Theses/Dissertations - English Language and Literature

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    The Soviet pilgrimage : American writers in Russia, 1922-1947.
    (May 2023) Sayers, Luke, 1992-; Ferretter, Luke, 1970-
    For a few decades following 1917, many American and European intellectuals attempted to understand the Soviet Union through travel. Hundreds of writers, journalists, academics, philosophers, engineers, and public intellectuals travelled to Russia (or, more properly, to the Soviet Union) to see the land of revolutionary communism. The list of such travelers is vast and includes significant literary figures such as John Dos Passos, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Malcolm Muggeridge, Paul Robeson, John Steinbeck, E.E. Cummings, Mike Gold, Elmer Rice, Lillian Hellman, Theodore Dreiser, Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Edmund Wilson, Erskine Caldwell, Waldo Frank, Josephine Herbst, Abraham Cahan, and many others. This study examines the works of four of these travelers—Claude McKay, E.E. Cummings, Lillian Hellman, and John Steinbeck—each of whom travelled to the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1947, in order to evaluate how their encounter with the Soviet Union influenced their political and aesthetic commitments, and to evaluate, when considered together, how their depictions of the Soviet Union helped to create, perpetuate, or challenge American conceptions of Russia. McKay, Cummings, Hellman, and Steinbeck learned, grew, and changed as a result of their journeys, and despite their many personal, aesthetic, and political differences, their journeys suggest important connections between travel to the Soviet Union and American conceptions of modernism, communism, and Russianness. These four also reveal an extensive, international network of modernist thinkers and writers, the existence of which places Moscow alongside New York, Paris, and London as an important center of modernist cultural activity. Travelling to the Soviet Union resulted in a massive body of travel writings that helped define American modernism in relation to travelers’ experiences in the Soviet Union. Representing a wide variety of genres, from Hollywood screenplays to novels to poems about time spent abroad, these travel writings provide insight into the evolving political and aesthetic philosophies among twentieth century American writers.
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    Facing the giant(s) : Arthur’s battle with the Giant of St. Michael’s Mount in medieval chronicle and romance.
    (May 2023) Thome, Benjamin J., 1988-; Johnston, Hope.
    Arthur’s battle with the Giant of St. Michael’s Mount is a frequent feature of Arthur’s campaign to conquer Rome in Arthurian texts following the Brut tradition from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae to Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur. Although the episode appears to be a divergence from the overall plot and pace of the texts, it is far more than a simple detour. Instead, the battle between Arthur and the Giant allows the texts to focus specifically on Arthur and his roles as warrior, Christian, and king. In facing the Giant of St. Michael’s Mount, Arthur consistently finds himself confronted with challenges to his martial skill, to the genuineness of his faith, to his sovereignty and authority as a king, and ultimately to his use of that power. As medieval texts in the Brut tradition place Arthur in conflict with the Giant of St. Michael’s Mount, they interrogate Arthur’s power and judge his success or failure in relation to how he uses that power in the battle with the Giant, in the military campaign against the Roman Empire which frames that battle, and throughout the entirety of his reign as a king of Britain. For Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, the encounter with the Giant reveals an Arthur who has shifted his focus from defending the Christian faith to serving his own imperial ambitions. For Laȝamon’s Brut, the Giant’s plea for mercy recenters the conflict in a legal rather than a martial framework, revealing Arthur to be a successful, law-giving king. The Alliterative Morte Arthure draws parallels between Arthur and the Giant, centering its focus on the feasts they host to demonstrate their predilections for excess and Arthur’s failure to balance magnificence with temperance. Finally, in his Le Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory shifts the conflict between Arthur and the Giant from matters of sovereignty to sexual desire, specifically competing desires for Guenevere, foreshadowing Lancelot’s inappropriate desire for Guenevere with its disastrous consequences for the Round Table.
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    The willful wild : nature and survival in early nineteenth-century American literature.
    (May 2023) Sillars, Jordan, 1991-; Ford, Sarah Gilbreath, 1968-
    From its first European colonists to the present day, the American wilderness has fascinated, terrified, and challenged its residents. The struggle to survive on this unforgiving landscape has become the topic of many stories, including four texts from the earliest decades of the United States. Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, Catherine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie, and Black Hawk’s Autobiography all imagine survival stories within which protagonists must strive against a willful, agentic wilderness. Within these stories, the natural world gains an agency that is largely hidden or ignored by other genres of nineteenth-century fiction. The immediacy of non-human threats to the protagonists forces reader and author alike to confront the independent will not only of wild animals but also of the trees, rocks, and rivers covering the surface of the “New World.” How these non-human objects possess a “will” has been cause of much debate, but recent observations by new materialist and ecocritical theorists offer helpful lenses through which to understand rivers that “sing,” fire that “speaks,” and branches that “trap,” all in pursuit of their own agendas. This dissertation reads these four texts through this new materialist lens to explore how Brown, Cooper, Sedgwick, and Black Hawk carve a middle way between the two dominant understandings of the American wilderness. They avoid both the dominating attitudes that led to environmental degradation as well as the romantic notions that elided the grisly and brutal aspects of the natural world. In so doing, they offer a compelling vision for why our wild spaces are worth conserving. The natural world is neither meant to be subjugated nor idealized. It can act to help or to harm, and those who come face-to-face with this reality, whether in fiction or otherwise, have the opportunity to see the American wilderness in this truest light.
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    “Verse hath a middle nature” : influence and afterlife in seventeenth-century English lyric.
    (May 2023) Lex, LaJoie Jewel, 1991-; Calloway, Katherine.
    This dissertation explores how four seventeenth-century lyric poets worked to create, preserve, and influence their own and others’ places in a life after death. Far from leaving bodies behind, these texts uniquely depend on transformative embodiment. Each chapter reveals a different type of “economy” of poetic influence in which the poet uses lyrics to engage in cycles of exchange, transforming their works into bodies that can outlast or overcome death. These economies deal in virtue, fame, light, and even atomic particles. I argue that their focus on afterlife is, in part, a response to the loss of the enchanted medieval world picture due to the advent of new science. In addition to analyzing poetry by the highly influential John Donne in Chapter Two, I also break new ground with understudied poetry by female authors who followed or resisted Donne’s legacy. Chapter Three, on the scientist, philosopher, and poet Margaret Cavendish, focuses on the importance of her neglected poetic works and shows how her aspiration to a lasting earthly fame stems from her desire to transcend death in a world she believes is wholly material. Chapter Four considers Hester Pulter, whose recently rediscovered manuscript provides an important contrast to Cavendish in the way she looks forward to heavenly afterlife while finding purpose in her earthly occupation of private writing. Finally, in Chapter Five, I argue that Lucy Hutchinson uses light and optical theories to shift public memory and illuminate hidden truth through her Elegies in memory of her husband, Colonel John Hutchinson. Examining these authors in comparison from the angle of poetic influence and afterlife gives us a fuller picture of the roles of embodiment and gender in how they perceived the long-term effects of their writing. In so doing, this project also highlights the importance of further study of these poets’ neglected works, a pursuit which continues to shape the afterlives they imagined.
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    Poets in the pulpit : nineteenth-century clerical critics on Tennyson and the Brownings.
    (August 2022) Lewis, Molly B., 1983-; King, Joshua S., 1979-
    In the nineteenth century, great poets were widely understood as spiritual teachers as well as literary innovators. Religious terms like “prophet,” “priest,” and “preacher” were applied to the poet by critics, even as actual priests and preachers who interpreted biblical prophecy from the pulpit contributed significantly to literary criticism. Alfred Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Robert Browning were recognized as religiously authoritative by such clerics. The first chapter of this reception study considers how Anglican priests, through lectures and sermons, communicated Tennyson’s role as a national prophet. His poetry served as parallel scripture in their homilies, encouraging readers toward a better life in communion with one another, with the church, and with the nation. The second chapter continues to look at clerical lectures and sermons, considering how Nonconformists’ readings focused on Tennyson as a model for faith in the face of scientific rationalism. These clerics considered the poet’s intuitive faith an extension of his poetic vision. While clerical critics of Barrett Browning were surprisingly willing to attend to her spiritual instruction and attribute a prophetic power to her verse, they did so in conversation with her role as a female poet. The third chapter explores Anglican and Nonconformist clerical journalism that complicates poetess fictions and recognizes Barrett Browning’s spiritual authority wherever her work lies in agreement with the reading minister. The fourth chapter addresses the strange phenomenon of the uniquely religious Browning Societies. These Societies were immensely popular in their day, with almost a thousand groups stretching from the United Kingdom to the United States. They understood Browning to be a religious mediator whose poetry articulated obscure but necessary spiritual truth. The poet’s work acts all the more literally as parallel scripture, functionally ordaining lay critics—including women—who offered homiletic interpretations of his poetry in the Society’s quasi-ecclesiastic space. From the nineteenth into the twentieth century, clerical critics have looked to these poets to provide spiritual wisdom, guidance, and revelation. This study explores the correspondences and distinctions in their religiously pedagogical interpretations of the poets and their poetry.
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    Pope and Donne : adaptation and influence.
    (August 2022) Hatrick, Aaron, 1985-; Gardner, Kevin J.
    In this dissertation, I read Alexander Pope through the lens of John Donne. Because Pope “versified” two of Donne’s satires, there can be no question that he was influenced by the older poet – it is the degree and nature of that influence that this work attempts to mine. Specifically, in Pope’s versions of Donne’s satires, I argue that Pope responded to Donne in six areas: the role of the poet in society, the necessity for individual rather than general satire, the impetus to remove vulgarities, the shifting definition of reason, the relationship of reason to religion, and relationship of the poet to the state. I do not confine myself to Pope’s imitations of Donne; rather, I bring in other aspects of his corpus when appropriate to fill out Pope’s response on a particular subject.
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    Mythic form and mythic function: Lord Dunsany's The Gods of Pegana and Time and the Gods
    (1992) Waldron, Peter J.; Barcus, James; Baylor University.
    Lord Dunsany, an Irish peer and prolific author of fantasy who lived from 1878 to 1957, wrote in the midst of the Irish Literary Renaissance. Compared to such contemporaries as Yeats and Synge, however, Dunsany has received relatively little critical attention. Much of the Dunsany criticism that does exist over-subordinates the content of Dunsany's work to its beautifully ringing style. This emphasis produces criticism that tends either to praise his writing as merely lyrical and charming or to condemn it as mere escapist fancy devoid of any deeper meaning. But the mythological themes of Dunsany's early short stories demonstrate both high style and a strong, underlying message of human self-empowerment; they merit closer attention. Because Dunsany is little known, in my Introduction I provide a brief biographical sketch. In Chapter One I summarize Joseph Campbell's theories on myth to provide a context for my analysis of Dunsany's short stories. Campbell identifies four basic functions of myth: 1) the cosmological, which enables humanity to form a universal scheme; 2) the metaphysical, which helps humanity cope with the often harsh realities of such a scheme; 3) the sociological, which establishes an unimpeachable social order; and 4) the psychological, which provides the means to transform subconscious dream images into an understandable form. In this way, according to Campbell, myth has always served as an interpreter of reality; therefore, a myth system can reveal much about the world-view of the group or individual that holds it. In Chapter Two, I apply Campbell's theories to Dunsany's world-view as revealed in his first volume of short stories, The Gods of Pegana (1905). The stories in The Gods of Peoana, a set of interdependent fragments, read much like myths both in style and in content; each story represents a passage from the "bible" of Pegana's world. By performing the functions of mythology, especially the creative psychological function, the stories in The Gods of Pegana become mythological themselves, and thus provide insight into Dunsany's own world-view. Reading the stories as myth reveals that for Dunsany, even in a universe that seems entirely under the sway of fate and chance, humanity can at least partially control its own destiny. In this chapter, I demonstrate how Dunsany associates this control with the creative power of myth. In Chapter Three I turn to Dunsany's second volume of short stories, Time and the Gods (1908). In Time and the Gods, Dunsany returns to the world of Pegana and to his theme of mythic self-empowerment. But the stories in Time and the Gods are more fully developed than those in The Gods of Pegana and the message more emphatic. In The Gods of Pegana. Dunsany offers a prophetic message of empowerment that his characters mostly ignore; in Time and the Gods the prophecy begins to be realized, and some of the characters gain a kind of spiritual control over their tyrannical gods. I compare the two volumes and discuss the progression of Dunsany's theme from The Gods of Peoana to Time and the Gods. A failure to recognize this humanist theme in Dunsany's work, along with an unwillingness to acknowledge fundamental similiarities between Dunsany and contemporaries like Yeats, has kept previous criticism from placing Dunsany in the literary context his work merits. In my concluding remarks, I summarize Dunsany's mythological world-view as it appears in these first two volumes of short stories, and classify it as essentially Romantic.
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    “A beautiful, strong friendship to bless them both” : cross-gender friendship in The Woman in White and Little Women.
    (2022-04-19) Flint, Justice, 1995-; Pond, Kristen A.
    The marriage plot is intimately connected to the form of the nineteenth century novel, both giving shape to and being shaped by it. Its dominance, however, often precludes the representation of other crucial relationships in fiction, especially cross-gender friendships. Scholarly attention to heterosocial relationships in the Victorian novel has often been eclipsed not only by studies of the marriage plot but by attention to same-gender friendships in this literary period. In this thesis, I examine two notable cross-gender friendships in nineteenth century fiction, namely, that of Walter Hartright and Marian Halcombe in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (1859), and that of Josephine “Jo” March and Theodore “Laurie” Laurence in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (1868). I highlight the ways in which these depictions demonstrate both the unique challenges and unique benefits of cross-gender friendship and consider the insights that these works offer for broader reflection on cross-gender friendship and on its representation in literature, as well as on the intriguing connections between narratives of friendship and our reading relationships to—and expectations of—the novel.
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    "Lat us laughe and pleye” : humor structures in the Canterbury Tales.
    (2022-04-12) Morris, Aubrey L., 1990-; Johnston, Hope.
    This dissertation approaches the Canterbury Tales through the lens of humor theory, responding to a much-noted gap in existing scholarship by focusing primarily on the structures and mechanisms of humor in the text. In attending to humor as part of Chaucer's response to cultural anxieties, I illustrate the ways in which Chaucer makes space for a wide range of readers by carefully situating his jokes to create "in-groups" across significant cultural divisions. I argue that humor in the Canterbury Tales diffuses anxieties about cultural change by creating a flexible imagined space in which canny readers or listeners may laugh at the same joke from multiple perspectives. In doing so, Chaucer's humor allows audience members to experience and embrace feelings of superiority, power, and control over targeted aspects of larger issues.
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    Love grows out of the ground : affection and place in Howards End and Hannah Coulter.
    (2022-04-25) Nicholson, Sydney, 1997-; Russell, Richard Rankin.
    E.M. Forster’s Howards End and Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter both demonstrate that individuals who love local places also attend to the needs of their neighbors. In considering how these authors display the importance of affection and emplacement, this thesis draws attention to the role that place plays in the moral formation of the individual. Focusing particularly on passages in which these authors reveal that the small, ordinary features of a particular landscape can elicit a sublime response, this thesis argues that Forster and Berry both believe that individuals increase their potential to practice affection when they limit the scope of their imagination. In illuminating the distinct emphasis that Berry places on cultivating a shared love for local places and reifying that love through a practical work ethic, this thesis also demonstrates that Berry believes an imaginative attunement to local places works best when it promotes communal visions of justice.
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    Material guilt : the body as conscience in British fin-de-siécle Gothic novels.
    (2022-05-02) Kaderbek, Sarah, 1999-; Pond, Kristen A.
    This thesis examines two fin-de-siècle Gothic novellas—Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), their depictions of the physical and sensual body as integral to morality, and the role of sacramentalism suggested thereby. In the first body chapter, I consider Stevenson’s Strange Case, which portrays Jekyll and Hyde as possessing a single material body despite Jekyll’s purported immaterialism and denial of the body’s physicality. Sharing a material body, they also share a single identity and moral conscience, tying Jekyll inextricably to the deeds of Hyde. In the second body chapter, I present Wilde’s Dorian Gray as exploring the necessity of the body’s physical senses and embodied suffering for the integrated moral life and the integral potential of sacramentalism. Bringing these arguments together, I conclude that the fin-de-siècle is marked by anxieties surrounding the moral body and by advocation for the integration of the material and sensual body within the practice of moral theology, potentially via renewed emphasis on sacramentalism.
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    “To liberate ourselves and each other” : reading the female community in the fiction of Sylvia Plath, Mary McCarthy, and Toni Morrison.
    (2022-04-21) McCright, Grace Perry, 1999-; Ferretter, Luke, 1970-
    In this project, I analyze the portrayal of female community within the fiction of three American women writers: Sylvia Plath, Mary McCarthy, and Toni Morrison. I am specifically concerned with comparing the depiction of female community within white and Black female writers’ works. The introduction to this project establishes a theoretical background for understanding white and Black writers’ visions of female community. The first body chapter considers Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar alongside Mary McCarthy’s The Group and focuses on how each novel either encourages conformity to patriarchal standards or accepts divergent expressions of femininity. The second chapter considers two novels by Toni Morrison: Beloved and A Mercy, and it explores the coexistence of fragility and power within the female communities Morrison depicts. The conclusion to this project reflects on the implications of reading the two chapters together and offers paths forward for scholarship on this topic.
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    From thaumaturgy to dramaturgy : staging occult modernism.
    (2021-11-02) Higgins, Sørina. 1979-; Russell, Richard Rankin.
    Between 1890 and 1945, at least nine British and Irish dramatists—including W. B. Yeats, Charles Williams, and Aleister Crowley—were initiated into occult secret societies; yet scholarship has failed to acknowledge the importance of alternative spiritualities in modernist literature. This dissertation contributes a more complex, nuanced, and realistic understanding of modernism, especially drama, complicating received metanarratives about one-way cultural evolution towards secularization and literary “progress” favoring Ibsenesque and Shavian realism. Many modern plays enact the imagination’s magical power to create reality, but this truth has been erased from literary history due to selectivity bias towards texts featuring fragmentation, alienation, and nihilistic despair. Far from hiding away as atavistic reactionaries, occult playwrights posed the same questions as their avant-garde peers, presenting systems of symbolism designed to offer meaning-making strategies in the face of contemporary conditions. I provide three case-studies in support of my contentions that magic was modern, occult dramas were mainstream, and religion is essential to literary study. First is Yeats, the Hermetist, who smuggled magic into secular contexts. His Countess Cathleen and Words Upon the Window-Pane stage Golden Dawn ritual, enact his doctrine of the Daimon, and invoke audience members’ divine selves. Second is Williams, a Christian, whose Masques of Amen House, Judgement at Chelmsford, and Terror of Light snuck occultism into ecclesiastic contexts, but ultimately rejected initiatory Gnosticism. Finally, Crowley the Satanist performed spirit-summonings publicly in Rites of Eleusis. Each adapted esoteric tradition to their times, then invented new religions and innovative dramaturgical techniques for enlightening audiences. In a distinctively modernist move, each of these writers individualized the occult, creating new thaumaturgical systems and developing dramaturgical techniques and contexts through which to disseminate their nouveaux theologies. Given their genre-defying public performances of magic, I offer the first speech-act reading of theatrical language that takes into account the perlocutionary force of all drama, arguing that enchantments retain their illocutionary power when spoken on stage.
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    Facilitating the transfer of writing knowledge among university writing center consultants.
    (2021-07-29) Cassady, Rebecca E., 1991-; DePalma, Michael-John, 1977-
    Based on an IRB-approved qualitative study of 26 graduate and undergraduate writing consultants at the Baylor University Writing Center (UWC), this dissertation addresses the ways in which consultants draw on prior writing knowledge when facing unfamiliarity in tutoring sessions. It further explores how rhetorical and metaknowledge about writing can promote more fruitful transfer among consultants. In order to investigate the effectiveness of consultants’ transfer, I surveyed, interviewed, and observed writing consultants over the course of a semester, using reflection posts, discussions, and tutor education observations. While writing is often viewed as something we do, a generalizable activity, metaknowledge about writing brings with it the understanding that writing is something we can know about. Nuanced conceptions of writing contribute to writing expertise and allow for more informed adaptation of prior writing knowledge, especially that which is decontextualized, tacit, or entrenched. In this project, I examine ways in which consultants’ writing knowledge and metaknowledge shapes their choices during tutoring sessions and explore how we might encourage them to leverage writing expertise through pedagogical interventions in tutor education. Each chapter approaches the adaptation of writing expertise from a different angle, moving from an examination of what that writing expertise is to how it is manifested in the ways consultants utilize tutoring strategies. Ultimately, I aim to help consultants engage in more adaptive uses of writing knowledge to encourage more effective tutoring. In taking these steps, writing administrators can not only better equip consultants to engage in transfer but also underscore the value of writing metaknowledge in the context of writing center work. Moreover, leveraging writing metaknowledge in the writing center can help correct widespread assumptions that writing is a static set of skills rather than a subject to be studied and understood.
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    Apocalyptic care : the renewal of creation in Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
    (2021-07-28) Spofford, Holly, 1993-; King, Joshua S., 1979-
    My dissertation seeks to correct the widespread misperception in Victorian literary studies and ecocriticism that belief in an embodied renewal of creation necessarily undermines a commitment to alleviating suffering now. This misperception prevents recognizing how central the apocalypse is—as a reality, not simply as a source of allusion—to the thinking and poetics of major Victorian poets. In my dissertation, I study the religious poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Gerard Manley Hopkins and challenge those prevailing assumptions through taking the poets’ religious commitments seriously as sources of hope and aesthetic formation. Ultimately, I demonstrate that their commitment to an embodied renewal of creation does not undermine but rather bolsters their commitment to caring for others—both human and nonhuman—in the present. Because of this, my driving question is: “How do these poets imagine and embody the eschaton in their poetry, and how do the theological ideas and poetics work together to invite readers into specific postures of attention, engagement, and action in the present world, all while anticipating the eschaton?” As I argue in my body chapters, EBB uses the eschatological imagery of crowns and graveyards to emphasize a Christocentric stance of receptivity and responsibility, Rossetti connects the sea to the apocalypse and uses this link to invite a stance of humility and connectivity, and Hopkins crafts visceral experiences of the eschaton that call readers to accept finitude and relationship. Each of these poets entwines their emphasis on the eschaton with an emphasis on the value of the physical, suffering world and its creatures. As the conclusion discusses, their acceptance of the eschaton also encourages them to embody in their poetry an acceptance of their own limitations, epistemologically, ontologically, and practically—and that acceptance of limitations encourages them to move beyond the individual self and into a sense of self defined through connectivity to God and to both humans and nonhumans.
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    Feeling real in fiction : a study of the phenomenological mimesis of givenness in the novel.
    (2021-07-27) McReynolds, J. Clayton, 1992-; Pond, Kristen A.
    In this project, I offer an answer to the deceptively simple-seeming question: how do novels feal real to us? I argue that what makes any novel, whether realistic or fantastic, feel real is the way in which the reader’s unfolding of the novel from the text mimetically parallels fundamental aspects of the phenomenological disclosure of a life-world. Being-in-the-novel, as described by phenomenological theorists such as Iser, Ricoeur, and Sartre, feels like being-in-the-world, as described by phenomenological thinkers such as Husserl, Heidegger, and Jean-Luc Marion. I refer to this characteristic of the novel as phenomenological mimesis, and I focus in this project especially on the phenomenological mimesis of givenness. Novels give themselves, I argue, in ways that mimetically resemble the phenomenological givenness of the world in our daily lives, and coming to understand how different novels evoke this phenomenological mimesis can help us to better grasp how they have the power to show us new ways of being-in-the-world. I then to seek to validate my theory further by applying it in concrete criticism. Through a series of phenomenological close readings of Robinson Crusoe, Jude the Obscure, and Middlemarch I explore how each of these novels, in different ways, make the reader’s reception of their givenness as text feel like the reception of a life-world. In Robinson Crusoe, for example, Defoe transmutes the reader’s sense of his controlling authorial hand into a mimetic sense of Providence, rendering the foregrounded givenness of his world phenomenologically verisimilitudinous by framing it as God-given. Hardy in Jude the Obscure likewise makes his world feel real by making it feel given by a (cruel) divine hand, but he then subverts that impression of divine intentionality as illusory, thus making an illusion of divine malevolence a part of his world and eliding the reader’s sense of his authorial hand in the process. Finally, I will consider how Eliot’s Middlemarch effects a phenomenological mimesis of the self-givenness of others in order to take the reader beyond the boundaries of sympathy that govern our relating to others in our daily lives.
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    Witness to woundedness in the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Natasha Trethewey, and Derek Walcott.
    (2021-07-27) Mitchell, Luke, 1990-; Russell, Richard Rankin.
    In this dissertation I explore how Seamus Heaney, Natasha Trethewey, and Derek Walcott poetically bear witness to historical wounds expressed on both personal and collective levels. I first focus on how in North (1975) Heaney explores the sectarian violence of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and exposes the scapegoating mechanisms that perpetuate such violence. In the next chapter on Field Work (1979), I consider how Heaney navigates a tension between continuing to witness to the violence of his contemporary moment and returning to a poetic vocabulary that celebrates the goods of domestic life, the nonhuman natural world, and human community. I then turn to Trethewey’s record of private and public woundedness, particularly how she recovers and reimagines personal and communal suffering that official historical records might otherwise occlude. Drawing on her volume Native Guard (2006), I consider her verbal memorials as she resists historical erasures of both her mother’s memory after her murder and the Black troops of the Native Guard who fought on the side of the Union in the U.S. Civil War. In the chapter on Thrall (2012), I focus on how she poetically counters epistemological perspectives that objectify and instrumentalize others, particularly racialized bodies. She interweaves her relationship to her father as a mixed-race daughter with ekphrastic poems that form a record of historical attitudes toward race and gender. In the two concluding chapters on Walcott, I explore how he witnesses suffering and wrestles with what it means to make meaning while entering historical wounds. I first do a comparative reading of historical visions between two prose essays from What the Twilight Says (1998) and the first four chapters of Ecclesiastes. In the last chapter, I then turn to his volume of poetry, The Arkansas Testament (1987), and consider his treatment of Black pain in both St. Lucia and the U.S. though his use of Biblical narrative and Christian language and symbolism. Finally, in the Coda I consider avenues for further study of these poets’ witness to woundedness across the Atlantic.
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    “Take me by the hand” : affliction and liturgical participation in George Herbert’s The Temple.
    (2021-07-09) Cloud, Christine Pyle, 1987-; Donnelly, Phillip J. (Phillip Johnathan), 1969-
    The overall unity of George Herbert’s The Temple (1633) has been a topic of debate for nearly a century. A popular approach has been to identify series of poems based on shared themes or titles, including the five poems titled “Affliction,” and the “liturgical” poems based on the feast and fast days of the church calendar. None of these accounts, however, explains the interaction between these two groups of poems. This dissertation explores why Herbert concentrates all five “Affliction” poems and all of the liturgical poems within the first half of The Temple. Using a rhetorical approach based on the arrangement of Herbert’s final manuscript, I examine each of the “Affliction” poems in the context of longer poetic sequences. I uncover the complex symmetry and numerological symbolism of these liturgical sequences, which represent the seasons of the church year from Holy Week to Christmas, and back again to Lent. The rich context of these liturgical sequences affords a fuller understanding of Herbert’s theology of Christian suffering. The effect of each liturgical sequence, I argue, is to show the grace operating upon the afflicted Christian through participation in the liturgy. The poems’ arrangement invites both the poetic speaker and Herbert’s readers on a pilgrimage through The Temple, in which the suffering Christ leads them “by the hand,” poem by poem. Ultimately, this process reveals to each traveler the problems within the self, the true nature of affliction, and the assurance offered through Christ’s cross.
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    Vibrant materiality in modernist women's poetry.
    (2021-05-21) Rawlins, Ben, 1987-; Daniel, Julia E.
    This project combines thing theory with material culture studies to demonstrate how modernist women poets Elizabeth Bishop, H. D., and Marianne Moore reveal the vibrant materiality of the object world in their poetry and prose. These writers show the vitality of the material world through their artistic representations of encounters with thingness, a term that troubles the typical subject/object relationship. By doing so, their work also interacts with particular cultural discourses that shape modern conceptions of the things they include in their work—the printed materials in Bishop’s poetry, H. D.’s ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and gemstones, and the botanical decorative objects or art-like flora that appear in Moore’s writing. As these poets uncover the potential effects and responses to encounters with vibrant thingness, they reveal a complex relationship to the gendered discourses of the modern market, often resisting but also reflecting the way in which interactions with these materials are understood in the cultural imagination. The first chapter argues that in poems from across her career, Bishop enacts immediate interactions between human perceivers and printed materials—a map, an illustrated Bible, and a National Geographic magazine. In these poetic meetings with thingness, she illuminates how a sense of openness can offer a confusing yet delightful response whereas a limited perspective yields existential disappointment and disorientation. In the second chapter, I demonstrate how H. D. presents Egyptian mineral objects—stone columns and hieroglyphs, handheld gemstone jewelry—with a mystical resonance, a kind of metaphysical thingness that offers a spiritual connection to ancient wisdom and power. Consequently, she challenges the gaze of a modern tourist and consumer culture that strips ancient materials of any spiritual potential. Lastly, I analyze Moore’s poetic critiques of botanical decorative objects as well as her own aesthetic display of plant life. In these poems, Moore reveals how artistic representations of flora can either express the fertile dynamism of plant life or limit it. These important modernist poets offer an alternative way of engaging with materiality that moves readers to examine their own assumptions about the object world and acknowledge the latent effervescence inherent in things.
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    Authorized readers : scriptural mediation as spiritual formation in Walter Hilton and Nicholas Love.
    (2021-05-21) Kanary, Jonathan, 1984-; Langdell, Sebastian J. (Sebastian James), 1984-
    Scholars have long recognized extensive interaction with vernacular biblical material in Walter Hilton’s Scale of Perfection and Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. However, Love’s engagement with Scripture has often been interpreted primarily as restrictive, anti-Lollard polemic, while Hilton’s biblical intertextuality has received relatively little serious study of any kind. This dissertation offers a thorough reevaluation of both Hilton’s and Love’s use of the Bible in their own texts. As I demonstrate, both authors write with an awareness of their expected audiences’ potential limitations, whether spiritual or educational, and both are concerned to fend off the misuse of Scripture that they believe heresy represents. However, I argue that both authors also want to enable readers’ spiritual progress, and that both see Holy Writ as a necessary and foundational source for such progress. Hilton’s Scale contextualizes and interprets biblical material in order to provide access for non-clerical readers, and it offers them a kind of enacted training in lectio divina, or spiritual reading. Likewise, Love’s Mirror is not intended as an orthodox alternative to the Wycliffite Bible, as many scholars assume; nor does its careful construction of a “symple” audience restrict its readers to permanent spiritual childhood. Rather, it uses a variety of techniques to invite readers’ dramatic participation in the biblical scenes it presents, and it empowers them to encounter Christ’s presence directly through devout meditation. Both Hilton and Love thus seek to form their readers for mature engagement with, and fruitful spiritual use of, biblical material. This dissertation consequently offers a new perspective on orthodox responses to the Wycliffite controversy and contributes to a deeper understanding of the role of Holy Writ in late Middle English vernacular spirituality.