Relevant Thesis-Based 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.
This dissertation offers an analysis of spatial tropes, amounting to an explication of geographic symbolism in allegorical narratives. In the past, the genre-defining trope of allegory has overwhelmingly been personification, which involves metaphors of psychic interiority or abstraction made into characters. However, topographical metaphors are at least as frequent and arguably as prominent in these stories. If allegory is best defined as extended metaphor, the key trope of these stories involves spatial extension for the metaphor of the way or the road in these narratives, with their various sites of instruction and conflict. This work of research proposes and analyzes seven morphogenetic topologies in allegorical narratives: 1) the use of abstract labels for places, 2) distribution of the fragments of a self throughout a series of places indicating psychic inflection in landscape, 3) references to the “book of nature” in tandem with narrative moments or digressions for the application of hermeneutical methods to topographical structures, 4) indexical symmetries or contraventions of normal spatial scale (mimesis), 5) the tying of abstract topic to differentiated topography, 6) the embodiment in space of significative temporalities, 7) and spatial disorientation vis-à-vis gestures toward a sub specie aeternitatis. The basis for these tropes can be found in habits of mind developed in allegorical interpretations of epics and the Bible, cosmological encyclopedias and medieval works of De Natura Rerum, as well as arts of memory. This dissertation also aims to show that although allegorical works constantly subvert “realism”, they still reveal intense interest in “local”, “literal”, and “historical” concerns of a topographical or architectural nature. A majority of the analysis of this dissertation is done in primary consideration of several key authors (William Langland, Stephen Hawes, Edmund Spenser, and John Bunyan), whose works represent different instantiations of allegory in the Late Medieval and Early Modern eras.
Erasmus’s Renaissance humanist grammatical hermeneutics changed the way theology was conceived and practiced. The literary critical resources Erasmus brought to theology from the study of the classical poets, however, were not only powerful agents of change within Reformation theology. They were also retrieved for poetry by early modern authors. Key Erasmian concepts and perspectives relating to both bonae litterae and sacrae litterae as well as to secular pedagogy and rhetorical theology were assimilated by English culture and provided important foundational elements within the early modern prophetic poetics of Edmund Spenser and John Milton. Careful consideration of the manner in which these Erasmian concepts and perspectives were integrated into Spenser and Milton’s understandings of both poetry and the poetic vocation provides important insight into the complex theological dimensions of these poets’ work—particularly into the workings and significance of a number of Spenser and Milton’s most challenging religious figures and into the prophetic claims related to their mimetic production.
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.
My thesis investigates how early modern women authors Aemilia Lanyer and Lady Mary Wroth cultivate an alliance with trees to empower themselves as writers entering a heretofore male-dominated literary tradition. Yet it simultaneously explores the shortcomings of an idealized ecofeminist approach to women’s relationships with oaks, ashes, beeches, and willows, for Lanyer’s and Wroth’s representations of arboreal shelter in “The Description of Cooke-ham” and Urania raise concerns about the anthropocentrism and violence underlying the female writer’s intensely affective connection to the natural landscape. Trees also mark a significant intersection of gender and race in Lanyer’s country-house poem and Wroth’s prose romance and an intersectional reading of their work, which recognizes the importance of analyzing gender alongside race, illuminates how women writers enlist trees in the protection and valorization of fair female complexions. Lanyer and Wroth rely on the forest canopy to shelter women from sexual violence, bodily injury, sunburn, and black skin—dangers they perceived as inextricably linked. According to the contemporary humoral understanding of the body, moreover, the woman writer’s own melancholic disposition jeopardizes her paleness, a threat once again neutralized by her strategic use of the woods. In both Lanyer and Wroth, the female poet composes verse on or about trees which ensures that her inner blackness manifests not on her own skin, but on the epidermis of the tree, its bark. The darkened trees stand as proof of the cruelty and destruction inherent in her sympathetic connection to nature and ultimately perpetuate a false assumption that black flesh visually signifies mistreatment of the body—whether human or arboreal. The vilification of black skin as evidence of deformation and damage exalts the figure of the fair female writer to the exclusion of her darker sisters.
In the first invocation of Paradise Lost, God is depicted as impregnating Chaos with the seed of a world, suggesting an intricate connection between the creation of the cosmos and reproduction. Yet, despite the acknowledgement of many critics such as Neil Forsyth that “one of the most original ideas in Paradise Lost is Chaos” (77), there seems to be little scholarship that closely explores the relationship between Chaos, impregnation, and creation. If God is impregnating the abyss, the abyss must be feminized in some way. This thesis considers the ways Milton feminizes Chaos as a space and argues that Paradise Lost presents a complicated and often inconsistent attempt to appropriate the language of reproduction and the female body in order to gender Chaos and the multiverse. Focusing on the female womb, and the culturally generated traits such as leakiness and double-formedness associated with the female body, Milton depicts a deterritorialized, grotesque cosmos where the boundaries and distinctions between Heavenly and Hellish spaces and bodies are muddled and intertwined. Inside this grotesque multiverse, Chaos becomes a kind of feminine Goddess who gives birth to the universes alongside God and the various cosmic spaces and bodies take on a more mutable nature unbounded by the strict laws of the body. Yet Milton also seems to affirm some hierarchies between masculinity and femininity that are prevalent during his time by suggesting that the masculine aspects of his cosmos (i.e. God) are sometimes more significant than their feminine counterparts (i.e. Chaos). Furthermore, the epic also seems to accept some of the cultural characteristics that demonize the female body by presenting it as monstrous, feeble, and incorrigible in addition to acknowledging its subversive, generative and transformative nature. In the end, by delving into the seemingly inconsistent, conflicting ways in which the cosmic spaces of Paradise Lost are gendered as well as examining Milton’s complicated treatment of gendered bodies, this project illustrates that the very evidence of inconsistency and contradiction is the epic’s way to assert the spatially mutable and gender-fluid nature of the cosmos.
This thesis is concerned with the sequential nature of George Herbert’s The Temple. By engaging with this volume of poetry as a cohesive unit with structures that extend beyond any one poem, it is shown that that although Herbert’s poetry is richly productive, it is also limited and self-undermining, expressing the ultimately contingent nature of human art. The structures examined are of two kinds, dealt with in turn: first, those that are typographical and emerge from the physical presentation of Herbert’s poems on the pages of the first edition of 1633, and second, formal structures modelled by particular poems in the collection, which provide insight and reflection into the functioning of the whole. In the first category are poems that share common titles (“Love” (I), “Love” (II), “Love” (III), for example) as well as the particular arrangements of poems such as “Hope” and “Sinnes Round” on the page, which suggest connections and relationships between these poems that are not apparent when viewed individually or in the abstract. The second kind of feature examined is found in a wide variety of Herbert’s poems, and is the tendency of these poems to model particular kinds of reading practice that are applicable to the reading of The Temple itself. Poems such as “Prayer” (I) and “The Sacrifice” exhibit modes of accumulation and revision that suggest how multiple poems may be combined to produce larger structures of meaning, while poems such as “The Flower” and “The Pulley” demonstrate how such structures are necessarily incomplete and flawed. Finally, a turn to the poems “Vertue” and “Love” (III) explores how Herbert’s poetry engages with questions of finitude and conclusion.