Centre for Advanced Studies in Languages & Literatures - Doctoral Theses

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    Voices from the outside: Homeric exiles in twentieth-century French writing
    (University College Cork, 2020) Burke, Catherine; Noonan, Mary P.; Irish Research Council; Fulbright Association
    This thesis explores the twentieth-century trope of the outsider but from a modern and Homeric perspective. The corpus of artists under review each develop a symbiotic relationship with Homer and his epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. It is an encounter that repositions the outsider, shifting our gaze from the pitiable, shunned ‘étranger’ to the creative, empowered, and vocal other. The position of the exile is recast as a Homeric exile of possibility. I begin the discussion with Marcel Proust, one of the cornerstones of French literary and cultural history. Through his masterful work A la recherche du temps perdu, Proust fashions a French epic deeply indebted to Homer, exploiting the figure of the Homeric bard to craft his modern response to the contemporary notion of the twentieth-century French outsider. The second chapter follows on from this, with Jean Giono and Naissance de l’Odyssée building on this idea of the storyteller and in particular the self-referential and metanarrative nature of the role, and how this impacts upon and advances the French Homeric exile. The result is an intricate exploration of the relationship with literary predecessors, one that oscillates from parasitism to symbiosis, with the identity of the artist moulded by the encounter. The third chapter moves to a comparative study of two French women, Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff and their respective engagement with Homer’s Iliad. This chapter explores a notable development in the Homeric reconfiguration of the twentieth-century modern French exile. The chapter provides evidence of female artists engaging with Homer, where the female response is not determined by gender and where the playfulness discernible in the previous artists is in stark contrast to the grim and gritty Homeric rewritings of these women. Both Weil and Bespaloff are at pains to reveal that the creative and powerful position of the reconfigured outsider is one hard fought. Chapter Four deals with the inimitable Claude Cahun, an artist who embodies the twentieth-century French Homeric outsider. In both her visual artwork and her literary work Héroïnes, Cahun represents a significant iteration of the French Homeric outsider. Throughout her work, she explores many of the themes of the thesis, interrogating the nature of art and the artist, the fluidity of the self, the metamorphosis of the artist, the performative aspect of identity and the role of the other. Chapter Five brings us to Monique Wittig, one of the most influential voices in the feminist movement in France. Her Homeric reworking of the Iliad, Les Guérillères, is in marked contrast to that of Weil and Bespaloff. Wittig wears her gender very much on her sleeve: this is a feminist revision of the Homeric Iliad and stamps a female voice on the figure of the Homeric exile in twentieth-century France. The thesis ends with a conclusion that ties the disparate strands together in a coherent illustration of the twentieth-century French encounter with Homer. The encounter is an intertextual exchange that saw the emergence of a distinct Homeric voice of exile, one that articulated a unique moment in France’s cultural history. From this fertile engagement avenues of possibility spring forth for the future Homer, the quintessential voice of exile.
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    Mapping the works of Manuel de Pedrolo in relation to the post-civil war Catalan landscape
    (University College Cork, 2019) Nilsson-Fernàndez, Pedro; Buffery, Helena; Murphy, Orla; Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences
    Polygraph author Manuel de Pedrolo stands as one of the most prolific Catalan writers in the twentieth century. Furthermore, he is a figure unquestionably associated with Catalan identity and the region’s struggle for self-determination. His corpus comprises over one hundred and twenty titles – poetry, drama, short stories and novels, as well as a number of political articles, mostly written for Catalan newspapers during the 1980s, and later collected in volumes. In spite of the recent revival of interest in his figure and his work, coinciding with the commemoration in Catalonia of the centenary of his birth, there has still not been an attempt to systematically measure his impact, nor even the kind of diachronic mapping of his legacy I propose here. This study will address a representative selection of thirteen short stories and twenty-one novels written by the author between 1938 and 1976 – in the genres of Sci-Fi and fantasy, crime fiction and realism – from a spatial point of view. Through a painstaking charting of the spaces represented by the author in his texts, this thesis maps Pedrolo’s contribution to the (re)construction of the twentieth-century Catalan literary landscape and visualises the scope of his overarching literary project. In order to aid in the deciphering of such a wide and heterogeneous corpus as that of Pedrolo, this study combines a critical approach that draws on a cultural studies toolkit (cultural geography, urban studies, postcolonial approaches) with distant-readings provided by the use of GIS and a text-mining script, benaura.py, specifically created for this project.
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    Distorted bodies: gender, sexuality and performativity in twentieth-century Italian fantasy literature
    (University College Cork, 2018) O'Leary, Martina; Ross, Silvia; Cork County Council; University College Cork
    Any examination of fantasy literature’s rich use of symbolic subject matter can reveal both the genre’s highly subversive potential, and its capacity to explore concepts generally perceived as off-limits, examples of which have famously been transgressive sexuality and gender expression. Simultaneously, all fields of gender studies contend that gender and sexuality are largely directed by social prompts proffering hegemonic ideals, including those exemplified through literary representations. This thesis investigates models of gender and sexuality articulated through unreal bodies in fantasy texts in order to explore and bring further insight to this unique relationship, and addresses the current paucity in Italian literary scholarship in this regard. Further, it examines whether the selected representative works spanning the twentieth century reinscribe or subvert patriarchal regulation of gender and sexuality, using fantasy genre theory (Todorov), feminist criticism (Butler), masculinity studies (Connell), queer theory (Sedgwick), ecofeminism (Plumwood) and posthumanism (Wolfe). This study explores a cross-section of twentieth-century Italian fantasy literature, given this period’s rich and active history in both the suppression and the development of gender and sexual rights and equalities. A chapter is dedicated to each of the five representative authors and a selection of their fantasy texts in order to provide an overview of the evolution of these themes in the chronological period covered. Luigi Capuana uses the trope of invisibility in his short stories “L’invisibile” (1901) and “Un vampiro” (1907) to articulate discussions on queerness and female sexuality, upholding a traditionalist attitude, as well as (unsurprisingly for his time) a general view of women and femininity as inferior. In contrast, Aldo Palazzeschi’s Il codice di Perelà (1911) and Stefanino (1969) treat femininity as a positive attribute in male characters. These works also explore sexuality, but with a progressive (though coded) aim, in developing compassion towards dissident sexualities. Italo Calvino’s fantasy trilogy I nostri antenati (1960) yields a fruitful discussion of masculinity, advocating lightness as a beneficial characteristic to be embraced, though the author utilizes other feminine traits to demonize male characters, and his portrayals of women and girls in general are found to be one dimensional – particularly in how they do not search for meaning, or attempt to understand the complexities of existence, as their male counterparts do, but are simply rewards for men. Anna Maria Ortese’s L’Iguana (1965) serves a specific goal of addressing various forms of oppression in society; her use of anthropomorphic characters in this and other works calls for reform in the treatment of groups marginalized due to sex, race and social class, utilizing the trope of the animal to identify modes of othering. Paola Capriolo’s collection of short stories, La grande Eulalia (1988), is heavily populated with central female characters, and problematizes the objectification of women, by contrasting the injurious outcomes of female characters’ submission to the male gaze, and their subsequent domination, with the favourable results that ensue upon resistance to such control. Though the discussions implicit within the bodily representations take issue with misogyny, Capriolo negates her association with feminist objectives, revealing the genre’s potential as a covert means by which to transmute standardized attitudes and prejudices, whether intentionally or not. This research aims to expand recognition of the fantasy genre’s potential influence and reach in how it communicates ideals and perspectives through subtle yet powerful symbolism, and to substantiate scholarly attention to and interest in the genre’s scope in this regard. An increased understanding of the poetics utilized to shape such identities and standards can, at the very least, inform an approach that questions the validity and appropriateness of literary instruction on social behaviours, and its influence in shaping the status quo. This exploration may, however, also raise active awareness of the little-acknowledged contribution effectuated by the modern Italian fantasy genre in the formation, or re-formation, of social norms and regulations on the body, gender and sexuality.
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    Origins of postmodern impegno: ethical and political commitment in the works of Gianni Celati
    (University College Cork, 2019) Ronchi Stefanati, Michele; Chu, Mark; University College Cork
    This research investigates the role of Gianni Celati in the development of postmodern forms of impegno in contemporary Italy. It examines Celati’s entire works, as a writer, literary critic, translator and film-maker, from the perspective of his ethical and political commitment. This study analyses Celati’s choices in terms of language, content and style to see in what way his idea of literature engages with society and proposes Celati’s ethical and political commitment as a determining aspect to be considered when studying his oeuvre. In addition, it investigates what technical and theoretical structures used by Celati represent a relevant inheritance for the following generations of writers who have expressed and conceptualized forms of impegno in present-day Italy. It offers three case studies of authors who are directly linked to Celati and develop new forms of impegno, partly following Celati’s ideas, partly distancing themselves from that model. Gianni Celati (1937) is usually not considered an engaged writer and he himself would probably refuse this definition. Nevertheless, an ethical commitment constantly precedes and shapes his idea of literature and arts (Schwarz Lausten 2009). Celati’s works permanently engage with society and, it is argued, participate actively in revolutionary moments in Italian post-war history. This research draws on the more recent theories on postmodern ‘impegno’, which assign to Italian culture the role of ‘testing-ground’ of new forms of ethical and political commitment. The study draws on the theoretical framework outlined by Burns (2001) and Antonello-Mussgnug (2009). The end of structured and ideological thinking and the demise of Gramsci’s ‘organic intellectual’ do not mean the end of socio-political commitment, which instead arises now in a fragmentary way, refusing dogmatic statements. Celati has a crucial role in the passage between post-war ‘impegno’ and new forms of ethical and political commitment. Celati has never embraced an all-inclusive ideological view: he has rather differentiated his political commitment through an ethical way of thinking about the role of literature. The characteristics of Celati’s engagement anticipated what happened in Italy during the mature postmodern phase, namely what scholars have called ‘Postmodern Impegno’, addressing issues that have been emphasized by subsequent generations of ‘new engaged’ writers.