Romantic literature is, among other things, a study of relationships. A response to a burgeoning urban and industrial landscape, fears of war and infiltration, and a deteriorating rural economy, Romantic literature emphasizes the need to cultivate relationships with both the natural world and the self through transformative aesthetic experiences with nature. This dissertation will explore the connection between the poet and the child through examining the child as both aesthetic object as well as subject and author of aesthetic experiences. By analyzing the complicated nature between author, child, and the artist’s relationship to his or her own childhood through their works, this dissertation will explore the relationship between individuality and social conformism and its relation to the production of poetry and literary texts. Specifically, it will analyze both treatises on the nature of childhood as seen in philosophy and literary texts in addition to specific depictions of children in poetry. Through analyzing childhood as a constantly shifting construct, the dissertation proposes to explore issues of social pressure on art and the identity of artists. Childhood becomes then both a site of discovery and exploration as well as a means of recovering a lost or inaccessible view of the world. The Romantic child is therefore a specter, which haunts the poet, and yet a necessary means to explore and translate human encounters with nature.
Jessica Groper, English
“‘She must be brought to reason somehow’: Depictions of Epilepsy in Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and George Eliot”
My dissertation is a study on representations of epilepsy and seizure disorders in the novels of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Wilkie Collins. The project looks at the medical accuracy of the depictions, based on medical knowledge of the nineteenth century, and the uses the authors put the disease to. Epilepsy is very effective at making villains more frightening, weak characters more vulnerable, and it is also an excellent plot device. Since epileptic seizures are completely unpredictable, authors can insert them anywhere in the plot if they need a stalling device or a distraction from other events. Interestingly, none of the authors discussed in the project left behind any existing explanations of why they chose epilepsy or where they found information about the disorder, so the reader can interpret the depictions freely.
John J. Macias, Jr., History
“Of Spanish Myths and Mexican Realities: Social and Racial Development in San Gabriel, California, 1771-1971”
My dissertation examines the social and racial history of San Gabriel from its Spanish colonial origins to the city's celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the San Gabriel Mission in 1971. As one of Southern California's oldest historic settlements, the city of San Gabriel offers us an important historical lesson of how Spanish/Mexican/Indian myths shaped the development of the Mexican and Anglo communities in the Los Angeles region. My dissertation will provide a nuanced perspective of Los Angeles' first "European" settlement and the creation of social and racial order that transcended from Spanish colonization and Anglo Americanization.
Kathryn Wolford, History
“‘Wilful and Intemperate Spirits’: Plague-time Opposition to Authority in Early Modern England”
In response to pervasive plague outbreaks, early modern governments enacted a series of public health measures designed as much to control its spread as to reinforce the hierarchical social order. Because it was commonly believed that this order was divinely ordered, those born to lowly stations were perceived to have inherited their lot from sin; it further came as no surprise to their social betters that God's rod would chastise such sinners heavily. However the scourge of plague was empirically contagious to the elite as well as the lowly. In 1578 the monarchy ordered that the doors and windows of any dwelling known by parish authorities to be infected with plague be boarded up for 40 days. Quarantine appealed to the early modern state's attempt to impose order and rule over the disorderly masses - who were now physically making them sick. However, as new technologies like print enabled the royal state's efforts to broadcast its authority, so too did it gave a voice to the disaffected. Few who were not anonymous dared to openly criticize the stretching arm of royal authority in print, but a number of extremists denied that plague was even physically contagious, and argued that prayer and supplication to God would be a surer way to fight his wrath. Pamphleteers argued that the victims of house-arrest were “little better than Murdered or buried alive” and urged more moderate strategies of containment. Both the hundreds of people who wrote these pamphlets and the thousands more who bought and/or read them worried about the break with social and moral values - particularly Christian charity - which quarantine entailed. For others self-preservation proved a more tempting bargain than charity during times of disaster.