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

Description: Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," as early as 1839, reveals an uneasiness about the space of the house. Most literary scholars accept that this anxiety exists and causes some tension, since it seems antithetical to another dominant motif, that of the power of place and the home as sanctuary. My critical persona, like Poe's narrator in "The House of Usher," looks into a dark, silent tarn and shudders to see in it not only the reflection of the House of Usher, but perhaps the whole of what is "Southern" in Southern Literature. Many characters who inhabit the worlds of Southern stories also inhabit houses that, like the House of Usher, are built on the faulty foundation of an ideological system that divides the world into inside(r)/outside(r) and along numerous other binary lines. The task of constructing the self in spaces that house such ideologies poses a challenge to the characters in the works under consideration in this study, and their success in doing so is dependant on their ability to speak authentically in the language of silence and to dwell instead of to just inhabit interior spaces. In my reading of Faulkner and Warren, this ideology of division is clearly to be at fault in the collapse of houses, just as it is seen to be in the House of Usher. This emphasis is especially conspicuous in several works, beginning with Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and its (pre)text, "Evangeline." Warren carries the motif forward in his late novels, Flood and Meet Me in the Green Glen. I examine these works relative to spatial analysis and an aesthetic of absence, including an interpretation of silence as a mode of authentic saying. I then discuss these motifs as they are operating in Toni Morrison's Beloved, and finally take Song of ...
Date: December 2000
Creator: Berger, Aimee E.

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

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

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

Description: In my dissertation I examine the steps in and performance of revolution through the writings of three Postmodern authors, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and E. L. Doctorow, in light of the model of the biblical Exodus journey and the revolution which precipitated that movement. I suggest that the revolution which began with the Israelites' bondage in Egypt has provided the foundation for American literature. I show that Invisible Man, Beloved, and Ragtime not only employ the motif of the Exodus journey; they also perpetuate the silent revolution begun by the Israelites while held captive in Egypt. This dissertation consists of six chapters. Chapter One provides the introduction to the project. Chapter Two provides the model for this study by defining the characteristics of the Exodus journey, Moses as the leader of the Israelites, and the pattern of revolution established by Michael Walzer in Exodus and Revolution. In Chapters Three, Four, and Five, I apply the model established in Chapter Two to the individual texts. In Chapter Six, I draw three conclusions which arise from my study. My first conclusion is that the master story of the Exodus journey and the Israelites' liberation from Egypt informs all Western literaturewhether the literature reinforces the centrality of the master story to our lives or whether the literature refutes the significance of the master story. Second, the stages of revolution present in the biblical Exodus are also present in twentieth-century American literature. My third conclusion is that authors whose works deal with an exploration of the past in order to effect healing are authors who are revolutionary because their goal is to encourage revolution by motivating readers to refuse to accept the status quo and to, instead, join the revolution which demands change. They do this by asking questions which are characteristic of that ...
Date: December 2000
Creator: Turner, Tracy Peterson