English master’s students presented their thesis projects at the Spring 2017 M.A.
Thesis Jamboree in the Event Space on May 5. The event featured five panels of students, who summarized their projects and fielded questions from the audience, followed by cake and refreshments. Special thanks to Prof. Juliet Fleming, Director of the M.A.; the M.A. Proseminar instructors Prof. Maureen Mclane, Prof. Elizabeth McHenry, and Prof. Thomas Augst; and graduate administrator Lissette Florez.
Spring M.A. Thesis Projects
Mary M. Alcaro
“High (Plague) Anxiety: Reading the Specter of Pestilence in Late 14th Century British Literature” (advisor: Prof. Christopher Cannon)
Despite the widespread suffering caused by the Black Death in England in the years 1347-1351, very few contemporary descriptions of the plague exist. Yet the absence of explicit representation should not be taken as an absence of widespread psychological effect on the medieval population, and nor does it preclude more subtle forms of representation. Rather, the psychological scars and anxieties of plague are in fact represented in late-14th-century literature if we just know where to look for them. This thesis undertakes a search for representations of plague anxiety, for the ways that literature registered– implicitly and explicitly– the deep-seated trauma and cultural anxiety resulting from the Black Death from the mid to late 14th century. Focusing on Langland’s Piers Plowman, Chaucer’s “Pardoner’s Tale,” the Peal Poet’s “Cleanness,” and Julian of Norwich’s Showings, the thesis argues that allusions to pestilence by name, as well as allusions to physical representations of plague bodies are linked to God’s divine punishment for widespread sinfulness. All four of these texts reveal something about the long shadow the Black Death casts upon the experiences and subsequent writings of late-14th-century Britons.
Ciera Yvonne Baur
“Specters of State Formation: Irish Ghost Stories and National Trauma” (advisor: Prof. John Waters)
“A Pilgrimage of Reading: Time and Intertextuality in Piers Plowman” (advisor: Prof. Martha Rust)
“‘Be More than Woman’: Navigating Sovereignty and Gender in Beaumont and Fletcher’s The Maid’s Tragedy” (advisor: Prof. Katherine Schaap Williams)
“Epic Puberties: Male Coming of Age in the Works of Camões, Tasso, and Spenser” (advisor: Prof. Jane Tylus)
“Machado de Assis and the Racial Politics of Global Literature in Midcentury America” (advisor: Prof. Paulo Horta)
“‘All This Speech the Liuing Tree Had Spent’: Vocal Transcendence of Disguise in The Faerie Queene and Ben Jonson’s Court Masques” (advisor: Prof. Timothy Duffy)
“Of Suns and Shadows: Transnational Solidarities in Palestinian Resistance Poetry” (advisor: Prof. Hala Halim)
“Postcolonial Hailsham: The Anxieties of Biotechnology, ‘New’-Humanism, and Education in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go” (advisor: Prof. Toral Gajarawala)
“Black Like Me: Crafting the Empowered Mulatta in Frances Harper’s Iola Leroy; Or, Shadows Uplifted and Danzy Senna’s Caucasia” (advisor: Prof. Elizabeth McHenry)
This thesis focuses on the development of black consciousness in two female protagonists, Iola Leroy and Birdie Lee. Set a full century apart, Iola Leroy (1892) and Caucasia (1999) both challenge American racial constructs through their protagonists’ development of a racial consciousness that privileges their cultural blackness over their phenotypic whiteness. They do so by exploring what happens when the characters make that choice, demonstrating the inherently ambiguous “two-ness” of mixed race consciousness that directly connects to W.E.B. DuBois’s definition of double consciousness as explored in his 1903 The Souls of Black Folk. This thesis explores how the challenges each of these women experience in crafting and claiming their “in between” consciousness ultimately proves to be a source of empowerment, offering a glimpse into a world that exists outside illogical binaries and within the shared complexities of human nature.
“The Amplification of Human Aggression: An Analysis of the Military-Industrial Complex in Gravity’s Rainbow” (advisor: Prof. Josephine Hendin)
“‘I cannot forbear writing to you’: Mediating Love in Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess” (advisor: Prof. Bill Blake)
It has been commonly yet perhaps mistakenly asserted by many critics that sentiments need no words or media especially in Eliza Haywood’s works in the early eighteenth century. However, this thesis argues that Haywood’s emphasis on the technology of writing as a literary device in her works highlights and demonstrates the inseparable relation between love and writing. Haywood is particularly interested in creating conflict and harmony through the act of writing in Love in Excess (1719–1720). This thesis analyzes how love is mechanized and mediated via “writing” in Love in Excess and suggests that Haywood connects the protagonist’s three-stage change with its relation to the function and consequence of writing—writing as an expressive tool, writing as influential power, and writing as anxiety.
“How to Read a Booke of Bees” (advisor: Prof. Sanam Nader-Esfahani)
“(I Too Ezra Pound): Dos Passos, Pound, and the Lyric Reclamation of ‘Our Storybook Democracy'” (advisor: Prof. Peter Nicholls)
Oliver Treanor Miska
“Represent and Deploy: Refusing a Hero of the Cold War Closet” (advisor: Prof. Crystal Parikh)
This paper is concerned with a genealogical question: in what historical moment and under what conditions was the American homosexual subject positively incorporated by American biopower? I consider the U.S. state’s funding, regulation, and production of literature as an ideological “technique” for the subjectivization of a particular sexual identity. This paper thus examines the history of how homosexual literature becomes incorporated into the global project of liberal-capitalist modernity, especially the way in which the U.S government produces and regulates, through capitalist mechanisms of discursive production, homosexual literature, and literary culture. I trace the origins of an official, albeit covert, homonationalist cultural politics to the 1950s. Through archival research at NYU Fales and Special Collections and reading State-backed ephemera such as book reviews and literary criticism of Encounter, I think through the ways in which a particular aesthetics of the homosexual subject are incorporated into the project of US liberalism as early as the 1950s. Concluding with a close reading of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, I hope to rethink the “tragic fag novel” of the 1950s as also a genre of queer critique.
“Confronting the Dog-Man: Cynocephali, the Beowulf Manuscript, and Race in Late Anglo-Saxon England” (advisor: Prof. Haruko Momma)
“The Future as Pictured by the Anglo-African Magazine” (advisor: Prof. Elizabeth McHenry)
“Standing Up” (advisor: Prof. Thomas Augst)
This thesis examines stand-up comedy in a historical context compared to new media today. What is the significance of technology like Netflix, and how does it influence the genre of comedy and its format? Waves of comedy and stand-up comedy exist, forming a canon of comedic artists who all have fluid careers, one of which the thesis examines more closely among other contemporaries: Ellen Degeneres. She is not currently doing stand-up, but it was her start, and her work bridges classical older stand-up and new stand-up currently published weekly on Netflix. The landscape of stand-up is changing, and Degeneres found her success, in part, by performing material she believed in and upholding certain values which set her writing apart from that of other comics today. Her masterpiece Here and Now sets a high comedy standard technically, and the content shows exactly what she stands up for.
Betrearon Getachew Tezera
“(Dis)locating Douglass: Beyond the Narrative to the Ephemeral” (advisor: Prof. Elizabeth McHenry)