Oral Presentations - Session 1E: UC 332
|Friday, April 12th|
"Vibrations in Spoon River": Reading Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology After a Century
Kelsey Fanning, University of Montana - Missoula
9:00 AM - 9:20 AM
This project argues for revitalization of critical engagement with Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology as Modern American text. I explore Masters’ impressive capacity as a satirist and as a proponent of the American psychologist William James’ theoretical models. My research expands an existing critical connection established between Masters and James and employs the critical vocabulary of Mikhail Bakhtin to illustrate the distinctly Modern qualities of the Anthology. I contend that Masters’ investment in generic revitalization, satiric subversion of prevalent American tropes surrounding practices of death and dying, and heavy investment in avant-garde psychology qualify his Spoon River Anthology for inclusion in the Modern American cannon and as text in need of ongoing critical research and discussion.
The Misconceptions of Monotheism: Reconciling the Theology and Narrative of John Milton
Erin Hastey, University of Montana - Missoula
9:40 AM - 10:00 AM
Monotheism, as understood in western tradition, posits a single, immutable, ineffable Deity. Religious poets, theologians, and conversing laymen, however, have paradoxically made quite a habit of trying to describe a Being Whom they theoretically believe to be ineffable, and therefore beyond description. This indicates an understandable preference to focus on relational aspects of the Deity, in contrast to those which are by definition incomprehensible. This privileging of relationship over infinity is evident in the work of the 17th century Puritan poet and author John Milton. However, Milton’s understanding of the relational nature of the Christian God is complicated by the poet’s rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine seeks to solve a fundamental problem created by strict monotheism: how can an entity cast as singular perfection be in relationship with anything outside itself, and still maintain its perfection? In rejecting the Trinity, Milton rejects the only pattern that might allow him to reconcile the perfect, immutable Deity of theism with the relational God of biblical narrative. I explore the theological problems of the strict monotheism to which Milton subscribes, as evidenced in his posthumously published theological work and biblical explication On Christian Doctrine, and then note where this strict monotheism is subverted for the sake of narrative in Milton’s magnum opus, Paradise Lost. Engaging classic and contemporary critical texts, as well as uniquely contemporary theological texts, this paper affirms what those religious poets, theologians, and conversing laymen know when they break their own rules by describing in language a God they believe to be ineffable: in any description of God, narrative picks up where reason runs out—a point aptly (though perhaps not intentionally) demonstrated within the work of Milton himself.
Beryl Clark, University of Montana - Missoula
10:00 AM - 10:20 AM
My Senior Honors Research Project is a creative project in the form of a poetry chapbook. This chapbook is partnered with a 5-7 page expository essay complete with bibliography. My focus for this project is space in writing, specifically the spatialization of poetry on the page. This application could be through punctuation, inter-textual space, and vast amounts of negative space on page. I have researched techniques and ideas posed by, but not limited to, poets Barbara Guest, Janet Holmes, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Cecilia Vicuña. I examine their books of poetry as well as critical essays and poetics.
The expository essay focuses on why these techniques and ideas are important to enhancing poetry and three or four central ways I see space as operating on the poetic page. Thus I also discuss how negative space within the poem is analogous to “real” life: negative space, or what isn’t happening, in our spoken language, in our body language, in our facial expressions, or in our thoughts determines what will or what will not happen in our lives. I explain how I applied these techniques in my own creative work.
The creative portion of the project is a poetry chapbook around 25 to 30 pages that applies the spatial techniques and ideas mentioned above. The bibliography will be of the books researched. My presentation will condense my critical and creative work in an oral presentation with PowerPoint. That way, listeners will have the opportunity to gauge the relationship between the spoken text and the text as a visual entity. I will employ the first third of the presentation to focus on those poets I studied, the middle third reading my own poems and the last third answering questions from the audience.
Wasted Women: Modern Oppressions in the Waste Land
James Warwood, University of Montana - Missoula
10:20 AM - 10:40 AM
T.S. Eliot has frequently been criticized for his misogynistic treatment of women in his poetry. Few, however, have considered the role his portrayal of women plays in supporting his poetic themes. The narrative space of “The Waste Land” is dominated primarily by women, both contemporary and mythical, who illustrate the brutal relationship between men and women. This intensely personal relationship, however, is analogous to the relationship of the individual and society; like the individual, the women must make the decision to either speak out against their oppressors or keep silent and accept their circumstances. Either option places women at risk of further subjugation. In this way, the wasted scenography of “The Waste Land” acts as the backdrop to a crippled social world populated by subjugated individuals struggling to find their voice. Eliot portrays the female voice as the struggle against the ruined communication that characterizes the modern world. Contemporary and mythical characters converge in the poem, revealing the ineffectiveness of communication in a world where power barriers exist between the sexes. By juxtaposing a mythical woman from Ovid’s Metamorphoses against a contemporary character from “The Waste Land,” I demonstrate how far the poem’s theme of social breakdown extends into our own society.
The Loss of Self in Abe Kobo's The Wall
Christina Strand, University of Montana - Missoula
10:40 AM - 11:00 AM
The loss of oneself, who one is, is a common occurrence before during and after war. The loss of oneself is seen in Abe Kobo's Akutagawa Prize winning short novel Kabe, or The Wall. The short novel was written after World War Two, during the US occupation of Japan and the Korean War, in 1951. The theme of losing oneself and being trapped due to this loss is a representation of Abe's life and how he lost who he was, as well as his feeling of being trapped by such a loss. This theme is also seen in Abe Kobo's Woman in the Dunes. To English-speaking audiences, he is best known for this novel, which was published in 1962 and adapted to film in 1964. As exemplified in both Woman in the Dunes as well as The Wall, Abe's work contains a note of surrealism, and functions as a commentary on contemporary Japanese society.
The Loss of Self in Abe Kobo's The Wall shows the theme being manifested in the main character losing his name and being given number in place of his individual identity. The theme of being trapped due to this lack of self is also prominent. The prominence of these themes has much to do with the turbulence of the Korean war and US occupation; many Japanese people were trying to pick up what was left of their identity as individuals and as a nation.