Students >> Dissertation Topics
 

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plus Posthum(or)ous: The Folk Response to Mass-Mediated Disasters in the Digital Age

Abstract:More so than other events, shocking news of death, disaster, and scandal invite humorous vernacular expression on the Internet when repetitively consumed via mass media outlets. The Internet propels the diffusion of humor about tragedies to many people that would not have been included in previous years. by comparing the pre-Internet contexts of local, regional, and national responses to disaster with the trends of vernacular expression in today's new media-driven society and popular culture, this dissertation shows that the global reach of cyberspace has irrevocably extended itself into the ways that modern society expresses itself and underscore the implications that this has for the trajectory of contemporary folklore studies. Most importantly, this work demonstrates that the allure of the Internet (as a locus of vernacular expression) comes from not only its widespread accessibility, but because it eases the growing trend of physical detachment from the analog world that cyberspace has made commonplace in the lives of working people.

Author:
Trevor Blank
Proposal Date:
10/25/2010
Defense Date:
2/17/2011
Committee Chair:
Dr. Simon Bronner
Committee Members:
Dr. Michael Barton
Dr. Charles Kupfer
Dr. Girish Subramanian

plus Kallah's Choice: Hair Covering and Gender in a Small Town American Orthodox Synagogue

Abstract:Hair covering serves as a siman nisuin (sign of marriage) for many Orthodox Jewish women. This ethnographic study profiles the hair covering practices of a small town Orthodox synagogue that struggles with the tensions of acculturation, assimilation, and identity in a context where it is difficult to live as an Observant Jew. Using hair covering as an entry point into the lives of these women, an understanding of the empowerment of the choice to cover (or not to cover) hair emerges that demonstrates the congregation's commitment to safeguarding traditional Judaism. I argue with comparative cultural, psychological, ethnographic analysis that women's uplifting of hair covering as a ritualized behavior is critical to the survival of Orthodoxy.

Author:
Amy Milligan
Proposal Date:
1/28/2011
Defense Date:
1/20/2012
Committee Chair:
Dr. Simon Bronner
Committee Members:
Dr. Michael Barton
Dr. Charles Kupfer
Dr. Kamini Grahame
Dr. Andrea Leiber

plus Someone's In the Kitchen: The Value of Home Cooking Traditions in the Twenty-First Century

Abstract:While it is possible to avoid cooking in America today, traditional home cooking is far from dead. Just as cooks can follow a recipe word for word or make it their own by changing ingredients, traditional home cooking relies on connections to the past but is versatile in adapting to current needs becoming a powerful vessel Americans fill with meaning. Through analysis of cookbooks, recipe sharing websites, and interviews, my study demonstrates that, as a practice and performance, traditional home cooking is about more than what is for dinner—it is about connecting to the past, displaying the self in the present, and leaving a lasting legacy for the future.

Author:
Jennifer Dutch
Proposal Date:
2/13/2011
Defense Date:
2/27/2013
Committee Chair:
Dr. Simon Bronner
Committee Members:
Dr. John Haddad
Dr. Anne Verplanck
Dr. Carol Nechemias
Dr. Charles Camp

plus Without Mincing Words: Presidential Rhetoric in the Late Cold-War Era, 1977-1992

Abstract:This dissertation examines presidential rhetoric during the Cold War era (1977-1992) through an interdisciplinary lens. By highlighting one piece of rhetoric from each of Carter's, Reagan's, and Bush's administration on three related topics and/or themes, this work reveals the necessity of political and rhetorical pragmatism in preparing and delivering public rhetoric. All three presidents possessed a unique persona, ideology, and speaking style. However, world events necessitated that such characteristics be subservient to the needs of the moment.

Author:
Mary Clater
Proposal Date:
2/17/2011
Defense Date:
4/30/2012
Committee Chair:
Charles Kupfer
Committee Members:
David Witwer
John Haddad
Anne Verplanck
Harold Shill

plus "Telling You Who We Were: Identity Creation of White Settlers in Regions of the Old Northwest and Ohio River Valley."

Abstract:This project traces the emergence of regional identity among settlers in the Old Northwest and Ohio River Valley between the years 1780-1830. The 1780s offers the first full decade of the new nation as it struggled for self-definition through government and a developing culture identity. Concepts of frontier, freedom, and individualism informed some identity creation for pioneers moving into the region. The 1830 end date follows the opening of the Erie Canal and its connection of east to what most considered to be settled America. Identity creation, as it took place in the Old Northwest presents us with the first major American process of frontier identification. While these settlers relied upon earlier colonial settlement to help them make sense of their experiences, they formed an “American” process of settlement and identification within the frontier that set the stage for other regions as the frontier designation moved westward.

Author:
Susan Ortmann
Proposal Date:
10/16/2012
Defense Date:
Committee Chair:
Simon Bronner
Committee Members:
Michael Barton
Charles Kupfer
Libby Tisdell

plus Virtual Realities and Physical Fantasies: Ecological Responsibility and the Pastoral Ideal on the Appalachian Trail

Abstract:This dissertation analyzes how contemporary Appalachian Trail hikers who record and document their experience online integrate pastoral and ecological narrative elements into the narration of their experience in nature and what role technology plays in integrating or challenging those narrative elements. Since at least the industrial revolution, Americans have sought escape in nature and searched for a frontier past. Walking became one way to do that. Today people seek out nature and hiking for many reasons, and one of the most popular destinations is the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail, a political and physical construct of nature near Eastern urban centers, seems to embody paradoxical views of nature and technology. Many walkers go to escape the city, or only go once their professional and familial duties have been fulfilled, as such, the AT acts as a pastoral retreat from those duties. And yet, it connects people from all walks of life, links many states, economies, and ecosystems, and seeks to preserve nature that is near to and connected to urban centers, an ecologically laudable goal. Still, technology is as divisive on the trail as it is in America. It can be seen as an integral part of the experience and as an intrusion. Debates for both sides are lively on discussion boards of AT hikers.

Author:
Spencer Green
Proposal Date:
11/12/2012
Defense Date:
Committee Chair:
Simon Bronner
Committee Members:
Michael Barton
Charles Kupfer
Jo Tyler

plus The Americanization of Mormonism and the Mormonization of America: The Contestation for Mormon Identity in the American West, 1890 - 1963

Abstract:This dissertation examines the Mormon use of western mythology in their quest to assimilate into the American ethnic and religious mainstream between the years 1890 and 1963. I observe that after recognizing America’s growing affinity for the symbols, rhetoric, and geography of the American West, Mormon’s merged into the mainstream by assuming a Western identity to re-script their history to be more acceptable to American society.

Author:
Brant Ellsworth
Proposal Date:
10/11/2012
Defense Date:
10/11/2012
Committee Chair:
Dr. Charles Kupfer
Committee Members:
Dr. John Haddad
Dr. Simon J. Bronner
Dr. Christopher Hollenbeak

 

 

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