Fall 2017 Master of Arts in English Essay Presentation

Graduate Students present their capstone projects.

Current students, faculty, alumni, family, and the local community are invited to hear graduating M.A. in English students present their master's essay.

Date & Time:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM


O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library, O'Shaughnessy Room 108

Current students, faculty, alumni, family, and the local community are invited to hear graduating M.A. in English students present their master's essay. Light refreshments will be served. Please join us in celebrating our Summer and Fall 2017 graduates.

Adam Burchard
"'What is Man but a Mass of Thawing Clay': Thoreau and Individuation"
Advisor: Dr. Laura Zebuhr

Thoreau's reputation as an elitist individualist is fairly cemented in popular culture, but whether his philosophy itself is truly centered on the individual is not abvious at all. Rebecca Solnit has written about how scholars feel the need to put Thoreau in either social activist or isolationist camps. Richard Schneider says the same thing about a socio-political Thoreau and a natural scientist Thoreau. Individualist/collectivist, activist/isolationist, social scientist/physical scientist, each of these represents a means of mistaking for dualism the engagement of a thinker who was profoundly synthetic and open. It misrepresents Thoreau's observations as deliberate and preconceived, which are much more accurately described as processual and unanticipated, revealing as they go. Such an intellectual ethos is found all over Walden where Thoreau describes the mind as both like a mole and like a knife "rifting its way into things", blindly working its way through the world. This essay looks at how contemporary ideas about the concept of individuation offer a broad summary of the way Thoreau's thinking can be thought to engage with the world in a synthetic, non-dualist manner. Individuation is the process by which a thing can be called singular. It's my argument that this is the central gesture of Thoreau's thought, and it is thinking through the processes and ethics of individuation that we see how these supposed dualisms suggested by Solnit, Schneider and myself are seated in the movements of this process.

Jennifer Gow
"Confidis te Ipsum: Edna Pontellier's Transcendental Journey Towards a Life of 'Self-Reliance'"
Advisor: Dr. Laura Zebuhr

This essay investigates the relationship between Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1841 essay “Self-Reliance” and Kate Chopin’s 1899 novel The Awakening. I am particularly interested in Edna’s transition throughout the novel as a sort of transcendental vade mecum versus the popular focus from critics on interpreting the famous suicide ending as either a way of Edna’s ultimate achievement of freedom or as an act of defeat from nineteenth-century social constructs. Ultimately, I argue that the novel portrays an essential journey beginning with a transcendental awakening that turns on an interior light which in turn leads a person on their quest for ultimate selfhood and an achievement of inner self-reliance.

Kaari Newman
"The Disruptive Power of Frame Narratives in Mary Shelley's Keepsake Tales"
Advisor: Dr. Young-ok An

Thanks to the success of Frankenstein, scholars have begun to analyze one of Mary Shelley’s signature techniques, the frame narrative, within her other novels. However, scholarly discourse on the subject  routinely leaves out one aspect of Shelley’s oeuvre that has received relatively little attention in general — her short stories for The Keepsake (1828-1857). In this essay, I propose that Shelley deliberately uses frame narratives in her short stories to both illuminate and deconstruct the structural, temporal and ideological constraints imposed upon her by publishing within the periodical space. Drawing on narratological and feminist readings of Shelley’s work, I illustrate how two of Shelley’s framed tales, “The Sisters of Albano” (1829) and “The Swiss Peasant” (1831), subtly call into question the “cult of beauty” and Romantic aestheticization of the “ordinary” within The Keepsake and other literary annuals. This argument thus fills a critical void in Shelley studies by properly contextualizing her tales within their own framing device, the literary annual itself.

Arianne Peterson
"Pedagogy for the Privileged in the First-Year Writing Classroom: An Exploration of Autoethnography as a Teaching Tool"
Advisor: Dr. Todd Lawrence

Access to higher education is still restricted and segregated in many ways, meaning a significant portion of first-year writing classrooms are dominated by students who benefit greatly from privilege—including those in rural, primarily white institutions that are often overlooked in anti-oppression education efforts. The goal of this study is to provide a theory-based, defensible case for a unique and practical social justice approach to these rural, privileged composition classrooms that can be further developed and revised through implementation and experience. This proposed model combines current pedagogy for the privileged theory with an autoethnographic approach to Writing About Writing, drawing on texts based in autoethnographic testimony and critical discourse theory to develop a framework that can be used to design a course syllabus within current curricular standards.

Joshua Plattner
"Digital Enchantment: Videogame Worlds and Environmental Puzzles"
Advisor: Dr. Sal Pane

In his search for a literature which gives expression to Nature, Thoreau suggests we are to look toward an unexpected place, toward “new mountains in the horizon which [he] had never seen” (17). His lofty appreciation of Nature has challenged scholars to find works which allow Nature to steal into the hearts of her readers, to enchant them as it once did for Thoreau. Instead of literary texts, I suggest videogame environments as locations of enchantment. Interacting with these digitalized natural spaces, and the environmental puzzles they contain, produces sensations of enchantment for the player. The advent of technology is also considered, demonstrating how advances in natural representation have both heightened and muted these sensations.

Amy Segelbaum
"'You Are There': The Human RIghts Novel, Blurred Genres, and Readerly Inaction
Advisor: Dr. Todd Lawrence

The “Human Rights Novel” is a popular genre with great possibilities for exposing readers to issues of human rights around the world. However, Western authors of Human Rights fiction often rely on rhetorical strategies to suggest truth in their narratives which blurs the lines between fictional and non-fictional genres. The implied truth of the narrative makes readers feel that they are transported across the globe and participating in a form of “touristic reading” that satisfies their interests in human rights issues. This is a problematic schema that fails to challenge beliefs, and instead produces readers who choose literature that is familiar, predictable, and often written by the Western authors who usually lack first-hand knowledge. I will be exploring these issues in the human rights novels What is the What by Dave Eggers, and Animals People, by Indra Sinha. Both texts suggest credibility and legitimacy through four literary features: an imitative form of ethnography, appropriation of a human rights victims’ voice, a reliance on familiar colonial scripts, and the creation of an icon to represent an entire class of people. These strategies work so convincingly that often readers become convinced that the simple act of reading can stand-in for activism. Many human rights novels which are created to inspire, are ultimately limited by the tendency to pose as non-fictional ethnographic research. This blurring of genres and fictionalizing of human rights issues becomes problematic when it confuses readers into believing that “touristic reading” accurately represents the lives of people around the world and might prevent them from making a difference.      

Stephanie Smith
"A Critical Edition to Jones Very's Poetry"
Advisor: Dr. Laura Zebuhr

While Transcendentalism continues to be of interest to literary scholars, the focus remains on the “major” figures and their texts. Scholarship attending to the contributions of other voices, however, is still lacking.  One such example of a voice in need of reconsideration is Jones Very, a Transcendentalist poet and mystic. Of particular importance are Very’s religious poems, which demonstrate a mystical experience, and reflect what Very himself described as sensing “two consciousnesses” within his body. Contemporaries of Very, like Emerson, were initially enchanted by his transcendental experience and the poetry generated from it, though many within the Unitarian community felt threatened by his “sacrilegious” proclamations, leading to his temporary institutionalization at McLean Asylum. Although Very’s poetry was sporadically recovered by literary scholars, such as Lawrence Buell, his mystical poetry continues to be neglected—perhaps for its overt religiosity. Yet, to neglect Very’s contribution is misguided: Very’s mystical poems are remarkable because they perform the radical philosophical and spiritual ideas posited by the most revered voices of Transcendentalism. The repositioning of Jones Very within the Transcendentalist canon is exactly what “A Critical Introduction of Jones Very’s Poetry” advocates by offering an introduction to Very’s contributions and the scholarship surrounding his work up to this point. “A Critical Introduction” looks at Very’s experiences during his most prolific years of 1838-1840, provides a selection of his poetry with textual annotations, and offers valuable contemporary reviews and related documents to contextualize Jones Very within the Transcendentalist canon.

Please RSVP to gradenglish@stthomas.edu
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