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Tuesday, April 24
 

9:00am PDT

Death Of An Immigrant: Tragedy And The American Dream In Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman And Cristina Henriquez’s The Book Of Unknown Americans
No working universal definition of tragedy that scholars can agree upon exists. Nevertheless, tragic theorist, Richard Palmer, provides what I find to be a sufficient and broad definition, which states that tragedy creates a conflicted response of attraction and repulsion in the audience. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Cristina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans are both works of literature that arouse this type of ambivalent response from their audiences. For this thesis, I provide an analysis of how certain elements from each text combine to lead the audience to the emotional response that Palmer’s definition describes. Drawing from traditional conventions of tragedy and analyzing debates on how tragedy manifests within a modern and uniquely American framework, I examine tragedy in the context of its place in the novel and drama, the tragic hero versus the common man, the role of fate and institutions, hamartia, “plotters” and other tragic catalysts, and the nature of American consumer culture – all within the frameworks of Death of a Salesman and The Book of Unknown Americans - to convey the contradictions between the promise of the American Dream and the deplorable conditions and unfortunate circumstances of the books’ characters, calling readers to reflect on the promise of upward mobility that is embedded in the American Dream within the modern United States: the American Dream depicted as desirable but not attainable for everyone depending on their individual circumstances.

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Tuesday April 24, 2018 9:00am - 9:20am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

9:20am PDT

Alienation And The Grotesque In Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems
In 1965, two years after Sylvia Plath’s suicide, many of Plath’s last poems were published in a poetry collection called Ariel. Early critical responses, and even some today, focus on the biographical relation between Plath’s mental illness and her work—reading her poetry through the lens of confessional poetry. However, I will focus solely on analysis of the literary craft and function of her poems, without influence on biographical context. I will argue that a major theme in this poetry collection is alienation, which is brought to life through utilization of grotesque images. Alienation has various causes, depending on each of the speakers’ situations. Fear of death or disconnect from a particular “role” imposed upon by societal expectations are a few reasons behind feelings of alienation. Plath’s speakers use grotesque language as a dialect of alienated individuals. To the readers, the grotesque images tend to provoke shock and threaten their comfort zones—in a way, showing the readers how alienation feels. Plath’s utilization of grotesque language is a way in which the speakers can communicate the nature of alienation, its functions, and its aesthetic and philosophical implications and complexities.

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Tuesday April 24, 2018 9:20am - 9:40am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

9:40am PDT

Fantasies Of The Psyche: The Schizophrenic Reality Of Dr. Thompson And The 1972 Presidential Campaign
Humanitarian instinct and caustic vitriol—armed language in an armed world—war abroad and delusions of peace at home. In 1971 the political entities for Hunter S. Thompson expressed the cosmic duality in the individual, the national character, and of the conscience of voters. His coverage of the 1972 Presidential Election Campaign was the least professional and most accurate portrayal of that particular political vortex. Examining the transformations of society into beasts Thompson looks at individual behavior with a primordial imagination. His irrepressible confrontations with fear illuminate insights about governing powers, and for the masses who imbibe them. As the central character in his own story Thompson relates with excessive fantasy and detail American culture in the infancy of the 1970’s. Both Democratic and Republican nominees are vying for peace, but what shadows lie between that idea and the reality? For whom does the bell toll? Thompson’s irrepressible satire explores vice and virtue by projecting the jester, clown, and trickster persona into his non-fictive narrative. The self-stigmatized patriot writes to shock, and readers recognize the fallacies in Washington and media outlets through Thompson’s inveterate and empathic sense for experience. Always writing from the place of instinct Thompson naturally weaves primitive thought and contemporaneity into episodic adventures spanning the course of the Democratic primaries. My treatment of Thompson’s story explores his literary form through a comparative approach, and as a way to structure the vastly strange details of his writing mind. Psychotic and grotesque, mirroring the carnival of American life, but always driven by an insatiable concern for polity Thompson delivers a seminal work on life, liberty, and the savage pursuit of happiness.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 9:40am - 10:00am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

10:15am PDT

"The Fog Is Very Dense, Indeed:" Oppressive Forces In Charles Dickens's Bleak House
The Court of Chancery in Charles Dickens’ 1853 novel Bleak House is an omnipresent and malicious force whose presence is felt in every aspect of the novel. The literal fog that Dickens uses to represent its malignant influence is spread thickly over London throughout the novel, and the court’s methods of enforcing its status are varied and incredibly powerful. The characters in the novel all struggle against these forces that the court employs, to varying degrees of individual success, but no matter their personal victories or failures the court is left utterly untouched, its influence as powerful as ever. The court’s web of influence encompasses almost the whole world of the novel, and virtually all of the characters are tied to it in some way—and the court, throughout, uses the forces under its control to strictly enforce the class divisions that are required for its continued power. As the fog of the court spreads, however, the people oppressed by these forces are blinded to their true nature. I will address how these forces, in particular the Detective force, are cast as morally pure institutions whose purpose is to provide validation for the Court system, while also enforcing the strict class segregation that is required for the Court to retain its power.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 10:15am - 10:35am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

10:35am PDT

The Development Of Identity In Tillie Olsen's Yonnondio: From The Thirties
In 1974, Tillie Olsen published Yonnondio: From the Thirties, an unfinished novel she had written forty years earlier. The unusual circumstances of the novel’s publication, Olsen’s choice not to revise the manuscript that was recovered, and the lack of an intentional ending have been criticized by some scholars. However, the novel’s fragmentation serves to describe the mindset of Olsen’s characters who are experiencing extreme poverty. Focusing on the character of Mazie specifically, this thesis traces her experiences as she enters early adolescence and struggles to comprehend violence and injustice in the world around her. While the family becomes increasingly ensconced in industrial labor systems, Mazie goes through intense delirium and daydreams as an attempt to escape her situation and process traumatic experiences. However, Olsen indicates that Mazie cannot escape the insidious poverty that permeates the Holbrook’s family life, leading the reader to understand that Mazie’s life will follow the same path of her mother, Anna. While characters like Mazie emphasize the importance of the struggle to develop autonomy and individuality, Olsen also indicates their need for a supportive community. Ultimately, Olsen’s novel indicates that the only feasible way to escape the degrading conditions of capitalism is through the development of a collective class consciousness. In a distinctly proletariat work, Olsen gives a multi-faceted description of the nature of poverty and sexism in characters who are both realistic and sympathetic individuals, as well as representations of their class.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 10:35am - 10:55am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

10:55am PDT

Thoughtful Laughter: Satire And Fantasy As Social Commentary In Terry Pratchett's Discworld
Historically, literary scholars typify the fantasy genre as little more than escapism, allowing audiences to put down their briefcases and pick up a broadsword. Satire is generally more palatable, less of a broadsword and more of a rapier, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the all-too comfortable. British fantasy author Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series wields one in each hand, creating a unique “jokes and daggers” world of hilarious hijinks and sobering social commentary. Pratchett’s work is also a major seat of contention as it is both critically acclaimed and dismissed for the debated literary merit of the fantasy genre. Common discourses include Pratchett’s pairing of “low-brow” humour and social critique, and the depth and purpose of his characters in their comedic, satirical setting. The objective of this paper is to examine Pratchett’s particular platform of fantasy and satire from which social criticisms are voiced, with specific focus given to the role one of his most popular characters, Death, plays in this commentary. A non-human, anthropomorphic personification of the act of dying, Death provides a unique outsider’s perspective of humanity. While the Discworld is populated with a number of fascinating non-human entities (such as The Luggage, a sentient trunk both fiercely loyal and eerily homicidal), Death possesses a certain grandfatherly fascination and fondness towards humans; the conflation of Death’s purpose and his personality manifests as an unmistakably Horatian satirical voice. Thus, Pratchett’s manipulations of fantasy and satirical conventions create meaningful dialogue with his audience about belief, identity, and duty (and moral obligation) through Death. Pratchett exemplifies the progressive potential of the fantasy genre, using complex interplay between the “real” and “unreal” to successfully enable his audience to both recognize and question ideological superstructures.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 10:55am - 11:15am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

11:15am PDT

“A Positive Failure”: Holy Foolishness, Paradox, And Narrative In Dostoevsky’s The Idiot
This project addresses the Eastern Orthodox cultural phenomenon of the holy fool and how it functions paradoxically in the narrative of The Idiot, which is often regarded as Dostoevsky's most bizarre and difficult novel. The purpose of holy fool is to provide a Christian ideal of provocative goodness in a society otherwise dominated by lust and greed. The novel’s titular character, Prince Myshkin, attempts to fulfil the religious identity of the holy fool, but ultimately fails in view of the novel’s tragic ending. This seemingly unredemptive ending informs the critical reception of the novel as a failure. However, Myshkin’s failure was intended by Dostoevsky from the beginning and is, I will argue, the conflict meant to engage its readers in an interpretative exercise to consider the compatibility of spirituality and the competing secular egoisms of 19th century Russia. This interpretative exercise also goes beyond 19th century Russia by causing the reader to rethink the definitions of illness, idiocy, and sanctity.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 11:15am - 11:35am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

11:35am PDT

Pixelated Faces In IRL (In Real Life) Places: Exploring How “Textese” In Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today Builds Community Among Confessional Women Writers
Published in 2016 shortly after she revealed herself as the author behind the popular @SoSadToday Twitter account, So Sad Today is a collection of personal and confessional essays by poet and essayist, Melissa Broder. With a focus on highlighting autobiographical topics such as her struggle with mental illness, the impact of casual sex on her understanding of love, and the crippling existential dread that permeates her everyday life, Broder uses “textese” – or texting language – in So Sad Today to write about the intimate details of her life. The ways in which she employs textese resonates with a broad audience but especially with millennials who are familiar with technology-related language trends that continue to evolve with digital innovations. In interviews, Broder has commented on the influence confessional writers, including Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, have had on her work; certainly readers familiar with the history of confessional literature can see how Broder’s work fits into that history. Broder has said that Plath and Sexton “weren’t afraid to bring emotion into poetry, and they showed the weave between darkness and light.” Yet Broder’s use of textese sets her collection apart from other works of confessional literature, and this thesis examines how the incorporation of this developing language trend opens a space not only for readers but also for aspiring women writers in particular who might want to use a similar technique to write about difficult life experiences. By applying reader-response criticism and reception theory to Broder’s work, this thesis contends that the digital era is ushering in a new kind of confessional literature, one that in some ways is even more welcoming to those who might otherwise have difficulty giving voice to their stories, all the while acknowledging that such digital access is not ubiquitous.

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Tuesday April 24, 2018 11:35am - 11:55am PDT
232 Karpen Hall

1:00pm PDT

Criticizing P.G. Wodehouse: A Reconsideration Of The "Performing Flea”
During the 20th century, British novelist and humorist Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (P.G. Wodehouse) attained tremendous popularity both in Great Britain and America. Even today, his characters Psmith, Jeeves, and Bertie Wooster are recognizable and oft-quoted. Wodehouse’s work, however, is rarely a popular topic of discussion in critical circles. His contemporaries, specifically, afford Wodehouse very little serious critical attention. And while noted authors and critics such as George Orwell are lavish in their praise of Wodehouse’s technical abilities as a writer, most fail to acknowledge Wodehouse as socially or culturally relevant. What was it about Wodehouse’s work that so bothered the earliest critics? My essay contextualizes this antagonistic posture within the 20th-century academic discourse on the “culture industry,” a body of criticism which discusses the detrimental effects of mass-produced (and implicitly popular) media on the society which consumes it. Many participants in the culture industry discussion espouse a notion that the purpose of popular media is to perpetuate and further solidify the influence of the wealthy elite over the masses. These critics argue that the output of the culture industry serves to protect a “status quo.” Using the Wooster novels—Wodehouse’s most popular series—I counter that popular authors, like their highbrow counterparts, challenge societal values and institutions effectively, if not overtly. Specifically, my essay looks at Wodehouse’s commentary on feminism and class toward an understanding of how popular authors appease their readers while simultaneously challenging their deepest beliefs.

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Tuesday April 24, 2018 1:00pm - 1:20pm PDT
232 Karpen Hall

1:20pm PDT

The Struggle To Survive And Thrive In Emma Donoghue’s ROOM
In her 2010 psychological novel ROOM, Canadian-Irish author Emma Donoghue utilizes a child narrator to reveal the psychological complexities of trauma and recovery. ROOM tells the story of five-year-old Jack, along with his mother “Ma,” who is being held captive in an outbuilding by a man only referred to as Old Nick. Donoghue considers the role gender in the novel in conjunction with the difference between what Jack learns throughout his journey about life outside of Room and what readers learn through Jack about the duo’s despondent circumstances. Through depth of tragedy and the various elements that allow Jack to flourish but also inhibit his healthy growth, ROOM lends itself to various psychological readings that focus on the process of healing. The purpose of this paper is to explore how Jack’s wide-eyed innocence and curiosity about the outside world he knows nothing about affects his psychological, physical, and emotional development. It will also pinpoint the various characteristics of psychological literature, referencing psychoanalyst Dr. Esther Rashkin and other genre specialists to compare ROOM to texts of similar topics.

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Tuesday April 24, 2018 1:20pm - 1:40pm PDT
232 Karpen Hall

1:40pm PDT

Stepping Into The Right Picture: Developing Personal Vision In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
Critics have long noticed Charlotte Bronte’s protagonist, Jane Eyre, for exhibiting a stellar sense of agency as the writer of her own story. The novel uses the realistic genre of autobiography for framing its fiction. By doing this, Bronte invites readers to identify with Jane’s story as a real tale of trial and triumph. Opinions regarding this triumph have centered on Jane’s desire for equality and how she achieves this by modeling others, seeking vocation, creating a personal view of religion, and wielding conversation. Less discussed is the way Jane views her surroundings through the lens of art and books. As both a reader and a visual artist, the themes of sight develop in this character leading to a strong sense of self and an equally strong picture of the world she wants to inhabit. These standards allow her to resist attempts by patriarchal constructs to subjugate her. Rather than use force or manipulation to alter undesirable situations; she leaves them. Like the paintings she renders, Jane forms her own views of spirituality, justice, equality, and morality. With her mind’s eye she learns to recognize the best picture of what is right and steps into these frames. Not only does Jane’s example provide a vision for Victorian women to rise above the constraints of that era, but her example gives all generations a model for creating and adhering to a personal vision.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 1:40pm - 2:00pm PDT
232 Karpen Hall

2:00pm PDT

A Literary Examination Of The Molding Of Identity And Community Responsibility In Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar’s hip-hop album, To Pimp a Butterfly, works as a continuation of black poetic literary traditions and its uses to document the Black American experience. Lamar’s documentation of Black experience comes in the form of hip-hop music, a tool used to communicate black condition, frustration, and cultural power since the 1970s. For my thesis, I will explore how Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly conveys emotion and experience to the audience and his fusion of poetry and performance aspects of hip-hop. Lamar explicates his own personal narrative in To Pimp a Butterfly as he deals with battles in identity, depression, and a sometimes hopeless search to resolve the issues that plague not only himself, but the community he speaks for. Furthermore, I will also examine the importance of thematic principles like survivor’s guilt and redemption, diaspora, and racial disparity in To Pimp a Butterfly and how they are based in the regionalism of Lamar’s hometown of Compton, California. As well as, how these themes expand across the album, growing deeper as Lamar’s personal relationship with them becomes more complex and harder to resolve. To Pimp a Butterfly works as not only a hip-hop piece but utilizes the most basic makeup of the genre, poetry, to convey a continual process of self discovery that is added upon throughout every track. This is done through epiphanic moments that mark the growing understanding of Lamar’s own identity and his own lack of agency’s connection to the impoverished, chaotic state that his home community of Compton lives in.

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Tuesday April 24, 2018 2:00pm - 2:20pm PDT
232 Karpen Hall

2:20pm PDT

“Turdy-Facy-Nasty-Paty-Lousy-Fartical Rogues:” Mountebanks And Alchemists In Ben Jonson’s Volpone And The Alchemist
Is it possible for art and writing to be morally curative while simultaneously generating profit for the artist? This is an ever relevant question to ponder, and one this presentation will examine through the lens of two of the plays of Ben Jonson, an early seventeenth century playwright and younger contemporary of Shakespeare. Throughout Jonson’s life, he had a fraught and ever-changing relationship with and understanding of his own role in the literary market in which he was constantly torn between popular theatre and the patronage based system of writing epigrams and masques for the court. During his literary career, he discovered and frequently returned to the intersection of medicine and literature. Satire has often been thought of as a curative enterprise, and Jonson believes that his duty as healer of the mind and soul is directly analogous to a doctor’s duty as healer of the body. One of the manifestations of this connection is the appearance of fraudulent doctors, a mountebank and an alchemist, in two plays of the quartet that are often considered his best comedies, Volpone and The Alchemist. This presentation will argue that Jonson’s use of these figures allows him to work through the complications and challenges of his own relationship with satire, his audience, and the literary marketplace, as well as that of the playwright more generally.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 2:20pm - 2:40pm PDT
232 Karpen Hall

2:45pm PDT

Ishmael As Guide To The Reader In The Hunt For The Great White Whale
Moby Dick, published in 1851, is an allegorical novel about a whale hunt in which Herman Melville makes unique use of a first person narrator, a young sailor named Ishmael. Though Ishmael is the only narrator of the story, his presence fluctuates so that at times he ceases to bring awareness to himself as part of the narrative for entire chapters. He does this by omitting personal language or pronouns, and sometimes describes scenes he is not a part of at all. Ishmael introduces the reader to the facts of the narrative, and provides background information as well as philosophical guidance for the reader. In these scenes when he disappears as a character in the physical text, he does not cease to exist because he has created a bond with the reader as the sole narrator of the story. When Melville removes Ishmael from parts of the novel, Ishmael steps outside of the narrative, but by continuing to narrate, he implies that he, too, is observing the story as a reader or an audience member. In this way, Ishmael aligns himself with the reader, creating a closer bond between himself and his reader. This serves to draw the reader into the novel more intimately, and the way in which it is executed also serves to guide the reader in understanding the allegorical aspects of the novel. Melville’s creative use of narrator helps his reader to navigate the philosophy of man and nature discussed in the novel through the story of the hunt for a legendary whale.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 2:45pm - 3:05pm PDT
232 Karpen Hall