Recent Submissions

  • Mad Futures Now: Avant-Garde Dishumanism in the Poetry of Claude Gauvreau, Hannah Weiner, and bill bissett

    McEwan, Andrew; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    This interdisciplinary dissertation puts the theories and aesthetics of avant-gardism into conversation with recent theories of mental disability arising from critical disability studies and madness studies. It does so in order to develop a critical approach that both expands literary disability studies' formal criticism, and provokes avant-garde theorization to reconsider some of its founding aestheticization and metaphorization of mental disability. Through a close analysis of the poetry and poetics of three North American avant-garde writers who have documented lived experiences of mental disability and ableist harm, including Claude Gauvreau (1925-1971), Hannah Weiner (1928-1977), and bill bissett (b. 1939), this dissertation analyzes the modes by which mentally disabled avant-garde poets integrated disruptive aesthetics with their lived experience. Through this analysis, this dissertation theorizes avant-garde dishumanist aesthetics and social critique. With critical attention to silenced narratives, a combined avant-garde dishumanism presents a complex temporality that acknowledges incompleteness, messiness, and the shifting critical positions of communicative relation in audiences of the present. Avant-garde dishumanist texts trouble normative and dominant ideologies for the purposes of creating experiences of future modes of relation and communication from located and embodied positions of disability. Avant-garde dishumanism finds form in a poetics of linguistic rupture and creation of a sense of more equitable futurity in poetry that resists, speaks back to, and reframes mental ableism. This dissertation ultimately argues for a literary disability studies approach informed by avant-garde poetics to both address the avant-garde's roots in mental ableism, and deepen disability studies' formal textual analysis.
  • Apprehending Stigma: Towards a Reparative Trauma-informed Decolonial Reading of HIV-related Stigma

    Long, Carmen; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    Applying a decolonial trauma-informed framework that brings together different disciplinary systems, this project investigates responses to the stigma associated with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the literary work of two Canadian and two South African writers. I approach the literary journalism of Stephanie Nolen and Jonny Steinberg and the novels of Tomson Highway and the late Phaswane Mpe as testimony in which Steinberg, Nolen and Mpe contest Western epistemologies and Highway foregrounds Indigenous knowledges. The four texts reframe stigma as operating within much larger systemic violences and operations of power than can be envisioned within a politics of recognition, indexed to the expository logic of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s paranoid position. Locating HIV-related stigma as emerging within the context of intergenerational collective trauma rooted in colonial violence makes possible the kind of reparative work that Sedgwick envisions, as well as an engagement with the infinite possibilities of encounter as an ethical response to this socially polarizing phenomenon that has proven so difficult to dislodge. Attentive to specific racialized and minoritized colonial histories, this project unravels the entanglement of events and conditions that coalesce around HIV in watershed moments when decolonial work collides with ongoing histories of colonial violence. Such a trauma-informed, decolonial lens offers a non-positivist framework to unsettle, potentially, the stasis of stigma reduction.
  • Rematerializing the Immaterial: A Comparative Study of Vancouver's Conceptual Art and Writing

    Polyck-O'Neill, Julia; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    Rematerializing the Immaterial: A Comparative Study of Vancouver’s Conceptual Art and Writing examines the contemporary situation of the Vancouver art world and addresses the twin schools of conceptualism in the city, the Vancouver School of photoconceptualism and the Kootenay School of Writing (KSW). The dissertation, which explores conceptual art’s impact on Vancouver’s cultural reputation broadly, brings visual art into conversation with conceptual writing and examines how specific definitions and ideas of and relating to conceptual art have shaped the discourse of conceptualism in Vancouver. As the title suggests, many of the ideas central to conceptual art and conceptualism implicate questions of materiality – particularly as American curator and art critic Lucy Lippard’s notion of “dematerialization” is concerned – and whether conceptualism is a material or intellectual enterprise. Drawing on the research and theorization of scholars such as Lippard, Leah Modigliani, Peter Osborne, Jeff Derksen, Jason Wiens, Scott Watson, Alexander Alberro, Kenneth Goldsmith, Caroline Bergvall, and Adrian Piper, I argue that Vancouver conceptualism is both materially and critically, intellectually engaged with the social, cultural, political, and economic histories and realities of Vancouver. Examining the creative and critical work of such artists and writers as Derksen, Stan Douglas, Fred Wah, Jeff Wall, and Lisa Robertson, I observe how, as a kind of critical- and often para-linguistic assemblage, these forces form a discernable poetics of Vancouver, incorporating art histories, criticism, formal conventions, ideas of and engagement with the archive, and impactful events in the city’s historical unfolding to shape the way Vancouver conceptualism circulates locally and internationally. By means of a reconsideration of Vancouver’s art world, including key artworks, poems, archives, and events, I seek to demonstrate how conceptualist photography and writing are complex and varied practices that engage at once with theory, art history, and social and cultural histories in the city.
  • Stretching the Vitruvian Man: Investigating Affective and Representational Arts-based Methodologies Towards Theorizing a More Humanistic Model of Medicine

    Couse, Candace; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    Westernized medicine can be said to illustrate its history and structure, as well as its current understanding of the capacity and appearance of the human through its visual representations of the body. Scientific images, this paper argues, become a site for interrogating the tangle of idealism, truth, objectivity and knowledge in how knowledge is actively used, replicated, paralleled and otherwise functions. First, asking how depictions of the medicalized body inform the epistemological foundations of medicine, and to what end, this work opens up the question of methodology, arguing that the integration of the modes of arts-based practices can bring medicine toward a much more realistic picture of the world. A parallel argument is a similarly concentrated interrogation of the affective quality of arts-based methodology, which is commonly understood to be the nucleus of work on the political dimensions of non-representational theory. I complicate the dominant scholarly preference for an ontologically rooted affect theory, finding it theoretically non-viable for art and humanistic medicine by thinking through subjectivity, autobiographical accounts of illness and epistemological flexibility. I see a path forward using a biologically and evolutionarily rooted affect theory, noting the ethical implications of its differences for a humanistic approach to medicine.
  • The Larger Stages: The 'Becoming Minor' of South African Theatres.

    Planche, Jill; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    ABSTRACT The Larger Stages: The Becoming ‘Minor’ of South African Theatres. By Jill Planche South Africa is layered with entangled histories that have created a fragile landscape of ambiguities where fractured memories are revealed yet remain concealed. The social architecture of apartheid still persists in a legacy of hostile urban geographies and land inequity, while global capitalism and economic disparity are seen in the dramatic contrast between the developing middle class and the poverty of millions. This research project interrogates the way in which contemporary theatre in South Africa is implicated in the country's complex cultural, economic and social realities. Pursuing rigorous qualitative research in the history, practice and criticism of South African theatre; contemporary studies in theatre spatiality; and philosophy, cultural theory and human geography, I explore precisely whose voices are being heard and which audiences are being reached. What role does – and might – theatre play in addressing South Africa’s socio-economic and artistic challenges, both as a barrier and a bridge to audiences? Drawing on the work of such thinkers as Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Rosi Braidotti and Achille Mbembe, can we anticipate what we might describe as a ‘minor’ theatre that will tell the stories that resonate twenty years after the end of apartheid? The term ‘minor’ refers to the Deleuzian concept of affirmative and dynamic processes to create new political subjects; processes of “becoming” that break from the fixed, proscribed “being,” which in the South African context has been created by centuries of colonialism and decades of state-imposed racial construction. Given the insights afforded by such theorization, I argue that the spaces of performance are potentially dynamic spaces of intersection within this landscape of layered socio-economic and artistic challenges created by a milieu of rooted physical and mental boundaries that have informed the country’s inherited theatrical practices.
  • The Cinematic Boogeyman: The Folkloric Roots of the Slasher Villain

    McGuiness, Kevin; Department of Philosophy
    This doctoral thesis complements earlier scholarship by Marina Warner concerning the Boogeyman as a figure representative of monstrosity and otherness by assessing these topics through an interdisciplinary lens. Employing a methodological approach that incorporates research from the fields of psychology, philosophy, and film studies, I analyse the Boogeyman within the context of the traditional fairytale and the modern horror film, and thereby reveal the key facets of this figure in the Western cultural imaginary. Specifically, I demonstrate that the villains of the contemporary slasher film (a subgenre of the horror film) are cinematic manifestations of the folkloric Boogeyman through a comparison of their physical and psychological attributes. Examining the archetypal properties of these characters, I argue that the traits that characterize the Boogeyman are the result of the fact that he is a composite of three archetypal forms: the collective Shadow, the Terrible Father, and the Death-Demon. I address three key questions: (1) what particular physical and psychological qualities are associated with the Boogeyman; (2) how the persona of the Boogeyman is constituted in the public consciousness; and (3) what moral, philosophical, and psychological role does he serve in Western culture. Over the course of this thesis, I demonstrate the fact that the Boogeyman represents the amalgamation of three archetypal components. Firstly, he embodies the role of the collective Shadow and functions to personify violent and anarchic characteristics that are repressed by the community and projected onto monstrous figures in the popular consciousness. Secondly, he is a manifestation of the negative attributes associated with the archetypal Father (referred to in literature as the “Terrible Father”) who punishes individuals that defy hegemonic values. Finally, he is a cultural embodiment of the Death-Demon, a conceptual figure that personifies anxieties related to death, and the degeneration of the body. This thesis provides a comparative analysis of a series of case studies that clearly illustrate the characteristics synonymous with the Boogeyman in the Western cultural imaginary. I begin with an examination of Bluebeard, a homicidal villain featured in Charles Perrault’s 1697 collection of fairytales titled Histoires ou contes du temps passé. In her seminal text No Go the Bogeyman, Warner posits Bluebeard as a clear example of the folkloric Boogeyman due to the fact that he is physically grotesque and morally repugnant. In Perrault’s story, Bluebeard is a villain who marries and then murders a series of women for disobeying him, and subsequently stores their bodies in his private chamber. Extrapolating the salient characteristics of Bluebeard as the folkloric Boogeyman, I assess these traits under an archetypal lens and demonstrate that Bluebeard/the folkloric Boogeyman is a manifestation of the collective Shadow, the Terrible Father, and the Death-Demon. After determining the archetypal properties of the folkloric Boogeyman, I highlight the presence of these same qualities in popular villains from the contemporary American slasher films of the 1970s and ’80s. Specifically, these characters include Michael Myers from Halloween (1978), Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th (1980), and Freddy Krueger featured in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Through my analysis of these terrifying figures, I situate them within a larger archetypal context of monstrosity and simultaneously establish their role as cinematic manifestations of the folkloric Boogeyman. This examination reveals the placement of the Boogeyman within the cultural imaginary as a violent disciplinarian who reinforces moral boundaries through sadistic acts of violence and paradoxically brings both chaos and harmony to the collective by preserving social borders. By extension, I demonstrate the link between the slasher film and the fairytale, both of which serve a didactic function, imparting hegemonic values to the public concerning sexual politics, social propriety, and moderation.
  • The European Union and the Politics of Migration: An Interdisciplinary Examination of the Intersections of Migration, Citizenship and Statelessness

    Williams, Paul; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    In 2016, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) recorded that 5,096 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe. So far this has been the peak in the total number of deaths. However, the journey has become more dangerous, as the UNHCR reported that in 2018, 1 out of every 18 people who crossed the Mediterranean died, an increase from 2017, which saw 1 out of every 42 people that crossed the Mediterranean dying. The Migration Crisis on Europe’s southern border is only one aspect of a politics of migration that is a fundamental characteristic of the European Union (EU) and its right of the free movement of peoples. Rather than being understood as a contemporary development, this dissertation argues that the EU entails a crisis of the movement of peoples whose complexity and multi-faceted nature can be understand by going back to Hannah Arendt’s theoretical analysis of the inter- and post-war periods. This dissertation makes the case that the European Union and its Member States are struggling to resolve problems of migration (the social and political inclusion of migrants) which require us to draw on multiple theoretical and political frameworks of understanding that place the issues of migration and statelessness at the centre of the discussion. This dissertation presents an interdisciplinary analysis of a larger migration crisis that speaks to (and threatens) the heart of the project of European integration, from the integration of national economic sectors within a coal and steel community after the Second World War to a supranational political community, which includes transnational Union citizenship and the free movement of peoples. This dissertation attempts to forge new avenues of discussion concerning European integration and issues of social and political exclusion by highlighting the situation of the Roma (as migrants with Union citizenship). The experience of the Roma in Europe highlights the ongoing crisis, on a practical and theoretical level, of ‘statelessness’, a situation depicted by Arendt and re-formulated by thinkers like Jürgen Habermas and Rosi Braidotti. It is a goal of this dissertation to develop new angles in which academics and political actors can analyze the intersections of migration, citizenship and the issue of statelessness in the 21st century, both on theoretical grounds and in practical discussions of alleviating social and political discrimination and exclusion.
  • Mediated Masculinities: The Forms of Masculinity in American Genre Film, 1990-1999

    McDonald, Terrance H.; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    This dissertation mobilizes Brinkema's radical formalism (2014) through Deleuze and Spinoza to read masculinities as forms. Specifically, I closely read Western films and masculine crisis films from 1990 to 1999 to map how cinematic forms constitute the potential to alter normative modes of masculinity. To launch this endeavor, I rely on a theoretical hybrid of Brinkema-Deleuze-Spinoza that foregrounds genre films as vibrant forms of difference. This foregrounding unfolds through an engagement with Altman's theory of film genre (1999), Neale's work on genre films (2000), and Grant's view of film genres as iconography and ideology (2007) as well as the work of Deleyto (2012) and Herzog (2010 and 2012) to re-conceptualize film genre in relation to form. I proceed to use my theoretical hybrid and attention to forms to interrogate film theory as a means of seizing gender and, moreover, masculinities from discourses of representation and spectatorship, which tend to limit readings of gender and masculinities to socio-cultural and political meanings. This interrogation engages Mulvey's revision of screen theory (1975), Rodowick's work on difference (1991, 1994), Perkins's approach to mise-en-scène (1972), Bordwell's neo-formalism and post-theory (1996, 2005, 2006), Sobchack's phenomenological approach to spectatorship and affect (1992, 2004), and del Río's Deleuzian conceptualization of affect and performance (2008). Then, with an insistence on the close reading of cinematic forms, my dissertation undertakes two case studies: the Western and the masculine crisis film cycles of the 1990s. Considering the work of Gates (2006) and Grant (2011) on masculinities in popular cinema, my close readings reveal masculinities as taking shape, assuming structures, and forming as they affect and are affected by relations and becomings. These close readings of cinematic forms generate theoretical speculation that engages masculinities studies research, including Bly (1990), Connell (1995), Kimmel (2006 and 2013), Reeser (2010), and Buchbinder (2013). Through theoretical speculation, my dissertation conceptualizes masculinities as forces of creation that materialize as forms. What is at stake in this dissertation is a methodology that denies transcendent ideals and essentialist claims of masculinity with concepts that harness the potential to continuously read masculinities as what has yet to come.
  • A Rhetorical Model of Autism: a Pop Culture Personification of Masculinity in Crisis

    Matthews, Malcolm; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    ABSTRACT In my dissertation, I argue that significant rhetorical mechanisms are at work in the production and consumption of portrayals of autism in literature, TV, and film. My project is driven by a central question: In what ways do portrayals of autism function as a visual rhetorical reconfiguration of masculinity that reimagines and repurposes disability in the service of the promotion of Humanist notions of white male hegemony in a technocentric era? I begin with Hans Asperger’s 1944 claim that autism is “a variant of male intelligence.” I connect that originary declaration with contemporary observations by Stuart Murray that autism is a form of “metaphorized hypermasculinity” and with Simon Baron-Cohen’s controversial insistence that autism represents a version of “The Extreme Male Brain.” Such testimonials, coupled with results from my own analysis and taxonomy of autistic characters throughout emerging popular culture manifestations, has led me to hypothesize that autism in portrayal serves as a survival guide for the white Western male in an era that threatens to be post-racial, post-ableist, post-phallocentric, and even post-anthropocentric. Fictional adolescent autists (e.g.: Christopher Boone, Nathanial Clark, and Colin Fischer), living autists (e.g.: David Paravicini, Daniel Tammet, and Temple Grandin), autistic “techno-savants” (e.g.: Spock, Rain Man, Sheldon Cooper), and speculatively diagnosed historical figures (e.g.: Alan Turing, Andy Warhol, and Bobby Fischer), advance a distinct “autism aesthetic” and function as rhetorical texts whose readings expose an unexplored intersection of disability, masculinity, ethnicity, and digital technology. Such characters illustrate in visual rhetorical terms how certain traits of autism are being romanticized in a digital era to equate ethnic whiteness with intellect and with a re-branded form of techno-masculinity. By providing a Rhetorical Model of autism as a link between autism as a clinical condition and as a cultural construct, I aim to form a more complete picture of autism and of its role in popular consciousness. As an interdisciplinary project, my dissertation draws upon the vocabularies and methodologies of gender, disability, and media studies. Under the unifying umbrella of visual rhetoric, I explore ethnicity, sexuality, and symbol-manipulation on the autism spectrum as they relate to Western man’s hope for a unifying techno-human singularity and his anxiety over the possible obsolescence of conventional constructions of masculinity. At stake are notions of hegemonic masculinity and of autism as a rhetorical artifact with real world implications.
  • Deindustrialization and Urban Regeneration: Nietzsche, Activism, and Organically Emergent Forms of Civic Engagement in Windsor/ Detroit

    Yocom, Grant Kenneth; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    The deindustrialization of cities represents a moment of cultural and political weakness and insecurity about what it means to be urban. Specifically, within Windsor and Detroit the traditionally rooted modes of production and habitation that have framed the cultural and political landscape as well as the identities of these urban centers are in a state of massive transition. Within these urban centers we find engaged residents mobilizing critical, self-critical and projective dispositions capable of meeting the challenges of their context, as well as issuing inquiries that put the inquirer on the spot, produce discomfort, and have potency: the capacity to change the way the inquirer thinks, acts and inhabits urban landscapes. These practices are vital responses to the questions that drive our lived-experience of city life and are in the end matters of survival. This work deploys an interpretation of the new category of philosopher forecasted by Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil in order to explore this moment when culture and politics meet at street level in the transitional deindustrializing cities of Windsor and Detroit. This is a difficult moment to make articulate. Many of the criticisms and prescriptions at work in the particular projects that we will examine are expressed as action: performed critique. These urban centers themselves have the capacity to become foxholes of sorts. Cities have a degree of receptivity to urban activism, and thus can become discrete political entities that mediate between culturally rooted criticisms and the larger political landscape. These cities in turn have the capacity to generate larger political effects. Urban activist initiatives, addressed in this project both theoretically and in their particularity, are rooted in the local and the biological in a manner that intimately ties experiences of suffering at the hands of economic and political systems responding to their acts of resistance. Activist collectives aim to inflict a wound to the overall culture, thus inoculating not only the immediate urban culture, but culture more generally with something new and empowering. This work explores the tension between embedded criticisms and proposals performed by urban activists and the trenchant forces that frustrate these actions.
  • Globalization, Postcolonialism, and Science Fiction: Nomadic Transgressions

    Kurtz, Malisa; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
    This dissertation seeks to establish science fiction as a critical framework for interrogating contemporary neocolonial structures. Specifically, I examine the ways an emerging subgenre of “postcolonial science fiction” provides valuable conceptual tools for imagining what postcolonial relations might look like in an era defined by globalization and multinational capitalism. By linking a critique of the genre’s colonial drive to the logic of advanced capitalism, postcolonial science fiction offers a critical lens through which to examine the continuation of contemporary neocolonial structures. For example, postcolonial science fiction questions several of the assumptions that underpin science fiction, including the genre’s colonial gaze, the appeal to an ideology of progress, focus on the “future” and the construction of an assumed cosmopolitan future, and an implicit faith in technological solutions or the inclination towards techno-optimism. Postcolonial science fiction links these generic qualities to the dominance of certain ideological frameworks in contemporary neoliberal culture, revealing the colonial underpinnings of both genre and the “real-world” socio-historical contexts from which genres emerge. Importantly, postcolonial science fiction is also constructivist, offering alternative epistemological frameworks for understanding our relationship to the future beyond colonial paradigms. Through the process of deconstructing and reconstructing sf’s colonial assumptions, I see postcolonial science fiction produced from diverse national contexts as expressions of a transnational desire to understand such questions as: what do we need to do so that tomorrow is not characterized by the violence against others we exhibit today? Or, more specifically, how can we create new visions of “postcolonialism” that will materialize into more ethical practice? By explicitly foregrounding these questions postcolonial science fiction transforms the genre’s world building into a strategy of postcolonial experimentation that strives to understand the complexity of problems facing diverse global communities. Postcolonial studies might also benefit from thinking through the lens of science fiction, where creative projects function as ethical experiments towards mapping out the possibilities of transnational affiliation. As this study emphasizes, I therefore see postcolonial science fiction as simultaneously a subgenre and a process, strategy, or mode of relation established between people committed to imagining less exploitative futures.