Recent Thesis Abstracts
Jason Trevino (Spring 2012)
MORTUARY INTIMACIES AND OTHER TRIVIA
What follows are several short fiction pieces and some poetry that illustrates, and, sometimes, exposes, the felt experiences of a young funeral director and embalmer, namely the protagonist "Benny," most often referred to as "The Apprentice." My work explores some of the difficulties the young "Benny" goes through during his apprenticeship. These experiences lead him to begin a process or memorialization of his family--some living, some dead. This memorialization allows the main character to find a connective trace in the penultimate chapter that blends the worlds of the living and the dead. In the end, he approaches a new kind of communion with his family through his repeated acts of communion with the dead.
Patrick Collins (Fall 2010)
This is a creative writing thesis written in the genre of fiction. It attempts to describe change—situational, psychological, spiritual—and the different ways people deal with it. In terms of length it may be considered a novella, representing one continuous story divided into chapters. Though fictional, the story is partly based on personal experience and could also be considered semi-autobiographical.
Annemarie Mulkey (Spring 2010)
QUEERING CULTURE: CONFOUNDING AND TROUBLING HETERONORMATIVITY THROUGH CRITICAL QUEER IDENTITIES IN LITERATURE, FILM, AND MUSIC
In this project, I examine the ways in which queer representation troubles and confounds heteronormativity, which I define as the daily and systematic rearticulations and affirmations of heterosexism and the privileging of heterosexual practices and identifications. Undergirding this project is the claim that the images we see in popular culture influence our habits of seeing both ourselves and others. Hence, an absence in representation and inaccurate representations such as stereotypes convey messages about the acceptability of particular identities and the unacceptability of others. Through repetition, these distinctions become naturalized.
Therefore, in this project, I seek to demonstrate a methodology for interpreting representations of queers and critically engaging in culture in order to interrupt such destructive naturalizations. Through rhetorical analyses of three medias, literature, film, and music, I examine how queers represent themselves in a manner that undermines heteronormativity; however, these representation are also subject to perpetuating heteronormativity. In my analysis of Radclyffe Hall‘s groundbreaking work, The Well of Loneliness, I show the ways in which the text both adheres to and deconstructs the dominant ideology of the 1920s. While through the illustration of isolation, Radclyffe Hall provides one method of confounding heteronormativity, the film But I’m a Cheerleader offers another means of critiquing it: camp, an overly-exaggerated satire. Lastly, I examine the indie music duo, Tegan and Sara, who perform a critically conscious queerness both visually and verbally. Their performance of queer identity strategically destabilizes heteronormativity. Thus, through these analyses, I demonstrate how critical queer performance can undermine heteronormative representations of queers and how these troubling can lead to more equitable habits of seeing and being.
Michael Lee Gardin (Fall 2009)
TOWARDS A NEW THIRD SPACE MOTHERING: MOTHERHOOD AND INSTITUTIONS IN CRISTINA GARCIA’S DREAMING IN CUBAN AND ANA CASTILLO’S SO FAR FROM GOD
This project is an exploration of mothers and maternal relationships in two literary texts, Dreaming in Cuban and So Far From God. In this study, I build upon and complicate past and current maternal theories, using a term inspired by the theories of Gloria Anzaldúa, border mother. I identify and assert the need for an analysis of mothering that recognizes women who are affected by multiple intersections of race, class, and gender as inhabitants of border spaces. This project defines the term border mother and demonstrates its importance as a step in developing a new mothering. Specifically, I posit these texts, in their creation of space for new discussions of different types of mothering, as a factor in a longer, continual process towards changing patriarchal society and its effects on mothering.
Melissa Whitney (Spring 2009)
TINA MCELROY ANSA'S "UGLY WAYS" AND "TAKING AFTER MUDEAR": MOTHER-DAUGHTER PSYCHOLOGICAL DIASPORAS
Tina McElroy Ansa’s novel Ugly Ways has hardly received any critical attention and now that she has published her sequel Taking After Mudear, I found it necessary to take a closer look at both of the novel. None of the critical articles that have been written about Ugly Ways deal with Ansa’s usage of the old and new black middle-class, and neither do they analyze the in-depth damage Mudear had done to her three daughters through psychologically exiling them. I am analyzing Ansa’s two novels with the help of Freud’s personality structure theory and Lacan’s and Chodorow’s interpretation of the Oedipus complex which enables me to portray an insight into Ansa’s portrayal of mother-daughter relationships that has not been available before.
I will analyze Ansa’s Ugly Ways and Taking After Mudear using a psychoanalytical approach to analyze the mother-daughter relationship at hand, and on how the use of the old/new black-middle class as a major theme allows Ansa to focus on independent female characters who have the leisure time for reflection. Moreover, the use of the black-middle class also aids Ansa in dramatizing the psychological diaspora of the daughters, enabling her to portray the benefits as well as the disadvantages a new black middle-class status brings to the African-American culture.
Naomi Craven (Spring 2008)
BEHIND THE GILDED EDGE: THE FRAMING OF WOMEN IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY FICTION
The nineteenth century was a period in which women found themselves oppressed and circumscribed like never before. As the relationship between visual art and literature has gathered increasing interest in recent years, scholars have concentrated on how cultural productions served to further this enclosure by creating a vision of woman as either inherently dangerous or passive. For instance, in Idols of Perversity, Bram Dijkstra examines actual paintings, arguing that the forms of art and literature conspired to create a war of words and images in which the so-called “iconography of misogyny” took center-stage. In this study, I turn the focus away from literal paintings, and onto literary representations of artwork, or ekphrasis as this phenomenon has come to be known. I argue that this process allows women to be seen as not only painted, but also framed. My study then examines the ways in which this frame functions, combining an examination of a range of nineteenth-century texts with the new and burgeoning frame scholarship. The concept of the frame reveals female protagonists as not only enclosed within pictures, but also within more everyday objects, and even language itself. I argue that the device of the frame reveals women to be not only enclosed within circumscribed roles, but also severed from essential parts of their own identities. Because of the power held by the frame, attempts to escape its reaches were almost always unsuccessful, and often futile. Only by writing about the frame and enclosing it within their own interpretive surrounds could these women begin to leave its gilded edges, and create positions for themselves within society as a whole.
Jeffrey Miller (Spring 2008)
TRACING CHANGES IN THE GENRE CONVENTIONS OF FANTASY LITERATURE: A DIACHRONIC QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS
Defining fantasy has been a problem. I believe this problem comes from trying to define a diverse genre with a single concise definition. In this thesis, I try to show that fantasy literature is not as unchanging as definers have tried to make it.
I detail in the first chapter one major shift that has been identified in previous research—the emergence of immersive fantasy—by conducting an exhaustive search of previous fantasy literature, looking for conventions of the style. After finding several works which show many of the conventions of immersive fantasy emerging, I then identify to what degree the conventions of immersive fantasy are present in the works. I show that the earlier works of fantasy set the foundation for what the genre has become.
I use in the second chapter a random sampling of accessible fantasy literature to show how fantasy literature has changed in ways that have not been previously noted: in the characterization of the protagonist, the depiction of fantasy worlds, and the use of magic. I find that there is a correlation between the popular explosion of immersive fantasy and the instilling of magic in the point-of-view characters. When immersive fantasy began to gain popularity, innate magical abilities in the point-of-view character increased in popularity as well.
By identifying changes in the genre conventions of fantasy, I believe attempts by scholars to define fantasy literature will be more accurately formed. The implications the changes show that one definition is not sufficient for the whole genre; changes in the genre indicate, at the very least, an early and late period for the genre of Modern Fantasy.
Sara Ramírez (Fall 2007)
THE MADWOMAN CAN’T SPEAK BUT LA LOCA CAN: A CHICANA FEMINIST ANALYSIS OF “MADWOMEN” IN LATINA TEXTS
Because la loca, the madwoman, appears and reappears in the works of Latinas, I question the meaning of the locura, the madness, appropriated by these women especially through their creative texts. In this thesis, I argue against the devaluation of madness as a resistance strategy by considering the work of Chicana feminists and theorists Gloria E. Anzaldüa, Chela Sandoval, and Emma Perez. There exist at least two different kinds of locas: 1) locas ichpopochtin who are young or inchoate and 2) locas tlamatini who are wise and mature. I identify Marina from Loida Maritza Perez’s Geographies of Home as a loca ichpochtli and Mariposa, playwright of Diaspori can Dementia, as a loca tlamatini.
Brandon Lingle (Spring 2007)
GOLDEN ELBOW REFLECTIONS
This collection of short fiction, poetry, and photography is presented in three sections: This is Not a War Story, A Lack of Dopamine, and Pacific[ation]. I’ve worked to combine text and image in a style that hopefully informs both mediums throughout the work. I’ve also incorporated found text such as military manuals and e-mail. Each piece is meant to stand alone, but some general themes and topics present themselves. I wrote the first draft of Golden Elbow Reflections in 2003, and the rest of the material between 2005 and 2007.
This is Not a War Story begins with Golden Elbow Reflections a fictionalized autobiography of Sean Lindley, an airman headed to Iraq. This story explores the hidden effects of war on the people and landscape of the home-front. Central California’s coastal region provides a beautiful and terrifying setting for the narrative. The symbiotic relationship between the environment and a 99,000-acre Air Force Base best exemplifies this sublime landscape. The remainder of the short fiction and poetry of this section gazes into the mind of a military member adrift in the garrison force during wartime. It is punctuated by the death of a small town’s prodigal son, and an infant’s heart surgery during the battles for Fallujah, Iraq.
A Lack of Dopamine references the physical condition that results in Parkinson’s Disease, a debilitating disease of the nervous system. This section addresses the effects of that terrible disease on a father and son relationship. The disease only adds to the mystery that is a father. Pacification is a series of stories and poems dealing with the myth of California.
Jessica Loudermilk (Fall 2006)
KA AINA I KA PONO: JACK LONDON, HAWAI'I AND RACE
Jack London’s views on race varied dramatically in his writing, but the greatest impact by far on his racial ideas was made by London’s time in Hawai’i. Critical reading of London’s Hawaiian fiction, collected in The House of Pride and On the Makaloa Mat, reveals his changing conceptions of race, culture, and identity. The work examined here is reflective of views that were in constant flux, with major shifts precipitated by London’s experience of Hawai’i as a site of successful intercultural exchange. London’s earlier work is indicative of firm beliefs in Anglo-Saxon superiority and in racial essentialism Following long and significant stays in Hawai’i in 1907 and 1915-16, London produces fiction which strongly criticizes the colonization of Hawai’i, celebrates the culture and traditions of the territory, and challenges the validity of race as a discrete category.
Anne Regules (Spring 2006)
WORKING WOMEN RE-WORKING THE ROMANCE: CHICK-LIT FROM KATE CHOPIN TO JENNIFER WEINER AND SEX AND THE CITY
This study attempts to define and explore a new genre romantic fiction called “Chick-Lit” by extending the work of Janice Radway, who theorizes that the romance genre is the manifestation of domestic women’s desire to escape their limited agency as wife and mother. I assert that while traditional romance reading potentially stagnates feminist activist by virtue of its solitary nature, Chick-Lit invites the reader to participate in its production, thus offering readers the opportunity to shape, debate, and evaluate both the genre and the larger third-wave feminist project. In short, I assert that Chick-Lit reflects the insecurities and inconsistencies inherent to the unstable and disparate notions of femininity at the intersection of second and third-wave feminism. Chapter one looks back to Kate Chopin as an established and respected nineteenth-century novelist in order to historicize the new genre of Chick-Lit. While characters within the text reify patriarchal order, Chopin is successful in creating a text that challenges women’s confining domestic role. In chapter two, I specifically explicate the works of Chick-Lit icon, Jennifer Weiner. I argue that Weiner’s texts, Good In Bed, In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes, and Goodnight Nobody, present femininity in fresh and progressive ways through a partial rejection of romantic convention. Through the use of an on-line journal and discussion forum, Weiner makes her writing process transparent and dialogic, thus allowing her readership to participate in empowering and transgressive debates regarding fiction and femininity Chapter three examines representations of femininity in popular culture and television as an outgrowth of Chick-Lit. The hit television series, Sex and the City serves as representative text to demonstrate the progress and problems of commodified femininity. I argue that Sex and the City is similar to Chick-Lit in its attempt to negotiate the unstable status of women in contemporary American culture; however, because of the show’s competing emphasis on consumerism, feminism becomes subsumed by the capitalist project to sell the show and the products it advertises. In short, Chopin, Weiner, and Sex and the City, all demonstrate the on-going project to represent femininity outside of a reference to men, marriage and motherhood.