Sewanee: School of Letters Theses 2014


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    Literary Insurgency
    (University of the South, 2014-06) Kennedy, Catherine Louise
    Any reader of Tobias Smollett’s novel Humphry Clinker will notice that, during the expedition, humor seems to exist more consistently and with greater frequency in the sections devoted to England in comparison to the more earnest and serious sections devoted to travel in Scotland. I will argue that Humphry Clinker stands as a brilliant example of literary insurgency. Smollett is crafty in his use of devices to force readers to take on his own views without realizing they have. Smollett has a point to make, that Scotland is a worthy northern neighbor to England with something to offer, and he uses every tool of engagement available to him in order to present his personal beliefs about Scotland to a prejudiced English audience. This is an audience long fed, by the likes of Samuel Johnson, that Scotland is a savage land full of uncivilized people and a complete lack of culture. No reader can walk away from Humphry Clinker without a favorable view of an under-appreciated, charming nation full of entrepreneurism, industry, and a strong moral foundation. The ways in which Smollett engages his unsuspecting readers so that they will also invest in his pro-Scotland ideals are his use of the epistolary form and the codified use of humor along class lines. This thesis seeks to build a taxonomy of the humor used in the novel to understand how Smollett reveals class as a weapon in converting readers. An examination of the formidable power of the epistolary form will also underscore the importance of reader engagement with multiple perspectives and nuanced layers of understanding. We will see how, with his final novel, completed just before his death, Smollett creates a work of genius that builds a new, more positive vision of Scotland against the deep prejudices of its southern neighbor.
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    Harmony House: Stories
    (University of the South, 2014-05) Wilkinson, Kelly
    The collection of stories in Harmony House is linked by setting and characters. A vintage house in New Orleans is converted into four apartments rented by young professionals who grapple with problems that often trouble young adults. In “Encore” Celeste Tyler Percy, an intellectual and ballerina in graduate school in Maryland, returns to New Orleans during her mother’s illness. Celeste and her father dodge old tensions, and Celeste again is vexed by a former high school rival. Facing trouble with family and the old nemesis, Celeste struggles over whether she and her husband should stay up East or return home after his Air Force tour. Her father befriends a boisterous contractor who is renovating an old house on Harmony Street. “The Wench Upstairs” treats romantic complications. Kevin Kennan, a young lawyer unlucky in love, rents a unit in the renovated house after his wife leaves him. Devastated, he soon falls for an exchange student, while sparring with a feisty hippie neighbor, Meara Burke. Kevin’s romance with the French student Monique craters. He and Meara share mutual attraction and interests, but both are opinionated and stubborn. Meara fears that dating Kevin will force her to join a circle of snobs, while Kevin worries that blunt Meara will alienate his friends. In “Somebody to Lean On,” Robin Woods Wright left a job she loved when her husband Adam secured a transfer to New Orleans. Though she empathizes with Adam’s need for distance from his father, a wealthy planter and prominent state legislator, Robin is so bored in New Orleans that she takes a job with an arrogant lawyer. He tries to seduce, then rape, her. Adam Wright is a former all-SEC fullback with a white knight complex. Ignoring all advice, Adam evens the score with the would-be rapist and is arrested. Robin is torn over whether to seek the Senator’s help as, pregnant, she doubts Adam’s readiness for parenthood. In “Ritornello” Celeste and Eugene Percy return to New Orleans. A promised job falls through, and the now-unemployed musician and ballerina live with her parents. Celeste learns that her high school enemy caused Eugene to lose his teaching position. Regretting their return, the couple work at menial jobs and lament the loss of friends and independence. Reconnecting with a Creole friend, Celeste and Eugene seek acceptance into a new group and a niche in her home town. In “The Names of Saints” medical intern Sam Wright and his writer-wife Katie Kennan have a young son. Katie wants a daughter, but a medical condition precludes more children. Sam, a devout Catholic, finds a baby girl in a hospital dumpster. A chaplain wants to “help” Sam adopt, but Sam has deep misgivings, and he fears the girl as a rival to his son. Katie battles maternal guilt and anger at God, while Sam debates whether he is “supposed” to adopt an injured Asian-American baby. More than an address links the characters. Robin befriends Meara. Katie is Kevin’s sister and Robin’s best friend. Adam and Sam are cousins. The Creole musician Martine knows Celeste from high school and Katie from graduate school. Kevin and Eugene bond over music, and Katie and Celeste over literature. Celeste and Meara’s dads are friends. Participating in one another’s stories, the young adults share challenges, uncertainty, and healing which, like all human healing, is partial and makeshift, as fragile as human hope.
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    Class Rules: A Teacher Remembers
    (University of the South, 2014-05) Bryan, Kelly
    This memoir collection centers on rules, work, and class divisions. The three pieces track a personal journey of learning the rules to ignore, the rules to break, and the rules to honor—all in the face of class rules that seem to hold firm. The first piece centers on my family. My parents chose to ignore rules when they began their life of work. Like all children, I looked for rules to follow. I found the rules that mattered the most through the lives of my parents who owned small town newspapers in Alabama. My parents ignored the class rules that had taken hold even in Cullman, Alabama, as they worked. While there was never a hint from the two of them that success might be out of their reach, I remember gathering clues that friends had more money, more status; and therefore, more rules to follow. The second writing honors the only teacher that brought discipline to my young life without rules. Once a week I pulled on a black leotard, pale pink tights, and black slippers to stand before Miss Anita in her weekly ballet class. After a four-year stretch of classes with the former Stuttgart, Germany, soloist, I automatically hold my arms in the slight curve of a ballerina decades later as I try to hold my balance in order to squat in a gym. I am both a teacher and rule-breaker in the final piece of writing. But I am also a student. My teacher, Charles Marshall, a 15-year-old from Savannah, Georgia, helped me understand the reason he and my other students were dodging threats, police, and bullets on street corners. These young men were disciplined workers who tried to follow the severe rules of the drug trade, in hopes of a lifestyle that offered the comfort and luxury of the upper class. Memories can be deceptive. As I was writing these pieces, I traveled back in time by visiting the key players in my stories. I pulled new information from my mother and siblings to understand the luxury of a childhood of freedom. I also shared my stories with Miss Anita, who did not recognize me but who could conjure my mother’s face. I then apologized to Charles for “not knowing how to reach him” in my middle school class. I learned new information as I knitted my memories together. But I also took note of the emerging consistencies in my life: Work is important. Rules, if there are any, should center on fair and kind treatment to others. Children grow when they are creative. The grounding that work and creativity offer repair the damage that class rules can leave on the younger self because work and creativity offer the strength of self-reliance.
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    Naturalism Meets Classicism: The Training and Early Shakespearean Career of Dame Judi Dench
    (University of the South, 2014-05) Brewer, Donna Douglas
    After practically growing up on stage in York, Judi Dench studied acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, where she graduated in 1957 and immediately began acting professionally with the city’s pre-eminent theatrical company housed at the Old Vic. Dench received harsh reviews for her first public performance as Ophelia and retreated to begin a gradual rise to great acclaim with her subsequent portrayals of Katherine of France, Juliet, and Titania. These early high-wire adventures that initiated Dame Judi Dench to the world of acting lie at the heart of my thesis because I believe they forever shaped her career. Tension grew between the classical training that she refused to compromise and the increasingly naturalistic directorial tendencies of the time. The conflict between these traditional and emerging ideals affects her even now, winning respect and affection from audiences as she balances the two. Viewers relate to her spontaneous, naturalistic performances, yet she maintains the highest standards of articulation and theatricality in every role, from Shakespeare to sitcoms, from Ibsen to action films. This work explores the youth, formal training, and earliest professional Shakespearean performances of Dame Judi Dench as a microcosm of British theater at the time. My research was completed near Sewanee, Tennessee, over the course of five years, with the English-Speaking Union of Nashville funding one summer of research in England. The appendices are presented with cooperation from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Shakespeare Archive, the Old Vic Archives in Bristol and Birmingham, and the Harvard Theatre Collection, as well as personal interviews and e-mails with Judi Dench, John Barton, Cicely Berry, Barbara Jefford, and Kate Duchêne.