Graduate Student Work and Accomplishments

PhD Dissertation Abstracts 

Barclay Spriggs

Globally and historically, madness appears as a prominent socio-medical concern that also occupies a significant space in literary tradition. There has been an increase in the number of scholars who study madness and literature in postcolonial works. However, the predominant view and treatment of madness – both socially and medically – adheres to the European, white male construct that has informed a more or less universal regard of those who suffer from mental woes: they are deranged, sick, ill. This poses a problem for postcolonial works when we consider the sexist and racist implications in psychology that were enhanced through the colonial project, justified through self-referential science, and continue today. This study interrogates the troubling assumptions of the ‘mad other’ by arguing that rather than ‘madness,’ authors and their characters create alternative realities as psychic shields. These formations are both a result of and protection from oppressive or disturbing experiences and/or environments. This dissertation investigates forms of trauma that compel characters to create different worlds. Although male characters endure forms of violence, women most especially endure emotional deprivation and/or sexual violence that has an impact on the narrative voice and identity, reflecting greater problems in reality. The authors of ‘mad’ characters and the characters themselves offer insight to other worlds that should not be dismissed as mere fiction: atrocity is real and the mechanisms we develop in the face of horror is an effort to preserve the inner self from complete fracture. The characters in this study are not ‘crazy.’ Rather, they seek divergent worlds to mentally survive horrific experiences. This research validates alternative realities as logical responses to trauma and oppression. To do so, this study combines postcolonial theories, feminist studies, psychology and psychoanalysis, and global statistics to contribute a different approach to ‘madness’ and to elucidate the need for alternative realities that ultimately impacts us all.


Gina Breen: Resurrecting French-Algerian representations

The Algerian experiences of Albert Camus, Frantz Fanon, and Assia Djebar appear significantly different due to their distinct ethnic, political, and religious backgrounds, including their perceived status as European, immigrant, and native. Their contrasting literary styles and techniques, as well as their dates of publication, further emphasize this.  

For the first time this project will explore collectively their narrative depictions of French Algeria, specifically focusing on how they address the Algerian War (1954-1962), in addition to the events that preceded and succeeded one of the bloodiest battles of decolonization. By analyzing a selection of their works (consisting of fiction, non-fiction, and political theory), which span some fifty years (1942-1996), we will conceive a new tripartite memory that also acknowledges the ambivalence involved in remembering.

Indeed, this chronological re-evaluation of their oeuvres and identities will demonstrate the plurality of Algerian colonial and postcolonial society. However, in spite of their diversity, and as a direct result of their shared experiences of French colonialism in Algeria, there are more elements that unite these authors, rather than divide them.


Al Camp: L’essentiel ou lagniappe: The Ideology of French Revitalization in Louisiana

Louisiana’s French revitalization movement has received millions of dollars in taxpayer funding through its various initiatives such as music and cultural festivals, public school French immersion programs, and academic exchange programs, among others. Over forty years ago, the state of Louisiana created CODOFIL, a government agency dedicated to the promotion of Francophone language and culture in Louisiana, yet the number of Francophones in the state has continued to decline at an alarming rate according to the most reliable data available. My study investigates the ideology and demographics of those involved in French education programs in Louisiana’s public schools. Who decides to become a French teacher and why? What do the administrators in charge of these programs really hope to accomplish and why? Through analyzing the unique corpus of interviews that I have created by speaking with these individuals from around the state, I hope to answer these questions and more.


Natacha Jeudy

My project consists of looking at the Ursuline community, but more particularly at the obituary documents that these devout woman produced between the 17th and 19th century in France, Louisiana, and Quebec. The corpus is composed of more than 250 documents, all depicting the death of a holy woman, and is drawn from three different registers: religious annals, religious collections and letters. The originality of these documents allows me to engage in many obscure and unanswered questions concerning the writing of religious cloistered women in regards to their knowledge of the written French language and their (non-)reproduction of it, while further understanding the origin of their literacy practice. By using a comparative approach, I analyze the spelling, typography, and evolution found in these diverse documents – such as the use of the letter “v, “u”, “i”, and “j” – from these three geographically-distance communities.


David Llorca: La philosophie de la Relation

Entre épopées romanesques sans héros, poésies identitaires débridées, et essais poétiques entrelacés, l’écriture d’Édouard Glissant défie toute classification. S’il part d’une préoccupation identitaire, toute son œuvre se résume à exprimer un «cri» poétique, à en effectuer la relecture au moyen d’essais dits « poétiques », puis à réinventer son histoire par la création romanesque : sa poésie « dit », sa poétique fait prendre conscience de ce qui a été dit et ses romans reconstruisent à partir de cette conscience. Ainsi l’enjeu de son œuvre dépasse largement la question identitaire. En sus de poète, essayiste et romancier, Glissant est assurément créateur de concepts. Il articule même ses concepts comme des créations artistiques, considérant le logos comme simple attribut dumμthos. En remplaçant l’Etre par la Relation, il défie toute une tradition qui vise depuis Parménide à isoler la méthode rationnelle, dite « scientifique » de l’imagination. Mais dans quel but et avec quel effet ?

A partir de lectures intratextuelles, intertextuelles et transtextuelles de l’œuvre de Glissant, nous chercherons à déceler cette intention épique.Nous découvrirons que son champ d’étude favori est l’Histoire, et que son principal interlocuteur n’est autre que Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel…


Tara Smithson: Maid in (and out of) France: Postcolonial Constructions of Identity Through the Figure of Joan of Arc, 1953-2012

Since her resurgence in the nineteenth century, Joan of Arc has become one of the most emblematic figures of French history. Commemorated in public statuary, celebrated by writers, and championed by politicians, la Pucelle’s story is tantamount to national myth.  In light of Joan of Arc’s centrality to France’s iconic imagining of itself during the spread of its empire, this project examines Joan of Arc’s postcolonial afterlife.  Drawing on traditional literary texts as well as political speeches, social media posts, trial testimony, and grassroots public performance from the 20th and 21st centuries, I ask when and to what ends francophone populations conjure the figure of Joan of Arc, a potent symbol of French nationalism, in their own, self-told narratives of heritage.  Contrary to recent critical readings that foreground Joan of Arc’s overdetermination by the French Far Right, I contend that Joan of Arc becomes a fruitful medium through which francophone populations narrate their own national identities, reflect on postcolonial relationships, and articulate responses to transnational traumas.  This study also analyzes the rhetorical use of “Joan of Arc” as a transnational shorthand for politically-engaged women, even when such women are battling the French.  Against the grain of officializing narratives that depict Joan of Arc as (Church appropriated) saint or (State-appropriated) war hero, this study considers her experience as a political prisoner who faced extended interrogation, detainment, and threats of torture.  Aligning Joan’s story with the experiences of other women warriors and detainees allows for new ways of theorizing how nations negotiate relationships with each other through women’s bodies.


Ben Sparks: The Plagues of Colonialism: Representations of Suffering in the Colonial and Postcolonial Algerian Francophone Novel from 1950-1966

The indigenous francophone Algerian novel dates from the early 1950s and since then has been a political manifestation of uneasiness. The anticolonial undertones of this literature demonstrate the sufferings and harsh realities of life under an oppressive colonial regime. This dissertation analyzes the power and effects of suffering in the colonial and postcolonial francophone Algerian novel whether explicitly or allegorically through violence and poverty, the plagues of colonialism. In doing so, it looks at the role of suffering in this literature and its effects on narration and character development. The themes of violence and poverty run rampant in the colonial novel insomuch that the character’s actions become directly tied to their suffering; whether leading to despair or hope, death or revolution. This dissertation aims to contribute to the rerouting of trauma studies from a Euro-American centric discipline to a discourse of trauma resulting from a repressive colonial system through the works of Mohammed Dib, Mouloud Mammeri, Mouloud Feraoun and Kateb Yacine.


M.A. Thesis Abstracts


Gordon Walker: Jean Cocteau: Orpheus Narcissus

Over the course of thirty years, the poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau created a singular artistic project he called the Orphic trilogy: Le Sang d’un poète (1930), Orphée (1950), and Le Testament d’Orphée (1959). This trilogy is marked by an Orphic pattern of a poet’s journey into an underworld to confront death. I will show that Cocteau’s invention is to have Orpheus be in love with death, for death to be an attractive and irresistible force to the poet. Simultaneously, Cocteau avails himself of the Narcissus myth, the man in love with his own reflection. Orpheus and Narcissus converge in these films as a synthesis of Cocteau’s personal obsessions, which I will identify in his own life. I will reveal that Cocteau’s usage of Narcissus results in a queer aesthetic which courses through the trilogy. Through a close textual and visual analysis of these films, I hope to enrich the appreciation and criticism of this major artistic achievement.


Tara Smithson: Between Bodies: (Re)Constructing the Corp Québécois in Roch Carrier’s La guerre, yes sir !

Quebec’s status as a potentially colonial space that underwent a process akin to decolonization during the Révolution tranquille has generated much critical attention in recent years, as scholars consider how Quebec’s liberatory struggles resonate with other narratives of decolonization around the globe. Roch Carrier’s first and most renowned novel, La guerre, yes sir!, (1968) deserves particular attention as a literary work that interrogates Quebec’s colonial dynamics. While scholars have emphasized the images of the body in Carrier’s work, with particular consideration of La guerre, yes sir!’s carnivalesque elements, no study thus far has focused on how shifting depictions of individual bodies over time and space allegorize transformations of an imagined national body.  I argue that La guerre, yes sir! dramatizes Quebec’s struggle to regain possession of and define its national body, as represented by the villagers’ desire to recover physical and symbolic possession of the corpse of the fallen soldier, Corriveau. Specifically, I examine Carrier’s engagement with familiar tropes of contemporaneous anticolonial writing, such as the wounded, cannibalized body, zombified, or temporally-disruptive body, demonstrating the community’s power to ultimately resignify sites of injury as sources for healing.