2 new PhD theses

Crowley, Dustin. 2013. “The Geography of Narrative: Representations of Place in African Literature”. PhD, University of Kansas.

Questions of geography have been prominent in the criticism of both African literature in
particular and postcolonialism in general, including, for instance, issues regarding the nation,
globalization, and the urban. Yet most discussions regarding these geographic concerns have
remained dichotomous, resulting in criticism that fails to attend to the complexity with which
African authors tend to represent the places of their writing. By engaging with a wide range of
work in cultural geography, this dissertation develops what might be termed geocriticism, a
model for understanding such geographic issues through the relations of space, place, and scale.
With this model, the dissertation argues for ways to understand concepts like the nation or the
local/global not as essential categories with set characteristics, but as relationally and historically
particular constructs. By doing so, we can attend with more nuance to the ways African authors
represent the conditions and relations of place in their narratives. The model of geocriticism
developed in this dissertation elucidates the ways each of the authors discussed in some way
understands the particular conditions and locations they write about as being influenced by largescale
entanglements with the continent and the world. Despite their geographic and historical
breadth and varied representational strategies, they all in some sense engage with questions about
“Africa” and it’s place-in-the-world, providing both multiform ways to understand the
consequences of Africa’s position and various alternative visions for the continent and its
constituent places.

O’Hogan, Cillian Conor. 2013. “Geography and Space in the Poetry of Prudentius”. PhD thesis. University of Toronto.

This dissertation examines the themes of geography and space in the poetry of the late antique Latin poet Prudentius (348-c.405 CE). The first chapter discusses the geography of reading, and suggests that Prudentius’ Peristephanon provides a means for the reader to experience the sites of the cults of the martyrs by reading about them rather than by having to travel to see them. It is also argued that the varying orders of the poems of the Peristephanon in the manuscript tradition can be explained by the differing interests of early readers, and that the arrangement extant in one group of manuscripts can be seen to be the result of organising the poems to fit a geographical itinerary. The second chapter investigates the intertextual aspect of literary journeys, and argues that late antique descriptions of journeys are as much indebted to the literary tradition as they are to “lived” experience on the part of the narrator. This chapter focuses in particular on Ausonius’ Mosella, and the third, ninth, and eleventh hymns of Prudentius’ Peristephanon. The third chapter discusses the representation of the city in the works of Prudentius, and shows how Prudentius’ approach to the civic nature of martyrdom in the Peristephanon must be related to the contemporary Christian perception that earthly civic obligations are not fundamentally incompatible with participation in the heavenly city of the afterlife. The fourth chapter examines the representation of pastoral spaces in the Liber Cathemerinon and the discussion of farming and religion in the Contra Orationem Symmachi. The final chapter addresses Prudentius’ descriptions of works of art and architecture, particularly churches, and argues that Prudentius exhibits a marked preference for the word over the image as a means of conveying knowledge. A brief conclusion suggests that Prudentius’ representation of physical and imaginary spaces is always governed by a belief in the primacy of the written word, and by a fundamentally bookish approach to the world.

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