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Corporeality in Turn-of-the-Century American Fiction

Mahady, Christine (2008) Corporeality in Turn-of-the-Century American Fiction. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My dissertation argues that a number of novels published in the U.S. during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries work to reveal corporeality's contributions to knowledge and meaningful human action. Many critics have proposed that fictional treatments of bodies during this period provide a means for understanding the diminished capacities for human agency in modernity. However, my dissertation proposes that figurings of dynamic embodiment in some turn-of-the-century American writers' works present corporeality as a shared condition of embodied beings, a condition that offers ethical insights into the nature of personhood. Even as bodies were being disciplined in military and civilian life to serve the states' purposes, American novels were evoking the body's complex resources for other forms of thought and action. The emphasis on physicality in literary works of the authors I examine has no doubt contributed to their notorious association with popular conceptions of late nineteenth-century determinist philosophies. My project suggests, though, that these writers' philosophical interest in embodiment marks a serious engagement with a corporeal-centered epistemology. I propose that turn-of-the-century writers' literary expressions of corporeality in many respects anticipates non-dualist theories of embodiment later elaborated by phenomenologists such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In these accounts, the body is conceived as an active entity itself that is inextricably bound up with consciousness, rather than an inert object directed by a controlling mind. Feminist and cultural theorists such as Elizabeth Grosz, Judith Butler, and Laura Doyle have recently worked to re-appropriate and supplement phenomenological accounts of the body's role in human relations and action. In doing so, they have helped to elaborate the potential significance of these conceptions. Drawing on this theoretical work, my dissertation is an effort to rethink treatments of corporeality in some late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century U.S. fictions by authors such as Charles Chesnutt, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Frank Norris, and Edith Wharton.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mahady, Christinecmm16@pitt.eduCMM16
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGlazener, Nancyglazener@pitt.eduGLAZENER
Committee MemberFlannery, Kathrynflannery@pitt.eduFLANNERY
Committee MemberParker, Lisa Slisap@pitt.eduLISAP
Committee MemberBoone, Troyboone@pitt.eduBOONE
Date: 30 October 2008
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 7 August 2008
Approval Date: 30 October 2008
Submission Date: 1 August 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: American literature; corporeality
Other ID:, etd-08012008-212801
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:56
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:47


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