Relevant Degree Programs
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (2008-2018)
My dissertation examines white masculine anxieties compelled by death and violence in Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985), Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho (1991), Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club (1996), and Philip Roth’s American Pastoral (1997). A close reading of the four novels in tandem reveals important dynamics of a subgenre of American masculinist fiction in a period of rapid technological change. The novels represent the travails of white male protagonists whose "occupational spheres," comprising jobs, domestic spaces and recreational pursuits, are meant to protect them from undesirable threats and the dread of death. I argue that these protagonists, who are immersed in their respective occupational spheres, do not comprehend the complex violence in which their occupations implicate them, nor do they appreciate the impossibility of insulating their “interior” simulated habitats from the supposedly toxic “outside” worlds that surround them. In the first chapter, I analyze Don DeLillo’s White Noise, which I claim inaugurates the subgenre of American fiction to which all four novels belong, and I conclude that the protagonist, Jack Gladney, is caught up in a cycle of "re-mediation." His efforts to remedy his ills are only remediated into a medial milieu that further undermines his agency. In the second chapter, I examine American Psycho and track Patrick Bateman’s occupational sphere, which manifests the classed, raced, and sexualized systemic violence of Wall Street finance. The third chapter on Fight Club explores the anonymous narrator’s violent occupation as an actuarial risk analyst for a major automotive manufacturer. The last chapter, on American Pastoral, analyzes the insidious violence of the protagonist Seymour Levov’s occupation as a glove-manufacturing entrepreneur and seeming-apogee of the Jewish American dream of white assimilation. This dissertation project is partly an intervention in DeLillo, Easton Ellis, Palahniuk, and Roth criticism, much of which is still atavistically stuck in a pre-digital moment. By and large, the existing criticism, I contend, does not pay enough attention to the densely-mediated environments inhabited by the novels’ protagonists. My engagement with these novels draws upon rhetorical analysis, genre theory, psychoanalysis, critical race theory, gender studies, and new media studies.
Overview: This dissertation proposes that certain texts, positioned para-canonically at ambiguous thresholds of valuation, insistently infract on what Roland Barthes would term the “mythologies” of literary canons. While functioning as paracanonic, texts are anti-emblems of privileged aesthetic certainty, metonymic of the wide range of exclusions (literary and historical) that are the actual social cost of canonic value. Rooted in Dialogism (the Marxist “philosophy of language” of the Bakhtin circle) and materialist assumptions about literary value as a contingent social process and function, Paracanonic Activities draws extensively on findings in current linguistics research centred on of the production, reception and interpretation of speech. This area of empirical inquiry extends, substantiates, and often vindicates, concepts that remain notional in Dialogism; together they provide productive means (concepts and concrete findings) for a fresh investigation into the conditions of literary discourse and the social production of aesthetic value. Method, Outline and Primary Texts: Chapter One: Introduction revisits canon debates since the 1960s, to trace the contour of canon mythology. It then brings forward a pair of contrasting paracanonic case-histories – William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Aimé Césaire’s Soleil cou coupé – to inventory some of the necessary-but-insufficient conditions (including social-historical contexts and textual features) that contribute to a text’s positioning as paracanonic. Each substantive chapter applies a frame crucial to both Dialogism and the linguistics of interaction, in order to sift a wide range of intertextually related texts for discourse-effects that are signatures of paracanonic acti vity. Chapter Two, “Anti-languages,” is a dual-language paracanonic case-history of François Villon, traced through literary responses to his core work, and to the attributed poems composed in criminal argot – themselves paracanonic to Villon. Chapter Three, “Ambivalence and Reported Speech,” reads through Titus Andronicus, Ovid, Kathy Acker and Antonin Artaud. Chapter Four, “Unhappy Laughter,” reads through Petronius Arbiter’s Satyrica, C.R. Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer, H.P. Lovecraft’s “In the Walls of Eryx” and Aimé Césaire’s verse-drama Et les chiens se taisaient. Contribution: Paracanonicity, as a value-function, has been attested in various terms before, yet remains otherwise undescribed in its specificity as an “indivisible remainder” of all processes of canon-formation.
Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
This thesis examines how Vietnamese refugee families are perceived through visual frames and memories, and in particular how 1.5 or second generation Vietnamese refugee narratives are frequently characterized by the presence of intergenerational conflict. I consider the ways in which two texts, lê thi diem thúy’s the gangster we are looking for and Truong Tran’s dust and conscience, aesthetically reconstruct the ideological family space through the lens of Marianne Hirsch’s concept of postmemory. In the gangster we are all looking for, visual configurations of postmemory invite readers to look at intergenerational conflict through the affiliative histories of post-war trauma, displacement, state oppression, and filial debt. In dust and conscience, affiliative ways of looking redefine fraught filial interactions as performative acts rather than prescriptive ones. By presenting alternative ways of looking at families, these texts challenge normative filial structures, and instead advocate for ambivalent forms of belonging to a family or nation.
This thesis examines the way in which the racialized immigrant engages with the modern global city in two recent novels: Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland (2008) and Teju Cole’s Open City(2011). Both texts take post-9/11 New York City as a landscape that focalizes concerns of mobility, race, and the city. I argue that these novels suggest that the ways in which the racialized immigrant interact with the city are shaped by different forms of mobility, and that these reveal different possibilities for a critique of the city as a site of modernity. It is argued that while Netherland ultimately affirms a conservative understanding of race in the post-9/11 city, Open City focuses on a moral ambiguity that allows for a radical critique of the metropole through its engagement with race, history, and the flaneur.
This thesis analyzes the screenplays written by Canadian experimental poet bpNichol for the Jim Henson produced children’s television program Fraggle Rock between 1982 and 1986. Nichol’s Fraggle Rock writing represents a moment in his multi-genre oeuvre at which to observe his poetics and creative philosophies on display in a popular cultural setting. The ludic poetics exhibited in both the form and narratives of the screenplays display the ways in which playful engagement with language may create interactive communities of play. Through shared attitudes towards language, language games, nonsense, and absurdity, play and play communities emerge as a preoccupation of Nichol’s work within the Fraggle Rock narrative constraints, and links them with hispoetry and poetics. To explore Nichol’s specific figuring of play, this thesis surveys theories of play from diverse theoretical backgrounds to develop a ludic model based in player-to-player relationships and communication. It also analyzes canonical treatments of play to mark off the concerns of the current study, and address the ambiguities of the term. Nichol’s Fraggle Rock screenplays employ song, language, and poetry as forms of community experience and engagement that foster play relationships, and allowindividuals to collectively manipulate the forms of their communication. These language games and language play constitute the Fraggle world of Nichol’s episodes and highlight the play community as a paracosm based in shared manipulation of communicative conventions. Further, this thesis analyzes the ”pataphysical elements of the Fraggle Rock play community in Nichol’s episodes, and how these provide a playfully creative and critical angle with which to view the normative “human” world.