories
This collection consists of a critical preface and nine short stories. Extrapolating from the work and legacy of Michel Foucault, the preface theorizes a genre of “heterotopian fiction” as constitutive of a fundamentally ethical approach to narrative creativity, distinguishing its functional and methodological characteristics from works that privilege aesthetic, thematic, or technical artistry. The stories explore spaces of madness, alterity, incomprehensibility, and liminal experience. Collection includes the stories “Mexico,” “Civilizations without Boats,” The Widow’s Mother,” “Guys Like Us,” “Everything You’d Hoped It Would Be,” “A Concerned Friend,” “Crisis Hotline,” “Coast to Coast,” and “The Ghosts of Rich Men.”
Re-Envisioning an Eighteenth-Century Artifact: A Postmodern Reading of Tristram Shandy
The interjection of a new and dynamically different reading of Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is imperative, if scholars want to clearly see many of the hidden facets of the novel that have gone unexamined because of out-dated scholarship. Ian Watt’s assumption that Sterne “would probably have been the supreme figure among eighteenth-century novelists” (291) if he had not tried to be so odd, and the conclusion that he draws, that “Tristram Shandy is not so much a novel as a parody of a novel” (291), is incorrect. Throughout the thesis, I argue that Sterne was not burlesquing other novelists, but instead, was engaging with themes that are now being examined by postmodern theories of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean François Lyotard: themes like the impenetrability of identity (“Don’t puzzle me” (TS 7.33.633)), the insufficiency of language (“Well might Locke write a chapter upon the imperfections of words” (5.6.429)), and the unavailability of permanence (“Time wastes too fast” (9.8.754)). I actively engage with their theories to deconstruct unexamined themes inside Tristram Shandy, and illuminate postmodern elements inside the novel. However, I do not argue that Tristram Shandy is postmodern. Instead, I argue that if the reader examines the novel outside of its usual context inside the eighteenth-century novel, there are themes that are apparent in the narrative which have gone unexamined because of the way it has been classified inside academia, and that postmodernist theory allows for these themes to be re-examined in the postmodern culture in which we now reside.
Reconsidering Regionalism: The Environmental Ethics of Sarah Orne Jewett, Kate Chopin, and Willa Cather
This study identifies environmentalist themes in the fiction and nonfiction of Sarah Orne Jewett, Kate Chopin, and Willa Cather and argues that these ideals are interdependent upon the authors’ humanistic objectives. Focusing on these three authors’ overlapping interest in topics such as women’s rights, environmental health, and Native American history, this dissertation calls attention to the presence of a frequently unexplored but distinct, traceable feminist environmental ethic in American women’s regional writing. This set of beliefs involves a critique of the threats posed by a patriarchal society to both the environment and its human inhabitants, particularly the women, and thus can be classified as proto-ecofeminist. Moreover, the authors’ shared emphasis on the benefits of local environmental knowledge and stewardship demonstrates vital characteristics of the bioregionalist perspective, a modern form of environmental activism that promotes sustainability at a local level and mutually beneficial relationships among human and nonhuman inhabitants of a naturally defined region. Thus, the study ultimately defines a particular form of women’s literary activism that emerged in the last decades of the nineteenth century and argues for these authors’ continued theoretical relevance to a twenty-first-century audience increasingly invested in understanding and resolving a global environmental predicament.