Stephen Guy-Bray


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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.

Generation West: Hungarian Modernism and the Writers of the Nyugat Review (2010)

This dissertation examines how the Nyugat review played an essential role in the development of literary and cultural modernism in early twentieth century Hungary. My chief argument is that modern Hungarian literature and culture, under the auspices of Nyugat, are part of that Central European canon which had shaped some of the most influential literary and critical theories. The review nurtured over one-hundred and twenty writers, artists and intellectuals who left a lasting impact on Hungarian literature and culture. These authors are known as the Nyugat-generation, a term which I adopt as Generation West. They contributed to the journal in Budapest between 1908 and 1941. My dissertation focuses on three of the most important contributors to Nyugat: Margit Kaffka, Dezső Kosztolányi and Antal Szerb and their respective works, Colours and Years, Esti Kornél, and Journey by Moonlight. They exemplify their generations’ perspectives and illuminate the course of Nyugat over three distinct periods. Inspired by the modernist currents of Western Europe which they espoused, these writers along with other members of the Generation West experienced “in-betweenness,” a condition characterized by the values of the traditional and the modern, East and West, nation and the individual, and feudal and bourgeois, which marked and also fuelled their output. Nyugat has come to epitomize the experience of Hungarian identity expressed through the themes of nationhood, nostalgia and commemoration. To demonstrate the journal’s legacy in Hungary today, I conclude by analyzing the events of the Nyugat 100-year anniversary that took place in 2008. My dissertation tells the story of how a community of writers and artists from a small nation in East-Central Europe instituted a profound literary and cultural movement under the aegis of a journal. I consider my study a call for reworking models of literary and cultural history and for expanding existing epistemologies of modernism.

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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.

Rereading Romeo and Juliet in search of Shakespeare's queer theory (2023)

Queer theory has long been fascinated with Shakespeare’s works, finding in them a fruitful environment to investigate and question concepts of gender, sexuality, and identity. The Elizabethan period’s difference from our own, in terms of our heteronormativity versus an Elizabethan non-gender coded mode of desire, makes Shakespeare all the more suggestive in how his works force us to question the centring of and debates over our concepts of desire and sexuality. Despite these invitations to queer theoretical study, his works remain a highly unstable field, because Shakespeare’s Elizabethan rhetorical theory relies on concepts of antithesis, chiasma, and radically ironic dramatic strategies which constantly destabilize any theoretical hold scholars might gain on Shakespeare’s achievements. To shed light on this very instability, I deploy the theory of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Lee Edelman, foundational scholars of queer theory, through the lenses of both Lacanian psychology (Edelman’s lens of choice) and Shakespeare’s own dramatic rhetoric, including a medieval motif signifying Romeo as a pilgrim knight, to reread Romeo and Juliet in search of Shakespeare’s own achievements in representing the terms with which I began. In this way, I uncover homosocial structures of desire and psychological-linguistic significations of desire. Furthermore, I argue that Shakespeare figures desire through metaphor, the implication of which is that for metaphor to work, for meaning in the world to work, signification of any linguistic meaning must remain untethered from any attempt at fixing concrete understanding of words and meanings. The implications of my analysis are as follows: Juliet becomes, to use Edelman’s terminology, a sinthomosexual, that is, a signifier of queer instability that threatens the anthro-normative society of Shakespeare’s Verona; moreover, metaphor becomes, arguably, a signifier of Lacanian desire, if not dramatic poetic desire, for that for which it stands. On a structural level, then, comedy stands for tragedy. On a narrative level, Romeo stands for desire as dramatized by Shakespeare and at the centre of a flow of desire represented by Mercutio and Tybalt, who both, in some way, want to change metonymically, into Romeo. The instability that generates these results, is, I argue, Shakespeare’s queer theory.

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Touching the air of paradise lost: an investigation into air's instability (2022)

This paper traces how Milton characterizes the physically unphysical air of its world in two ways: put simply, physically and absurdly. It will serve as an interesting gateway to understanding the vitality of the very things that surround and incarcerate us. In an epic deeply rooted in the dichotomy between good and evil, how does the natural fit into such conflicts and distinctions? Is nature exploitable, or perhaps the only truly neutral force in a world where no one or thing else can be neutral? In the climate of Renaissance exploration and curiosity, Milton’s portrayal of the natural, agential world is particularly interesting. His treatment of air transcends the limiting bounds of tendency, typicality, and topicality; for Milton, air is a multifunctioning, multidimensional, tangible and yet wispy enigma. I will use that as a starting point to explore air as a force in the world of Paradise Lost, to examine the ways in which Milton uses and differs from Renaissance attitudes and understandings of air. His use of the concept of air in Paradise Lost is complex; it is clear that he is engaging with certain scientific ideas about air as a gas, but there is a tendency to give air unexpected properties of physicality, gender and power. This tension between standard ideas and unique modifications is what makes examining Milton’s usage of air such an interesting pursuit. While he was not the only seventeenth-century poet concerned with materiality, and more broadly vitality, his take is made unique by his abstract experimentation with and insistence for the multifaceted nature of nature: his treatment of nature far exceeds that of greenery and transcends the bounds of personification as it engages with metaphysical contemplations about an air that is both essential to life and has the ability to produce divine judgments, change colour, shape and size, act as a physical conduit for chemical and magical reactions, and be literally substantiated in the physical world.

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