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Cheryl Emerson, Comparative Literature, College of Arts and Sciences, ‘“The Flesh of Forgetting”: Contemporary Women’s Poetry at the Intersections of History and Embodiment’

“The Flesh of Forgetting” brings together phenomenological, feminist, and African American perspectives to study the relation between institutions, embodiment, and language in 21st century women’s poetry. Part one conducts an interdisciplinary analysis of two conceptions of “the flesh,” placing American race theorist Hortense Spillers into conversation with the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty. Although I argue that recently Spillers has wrongly been assimilated with Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, I affirm their accord in the ways that personal and public history settle in the human body and emerge as language and expression. In part two I turn to the field of literature, tracing the resonance between race, flesh, and gendering as a new approach to women’s poetry, arguing that women’s poetry intervenes historically, as bodily testimony to generational harms. I argue that issues of race and gender provide a crucial site for the interrogation between philosophy and literature, and that the contributions of women writers are vital to this interdisciplinary discourse. Accordingly, I focus on the work of three contemporary North American women poets: Claudia Rankine, Natasha Trethewey, and Erín Moure, whose writings chronicle the historical transmission and contemporary migrations of institutional patterns of oppression, inscribed as a feminist language of the flesh.

Dipanjan Maitra, English, College of Arts and Sciences, ‘“Built with Glue and Clippings”: Modernist Collaboration and the Press-Cutting Bureau’

Maitra’s dissertation aims to retrieve the forgotten history of the “press-cutting bureau” in building a transnational information network that contributed to the composition, production and distribution of literary modernism. Press-cutting bureau/agencies were private media-monitoring agencies that grew up in the art-world of Paris in the late 1870s. Now hailed as “steampunk version of Google,” press-cutting agencies employed “readers” (female clerks for the most part) to manually speed-read hundreds of newspapers per day to track down articles that contained “keywords” their clients (called subscribers) wanted traced. These articles were then cut out and mailed to subscribers for a fee. By the mid-1880s till mid-1940s when they expanded from Paris to London and boomed in the United states, many celebrities—authors, movie stars, politicians, corporations—had become their clientele. Maitra retrieves the contours of this transnational network to unravel some of the main clients of this service. He thus shows the same private agencies which sent out press reviews, newspaper articles, and journal essays to major authors like James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and small publishers and booksellers like Sylvia Beach, also acted as surveillance tools in the hands of colonial powers, such as the British Empire in India.

Adam Mitts, English, College of Arts and Sciences, “In the Grain of Illness: AIDS Writing and Radical Politics”

“In the Grain of Illness: AIDS Writing and Radical Politics” engages with critical theory and creative texts from the AIDS crisis where illness is theorized as a register of social oppression, as well as a space for reconfiguring political coalitions around shared bodily vulnerability. From its early development by Audre Lorde and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, among others, this radical politicization of illness coalesces around discourses emerging from AIDS activism and begins to radically confront the relation between illness and the state. Sedgwick calls for “transformative political work” to emerge from an engagement with “the grain of illness,” or how the patient’s body registers the political implications of their illness and the capacity for new relations to the political. This dissertation looks at various writers who further complicate this relation between illness and politics, by analyzing Sedgwick’s thinking on illness and intercommunal solidarity, alongside with her pedagogical and editorial relationship with Gary Fisher; David Wojnarowicz’s thinking on the relation between settler colonialism and the AIDS crisis; Kevin Killian and the historiography of queer poetry communities; and recent work by Jericho Brown and Bryn Kelly in which HIV is used as a figure for other forms of state-sanctioned death and slow violence.

Yukako Otsuki, Learning and Instruction, Graduate School of Education, “Japanese elementary school teachers reflective practice in teaching English”

“Japanese elementary school teachers reflective practice in teaching English”

This dissertation explores how Japanese elementary school teachers’ reflective practice affects their cultural ideologies toward English. According to a constructivist account, reflective practice involves teachers accumulating knowledge and improving their pedagogy by interrogating and modifying their teaching practice. Because of the history of English imperialism in Japan, Japanese people have an inferiority complex toward English and even teachers with sufficient teaching experience suffer from feelings of inferiority toward their English proficiency, creating an obstacle to confident teaching. Under such circumstances, reflective practice should crucially help teachers to break their inferiority complex by revaluing their beliefs toward English and examining the goal of English teaching. Therefore, Ostuki argues that Japanese teachers should implement reflective practice into their teaching contexts.

This dissertation considers the teachers’ experiences of reflective practice and reformation of their ideologies toward English. Focusing on a case of four Japanese teachers in public elementary schools in Japan, this dissertation will examine how the teachers’ reflective practice benefits them in revaluing their ideologies toward English. This study will benefit struggling Japanese teachers and broaden scholars’ and educators’ perspectives toward the goal of English education.

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