Sewanee Senior Theses 2023


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
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    From Flights of Telos to Cycles of Nostos in the Labyrinth of James Joyce
    (University of the South, 2023-05-04) Kennedy, Kristopher
    On June 16, 1904, Stephen Dedalus has returned to the labyrinth of Dublin and his past, and is haunted by the world of linear, well-ordered history that confronts him and moves towards a single goal. On this day, Stephen is depressed, wandering wayward, and belligerently drunk, and it gets him punched in the face. But he emerges from his catatonia to commune with Leopold Bloom, and perhaps their meeting marks a meaningful ending for James Joyce’s Ulysses to move towards. However, as the two men meet, Joyce thwarts this hope for a satisfying narrative telos. Instead, Bloom stands in as a model of acceptance and equanimity within the labyrinth, understanding its nature as a space of cyclical returns. Bloom accepts the past, and he builds his home in the labyrinth instead of trying to fly from it, providing an alternative to the prideful, flight-based notions of teleological escape prized by Stephen as a young man. This Joycean labyrinth is characterized by cycles of return and paradoxical time where past, present, and future commingle, and this anti-teleological aesthetic encompasses Joyce’s work from Dubliners to A Portrait to Ulysses. Joyce does not progress along lines of increasing Modernism, as critics have traditionally interpreted, but repeats in each work the very cycles of repetition and return that define his labyrinth.
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    Satire as a Mode of Resistance Against the American Post-Racial Utopian Impulse in Colson Whitehead’s Zone One
    (University of the South, 2023-04-19) Calame, Fisher
    In 2009, Colson Whitehead published an op-ed in The New York Times titled “The Year of Living Postracially,” a blistering, satirical attack on false allegations of a post-racial American society following Obama’s election. At the same time, Whitehead was working on a novel that sought to expand upon the forms and ideas from that article: Zone One. In Zone One, Whitehead hides a similar, subtler critique highlighting the dangers of the post-racial utopian impulse in America within the subtext of what appears to be “just another zombie novel.” He resists the allegorical apparatus of capture that is synonymous with the speculative fiction genre by satirizing an apocalyptic zombie dystopia and using that satire to speak out against the exclusion of Blackness in American futurity, the post-racial fantasy, and capitalism. By conducting close readings of the text and putting them into conversation with literary theorists Fredric Jameson, Lee Edelman, Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari, this essay will explore Whitehead’s use of satire as a counter-allegorical mode of reading and its engagement of a symptomatic self reading targeting the complacency of colorblind racism in white upper-middle class American circles. Additionally, it will contend with the real world obstacles to both criticizing the post-racial myth as well as encouraging such a satirical reading, focusing mainly on the American capitalist tradition, a resurgence of racially motivated polarization and violence coexisting with the negative symptoms of colorblind racism, and the literary publishing industry’s role in perpetuating readings that distract readers from interrogating flawed institutional systems.
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    The Marriage Game: On Play and Performance in Jane Austen's Emma
    (University of the South, 2023-05-04) Schlegel, Amanda
    Throughout Jane Austen’s Emma, the playful and alluring titular character indulges in pleasurable pastimes and games, but the greatest game Emma plays is a psychological one. As opposed to the popular concept of the “marriage market,” Austen facilitates a “marriage game.” Indulging potential for a beneficial match, even though it might not be economically suitable, pushes players like Harriet Smith to transcend their lower-class backgrounds. Austen draws attention to the provisional and competitive nature of games, making Emma’s version of playing with matches an ambivalent commentary on social privilege. Lack, a term from psychoanalytic theory, focuses on individual needs; there is much sympathy for those with a great amount of lack and relatively little for those who scarcely lack. Despite minimal mentions of Emma’s mother, the lack of this original object becomes critical to interpreting and sympathizing with Emma. Unable to connect due to her motherlessness, Emma turns to games in an attempt to gain sympathy and form connections with female companions to fill her lack. Additionally, games offer a rehearsal or low-stakes representation of the world. By examining games in Austen’s novel, this study exhibits the way in which the singular phenomenon of original lack pervades an individual’s interactions with their environment as they strive to supplementally fill their lack with the company they profoundly need despite the inefficiency of playfulness as a means to obtain it.
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    Do early competitive outcomes have long-term consequences for cognitive ability in the Mangrove Rivulus?
    (University of the South, 2023-05-05) Newton, Merritt; McGhee, Katie
    Individuals vary in their cognitive abilities for a number of reasons, one of which includes the influence of their early environment. Early social experiences and stressors can affect brain development, resulting in cognitive differences later on in life. This study examined whether competitive interactions early in life affected later associative learning in the mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus), a self-fertilizing hermaphroditic fish that essentially produces genetic clones of itself. Genetically identical siblings that hatched on the same day were paired together and grew up in a competitive environment for approximately five months with one fish eventually becoming larger (and presumably dominant) over its smaller, subordinate partner. Siblings were then separated and after five additional months, each individual was trained to associate a particularly patterned wall with a food reward over several days. At the time of these learning trials, subordinate partners had recovered from their initially smaller size and there was no remaining size difference between partners. Despite this compensatory growth, the consequences of the early competitive social environment continued to affect performance. Specifically, the initially larger dominant partner tended to successfully reach the rewarded feeder quicker than their initially smaller subordinate partner. Interestingly, no evidence was found that individuals improved in their performance over time (i.e. no learning), but instead these underlying differences between the initially large and small individuals seemed to be present across all of the trials. Overall, these findings suggest that early social and competitive experiences can have lingering effects on individuals and result in subtle differences on their performance and cognitive abilities.