Relevant Degree Programs
Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
This thesis traces the critical history of the term ‘auditory turn.’ Following Marshall McLuhan, I argue that the emergence of sound and sound-oriented concepts in Twentieth-Century literature and culture exemplifies a paradigm shift in the way a literary text operates. This shift affects not just literature but forms of literacy and literary analysis. By drawing on McLuhan’s notions like ‘the scandal of cubism’ and the ‘acoustic space’ as well as Walter Ong’s ‘secondary orality’ along with subsequent research in media and sound studies, I examine a group of selected works that manifest the idea of auditory text, a text characterized by performative sonority, aspiring to the condition of music. The thesis offers four ‘representative anecdotes’ of the ‘auditory turn’ in avant-garde and experimental literature, Gertrude Stein, Samuel Beckett, John Cage, and Frank Zappa, each of which is engaged in a separate chapter. Chapter 1 draws on the relationship between sound and presence and landscape as it applies to Stein’s ideas concerning composition and landscape theatre. Chapter 2 turns to selected short prose works of Beckett to demonstrate the attention to sound in the way in which the problem of voice as a marker of self preoccupies Beckett. Chapter 3 examines selected writings of John Cage that engage the problem of sound and voice both theoretically, as themes addressed critically, and in his practice of using voice as an instrument. Chapter 4 directs critical attention to Frank Zappa’s writings as well as musical compositions that explicitly engage the issue of sound, voice, and noise in popular culture. The four chapters help develop systematically the structural argument of the thesis concerning the interface of sound, text, and image, demonstrating this interface to manifest in three related ways, as composition, voice, and multitude (also referred to as peopling).
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
This thesis is a subcultural reading of Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco’s recording style. I examine how acoustic noise, crude production values, and do-it-yourself ethics exact symbolic and practical resistances to pop music hegemonies that privilege hi-fi sound and elite studio technologies. As an expression of what Dick Hebdige calls a “spectacular subculture,” I argue DeMarco’s self-taught recording style challenges technical standards in the recording arts, tastes underpinning the economy of popular music, and codes of masculinity in popular rock music. Borrowing from the work of Jacques Attali and Tony Grajeda, I explain how DeMarco’s “lo-fi” Makeout Videotape recordings use noise and distortion to symbolize and enact ruptures in procedural and aesthetic scripts that denounce non-professional music production. However, many of DeMarco’s other recordings are not decidedly lo-fi. Focusing on songs from Rock and Roll Nightclub and 2, I argue DeMarco also challenges lo-fi mythology as a form of resistance, using its crude DIY production technologies to instead create a more refined aesthetic, downplaying noise and distortion. Drawing from ideological and material histories of sound fidelity in the work of Friedrich Kittler and Jonathan Sterne, I argue DeMarco exposes what Sterne calls decompositionism, “a plurality of relationships to noise for engineers, for listeners, and for many others through the total disassembly of sound” (MP3 126). While privileging music production rooted in the quotidian, DeMarco maintains an ironic distance, often disavowing the importances of his work. Borrowing from Susan Sontag, I analyze how DeMarco engages “camp” style through sound reproduction, turning his sociopolitical disruptions into cultural satires that he is himself also implicated in. My overall aim is to examine, through DeMarco’s sound reproduction processes, how subcultural music styles can express and manifest their own alternative social codes and economies within pop music’s aesthetic and technological hegemonies.
Kathleen Jamie is a Scottish author whose work often details her travels through both the “natural and unnatural world” (Findings 1). Previous criticism has examined her work in the context of nature writing and Jamie has suggested that she writes “‘toward' the natural world” (“Author Statement”). Jamie also frequently represents herself as a tourist, travelling ‘toward’ different regions of the globe. I argue that Jamie’s writings as a tourist and as a naturalist are inextricably intertwined. The fusion of these two positions results in an approach that is self- reflexive and constantly reconsidering the limits of the human body in its connectedness to the world. Primarily, I examine the intersections between ecocriticism and tourism through an exploration of Jamie’s writings. I employ tourism theory, incorporating discourses of desire, imagination, and authentic connection, alongside ecological approaches that assess corporeal limits in the context of the natural world, and I do so to explore how the categorization of nature and culture affects our perceptions of other-than-human-world and the histories we write about it. I argue that her poetry and non-fiction map an ecocritical tourism that understands the complex dynamics of humanity’s failure to separate “the natural and unnatural world” as foundational to theories of ecotourism. This fusion of ecology and tourism maps an ecocritical form of tourism that reassesses the boundaries of culture and nature and, in doing so, emphasizes engagement, inquiry, and histories of shared vulnerability.
This thesis project uses the spatial theory of Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life to articulate an incipient delinquency in the movement of the superhero – in this case, The Batman – by examining three different serial runs of comic: the Golden Age pulp of the 1940s, Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Scott Snyder’s 2011 “Court of Owls” story arc. The attendant images of diegetic urban space are crucial to this analysis and, by examining the narratives imbued therein, offer a new approach to the superhero comic beyond mere historical referent.
This thesis explores Kendrick Lamar’s criticism of institutionalized racism in America and its damaging effects on African-American subjectivity on his albums Section.80, Good Kid M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly. The albums address the social implications of racism in the present day, throughout Lamar’s life and throughout the lives of his ancestors. In my analysis of Lamar’s albums, I address the history of American chattel slavery and its aftermath as a social system that privileges white over black. On the basis of my interpretation of the penultimate track on To Pimp a Butterfly, “i,” I propose a love ethic as a means through which the American social order can be changed. I take the term love ethic from Cornel West and bell hooks. A love ethic is a means through which individual bodies hurt by racism can be recognized and revalorized. Through the course of his three studio albums Lamar offers a narrative remediation of America’s discriminatory social order. In so doing, Lamar enacts the social change he wishes to see in America.
Voice in Text investigates the process of translation that occurs when transmitting oral stories into a written framework with the intention to bridge the gaps that exist between oral traditions and technological scholarship. This thesis explores the potential motives behind Robert Bringhurst’s retranslation of John Swanton’s Haida texts, Wendy Wickwire’s transcription of Harry Robinson’s stories onto the page, and War Party’s use of Hip Hop as an expression of Native identity. Translating (one culture into another and the spoken into the written) can be used as a tactic to reinscribe cultural priorities and also to enact resistance. A storyteller’s allowance of the transcription and translation of their stories can be read as a plea for a listening that functions cross-culturally, a listening in which we can gradually learn to hear the storyteller’s voice in a written context. I apply theories of hybridity and intersubjective approaches to listening in my investigation to uncover how the translator and storyteller engage in a cross-cultural mode of transformation. Because of the highly sensitive nature of translating First Nations literature into a European poetic context, as both Bringhurst and Wickwire do, I explore some of the debates surrounding cultural appropriation, as well as show how potential divergences between written and oral practices interact to question what constitutes a respectful rendering of another culture. In many cases, writing and orality can function within a unified synthesis that reflects the priorities of both mediums simultaneously. Ultimately, this project is intended to provide an ethical approach to listening, an approach that places responsibility on a reader’s own approach to a text, in order to show that a sensitive reading is itself a process that involves a highly dialogic and integral role in the process of uncovering a human voice in text.