English Honors Theses

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    The Paradox of Commodified Music in Decadence
    Rolnick, Juliette (2020-06-22)
    This thesis explores music as an art form, in the context of the socioeconomic period of industrialization, where all things, including art, were increasingly commodified. This work is particularly fixed around the 1890s, a moment in which writers, philosophers, and musicians propelled the notion of music as a transcendent art form. In this thesis, I argue that Europe’s nineteenth century was a particularly crucial literary moment for evaluating the state of music as an art form. I argue this in order to demonstrate music’s paradoxical status in such a time of commodification, production, and industrialized labor.
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    Reading Jacob's Room as a Transmission of Shocks
    St. Aubin, Adrienne Michelle (2006-05-30T13:47:09Z)
    This thesis examines Virginia Woolf's 1923 novel Jacob's Room as a transmission of what Woolf in her unfinished memoir refers to as 'shocks.' In A Sketch of the Past, Woolf describes the experience of these shocks and her immediate desire to explain them, presenting writing as a reparative activity that imparts meaning to the apparently senseless and alleviates pain by creating wholeness out of fragmentation. She illustrates this concept by providing three examples from her own childhood, each of which offers a very different model of experience. In this thesis I relate these shocks to the structure of Jacob's Room and a number of strangely digressive and open-ended passages within it, proposing that the novel actually resists Woolf's own model of reparative writing and does not process shocks into wholes for the reader so much as transmit them to her.
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    Sidney's Strangers: Language, Materiality, and Authenticity in Astrophil and Stella
    Lowrance, Bryan (2006-04-17T20:40:21Z)
    This thesis examines the exegetical, intellectual-historical, and theoretical implications of a particular feature of Philip Sidney?s late sixteenth-century sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella: its continual anxiety over authenticity ? a term I use to signal the ability of its fictional speaker (Astrophil) to find a language capable of conveying his internal cognitive and affective states. Throughout Sidney?s sequence, Astrophil attempts to define an authentic lyrical language by both criticizing other poets and asserting a formal agenda for his own texts. His texts, however, continually contradict in practice what is demanded of them in theory so that the sequence shows an underlying pessimism summed up in Sonnet 35?s question: ?What may words say, or what may words not say, / Where Truth itself must speake like Flatterie?? (my emphasis). This paradox and the pessimism it produces, I argue, can be understood by situating Sidney?s sequence in a rift between two conceptual frameworks for understanding relations between subjectivity, language, and the material world. In one framework (dominant in western medieval Christendom), cognition, language, and material things were seen as ontologically homogenous ? part of the same sublunary, postlapsarian material stratum. But in another framework ? emerging in the sixteenth century and that would become dominant in western European modernity ? human subjects and their languages were seen as detached from the material world. Sidney?s sequence, I suggest, is stuck between these two ideological polarities. It wants to enact an authenticity that would become possible under the conceptual regime of modernity, where language is imbricated in the immaterial cognitive circuitry of sovereign, Cartesian subjects, and where it thus becomes capable of conveying the authenticity attributed to in modern ideologies of the aesthetic. However, Sidney is caught in the conceptual space of an older model of language: one that sees it as something thingly, ontologically homogenous with the material world. My first chapter introduces ? somewhat lengthily ? the problem of authenticity in Astrophil and Stella. It develops some of the intellectual-historical horizons I want to situate the sequence in and introduces the main textual feature I want to follow: Sidney?s tendency, in attempting to establish the authenticity of his own poetry, to criticize other poets for their lack of authenticity vis-?-vis a resemblance between their poetic practices and commercial and economic practices. My second chapter both turns to the contemporary critical landscape of early modern studies and provides further elaboration of my positioning of Sidney in the ambiguities of early modern concepts of subjectivity, language, and materiality. After this lengthy prefatory, I move on, in my third chapter, to read Astrophil and Stella, focusing particularly on Sidney?s use of the word ?strange? ? a term that particularly points to the rift I want to chart in the sequence. My fourth chapter concludes with a methodological question: how do the points I have made about the difference between modern and early modern ontologies of language, materiality, and subjectivity effect the contemporary critical landscape of early modern literary studies. Particularly, I pursue the question of whether or not a return to formalism and aestheticism (increasingly called for in protest to the dominance of cultural studies in literary interpretation) has a trans-historical exegetical validity. In conclusion, I suggest that the assumptions on which such a return to the literary would stand become deeply problematic outside of the modern era.