The Fall 2016 MA Thesis Jamboree

The Department of English held its Fall 2016 MA Thesis Jamboree on Friday, December 2, in the Event Space. The all-day event began with a welcome breakfast and featured five student panels, a mid-day lunch, and concluding festivities. Seventeen MA students presented their projects and fielded questions from the audience. Congratulations to all on this achievement.

Mary Alcaro, “Gut Instincts of Language: Examining Chaucer’s Bodily Words”

Anthony Arnone, “The Reality of the Text: Reading Rumbold’s Pope”

This thesis investigates the important role of the literary commentator through an analysis of Valerie Rumbold’s commentary to Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad. I show that Rumbold’s commentary recontextualizes The Dunciad to create a unique reading-experience of the text. Consequently, Rumbold’s edition can change how we understand the eighteenth century and the concept of a text. I argue that the commentator’s footnotes flooding the text can open opportunities to regain the lost historical meaning and context inherent in the transference of books to ebooks.

 Leah Becker “Sharing Wounds: How Ishmael’s Narrative Voices Spread the Burden of Testimony in Moby-Dick

“Sharing Wounds” uses theories of narrative, Holocaust, witness, and trauma to argue that the chapters of Moby-Dick in which Ishmael narrates omnisciently or in script/play format can be read as an attempt to overcome the lacuna that Giorgio Agamben claims is a necessity in survival testimony. This paper ultimately argues that Ishmael utilizes fiction in his testimony in an attempt to give voice to characters that have died, narrate moments that he can no longer access as a traumatized subject, and push his testimonial burden onto his readers by implicating them as fellow witnesses who must share his wound and responsibility.

Ryan Campagna, “Poring Through Worlds within Worlds: Margaret Cavendish’s Theory of Cosmic Pluralism”

In the 17th century, scientific and literary discourses revitalize an interest in theories of cosmic pluralism—the idea that there are numerous “worlds” in addition to Earth. A number of thinkers posit plurality of worlds theories based upon ideas of atomism, mechanism, or heliocentrism. Meanwhile poets and literary figures speculate on the possibility of exploring these “worlds” through moon-travel narratives and other fictive productions. My thesis hypothesizes Margaret Cavendish’s theory of cosmic pluralism, arguing that she believes in the infinite replication of “worlds” within “worlds” at any scale. Ultimately, I suggest that such “worlds” are explored through the act of writing.

 Kris Choe, “Eat Your Heart Out: Digesting Food and Feelings in Pak Wan-so’s ‘Near the Buddha’ and The Naked Tree

 Ashley Aye Aye Dun, “Print, Protest, Pāramī and the Police State: The Mediascape Beyond Aung San Suu Kyi’s Freedom from Fear and Other Writings”

 Michael Fridman, “Francis Bacon’s Jewish Atlantis: Old World Hebraism and New World (Jewish) Learning”

 Brian Hicks, “Who, What, When Watchmen?: Narratology and Temporality in Moore and Gibbons’s Watchmen

In this thesis, I undertake to explore the relation of silence and murmur in the poetry of William Wordsworth. I explore Wordsworthian “murmur” as a voice of Nature, speaking eternally and ubiquitously; the sound which the Poet experiences to invoke the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” which once recollected, produces poetry. I import the concept of ambience to illuminate how silence, as a nonsound, can still be invocative of the murmur via memory. Diverging from some recent scholarly work, I posit that Wordsworthian murmur is more than simply a symbol of loss, instead it produces a memory. That which is remembered as a result of the murmur may be lost, but it is preserved in the memory, and it is by the memory that the Poet may still experience the emotions which produce Poetry.

 Cassidy Holahan, “‘Copy the bees’: Extractive reading, literary fragments, and the reader’s agency in gothic and sentimental novels of the late eighteenth century”

In my thesis I consider how gothic and sentimental novels written in the 1780s and 1790s – chock-full of piecemeal quotations and representing characters similarly ‘extracting’ fragments from their own reading – themselves become the site of commonplace. I argue that these novelists used the literary fragment to grapple with larger issues of female literary possession. The mutability of the fragment in these novels reflects an underlying anxiety about the malleability of literature and the intimate book object at the hands of the reader, and especially of the hazards of attaching affect to literature.

Alice Lesperance, “Through Time: A Conversation with Flannery O’Connor and Her Mystical Mothers”

Virginia Woolf wrote: “A woman writing thinks back to her mothers.” My thesis is interested in literary lineage constructed by the life writings of three women – Flannery O’Connor, Julian of Norwich, and Margery Kempe. I call my thesis a conversation because I want to explore how the influence of lineage works both ways – to look at how the ways in which we read and interpret earlier texts can be manipulated by those that followed. Working primarily with O’Connor’s prayer journals, I construct an alternate reading of these mystical accounts that illuminates fluidity of genre. I argue that this fluidity can only be rendered through a backward-glancing scope.

Elliot Morris, “Fear & Loathing in the 1950s: Narcissism, Violence, and the Quest for the Ideal in Patricia Highsmith’s America”

Patricia Highsmith’s novels are often sidelined as mysteries and crime thrillers. While they contain elements of the genre, Highsmith wrote more complex fiction. In three novels written between 1955 and 1960, Highsmith critiques culture and society. The psycho-social constructions of her protagonists illustrate resistance to conformity. Through solipsistic world views, they forge new identities in order to obtain what they desire. Highsmith straddles the line between popular fiction and literary fiction by making astute social critiques and examining the seedy underbelly of society.

Kerishma Panigrahi, “When Sarees Speak: Occluded Histories, Emotional Inheritances, and Diasporic Femininity in Shailja Patel’s Migritude

Timothy Pantoja, “Catching Our Own Breath From Speaking Dead Words: The Apostrophic Logic of Henry Dumas’ ‘Echo Tree’”

Black Arts Movement author Henry Dumas’ “Echo Tree” is a short story that portrays the emotional challenges in using language to recuperate the dead. Set in a Southern landscape, this portrayal of two boys invoking their dead friend is a dramatization of the subjective conditions that produce apostrophe. This thesis argues that the story reveals how apostrophe, as a solitary cry that knowingly desires an impossible response, can produce inter-subjective connections amongst the living. “Echo Tree” speaks to the enduring challenge of establishing cultural memory: how to enter and experience language in order to personally grieve for the dead, known and unknown.

Liandra Sy, “The Fabled Elephant: The Malcontented Sovereign in Letter from the Elephant to the People of England (1764)”

Sheyuan Wang, “Xinjiang through Literature: Reclaiming the Uyghurs from Politics”

The purpose of my thesis is to attempt to uncover a better way of understanding of the Uyghur minority group through literature rather than traditional modes of knowledge. The Uyghurs are a group in China often misrepresented in western contexts because of political biases, ignorance, or emotional disconnect. Various representations of the Uyghurs often times conflates disparate interests which obfuscates the Uyghurs. My paper will show how The Wild Pigeon by Nurmuhemmet Yasin has symbolic value on a theoretical and practical realm, and could serve to better garner interests and understanding of the Uyghurs than the use of facts alone.

Brandon Wernette, “Wordsworth’s sounds?: Silence and Murmur as a Poetics of Creation and Memory”

Jessica Zisa, “‘Ladies, now let’s get in formation’: Female Subjectivity and Linguistic Enclosures of Despair in A Revelation of Love and The Book of Margery Kempe

Fourteenth-century devotional practices reinforced a framework of affective subordination for gendered linguistic bodies. This thesis attempts to chart Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe’s movement towards subjectivity through the emergence of a feminine body in language. Linguistic enclosure, as I refer to it, constitutes a form of subjection in relation to the Other and generates trauma and despair in the subject. Through the lens of affect theory, this thesis examines the formation of the female grammatical subject, and addresses the conflicting rhetorical models of femininity that define the female body as a vessel of cultural despair.