Sandra Tomc


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

The daemonology of unplumbed space: weird fiction, disgust, and the aesthetics of the unthinkable (2017)

“The Daemonology of Unplumbed Space: Weird Fiction, Disgust, and the Aesthetics of the Unthinkable” explores the aesthetic and metaphysical significance of disgust in weird fiction. Beginning with the weird’s forefather, Edgar Allan Poe, the study traces the twisted entanglement of metaphysics, aesthetics, affect, and weird fiction through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, considering along the way the myriad attempts of authors such as Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and H.P. Lovecraft to stage encounters with the unthinkable. Drawing on recent philosophical efforts to reinvigorate metaphysical thought – including speculative realism and new materialism – as well as affect theory, the dissertation argues that in contrast with earlier Gothic writers, whose focus on sublime aesthetic experience reified the importance and power of the human subject and entertained fantasies of spiritual transcendence, authors of weird fiction exploit the viscerality of disgust to confront readers with the impermanence and instability of a subject polluted by nonhuman forces which seep into it from the world around it. In doing so, weird fiction helps us to think about the nature of this queasy, nonhuman world, to glimpse an existence beyond the world merely as it appears to us. By investigating the intertwinement of the aesthetics of disgust and metaphysical speculation about the nonhuman world, the dissertation expands our understanding of weird fiction and the study of affect in literature. It thus contributes to a growing understanding of weird fiction as more than a pulp, essentially commercial genre, rather interpreting the weird as literature of ecstatic yearning for a non-anthropocentric reality, literature which dwells on questions of being, becoming, and the ultimate nature of the universe.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

After couture: crisis, collapse, and the future of fashion (2021)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

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Monstrous progeny: revisiting Mary Shelley's creature in Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2020)

Frankenstein’s Creature is the ultimate adaptation. Not only does he adapt mankind’s behavior and appearance, but it he is a literal collection of parts strung together and brought to life. It unsurprising that this position has encouraged filmmakers to further deconstruct and restore the Creature for decades. The process of adaptation mirrors Frankenstein’s method, as both Victor and the adaptation genre take apart old and decaying bodies and introduce them into new bodies of work. For figures like Guillermo del Toro, a renowned monster maker and film director, the Creature represents the definitive union of cinema and literature. Like Victor, del Toro is interested in collecting parts from previous media and creating new cinematic bodies. His projects thus focus on the overlap between real and unreal, literature and cinema, living and dead. A pivotal example of this is his 2006 Pan’s Labyrinth, which indirectly extends Shelley’s Creature both thematically and compositionally. Because del Toro treats his film as a body, one which can be divided and cut, he incorporates Victor’s principles into the filmmaking process. I am interested in the ways in which del Toro’s fascination with Mary Shelley’s 1818 text, and its later 1931 film adaptation by James Whale, influences his understanding of film. I suggest that del Toro’s Pan creates an ambiguous and liminal environment, where the boundaries between real and unreal overlap. Because the film juxtaposes its fantasy realm with fascism, it suggests that fascism corrupts the very foundations of imagination, making fairy tales political, and vice versa. I continue this discussion by suggesting that Pan’s liminal emphasis represents a broader engagement with overlapping parts, those which the Frankenstein narrative emphasizes. My first chapter focuses on the overlap between ideology and fantasy, the second on the adaptation genre, and the third details the female body, one who is frequently dissected and repurposed by these texts and the adaptation process. I do so to illustrate how the Creature’s body informs both del Toro’s subject and approach to filmmaking.

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The medium is the massacre: broadcasting from the apocalypse in The War of the Worlds (2018)

In this thesis, I discuss the 1938 radio play The War of the Worlds, analyzing the circumstances of its broadcast, its representation of apocalypse, and its manipulation of the medium of radio through its form of a simulated news program. I propose that the immediate hysteria it caused and the enduring anxieties it left were because of its medium more than any verisimilitude achieved in its tired and recycled narrative of Martian invasion. I consider qualities of radio as a telecommunicative and single-sensory medium, the demands of apocalyptic representation, and how the broadcast manipulated these qualities of radio to satisfy these representational demands, thus portraying an account of simulated apocalypse that was, on a formal and medial level, indistinguishable from a real one over the radio. Borrowing from the work of Richard Berger, I discuss how apocalyptic representation must occur immediately and immanently with the apocalypse itself; that is, the representation must be separated neither by time nor space with what it represents, right until the annihilating end. While many media cannot facilitate these demands of apocalyptic representation, instead reverting to prophetic or post-apocalyptic representation, I suggest that telecommunicative media are able to navigate the demands of truly apocalyptic representation through their overcoming of spatial separation and temporal delay. Working with the theory of Andrew Crisell, I consider the single-sensory nature of the medium of radio, and its propensity to render real and imaginary events indistinguishable. As a purely acoustic medium, radio necessarily incites an indexical process while simultaneously prohibiting its completion. Because radio prohibits the ability to index a sound with a particular source, and its specific temporal and spatial location, it creates a level playing field for reality and simulation where the two cannot be differentiated. As such, broadcast sounds become untethered from their particular source, ungrounded in time, space, and even reality. Thus, War was able to represent a simulated apocalypse indiscernible from a real one because of the single-sensory nature of radio, and satisfy the demands of apocalyptic representation with the immanency and immediacy inherent to the telecommunicative medium of its broadcast.

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