School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    Visualising Loss: An Analysis of Imagery in Social Media and News Media Used to Portray Mass Shootings
    Kamal, Maria ( 2022-12)
    A large range of amateur and professional images are uploaded on social media and news websites in the aftermath of mass shootings. Participatory publics witness violent attacks and memorialise their victims by sharing images of these events. Recognising these images as integral components of visual culture, this thesis investigates the themes and tropes that emerge among social media and news media images of shootings. It interrogates the prevalence of graphic violence within this body of images, notes differences between news and social media images, and seeks to clarify the processes whereby images are filtered by professional gatekeepers. This thesis includes a visual analysis of images gathered from Facebook, Instagram and news websites, and interviews conducted with news professionals in decision making roles. The images analysed here are drawn from three mass shootings that occurred in Pakistan, New Zealand and America, and demonstrate image use in varied socio-cultural contexts, across the global north and the global south. Mediatization is used as a framework for considering the interplay between media and socio-cultural environments. Image sharing involves the use of dominant visual tropes such as ‘pray-for’ images. Themes and tropes exist on different levels of analysis with visual tropes falling under themes that reflect existing typologies contributed by Fishman, Hanusch, and Abidin. There were several key findings. Firstly, solidarity, iconicity and resistance emerge as key themes in social media images. Second, traditional gatekeepers overestimate the presence of images of graphic violence on social media. While traditional publication values persist, newer globalised tensions around how news media work in relation to social media have emerged as images trending on social media often dictate the contents of images in the news media. Third, photographs are the dominant medium among news and social media images but social media afford users the opportunity to participate in image production in ways that reflect their own experiences. Finally, gatekeepers filter images to ensure compliance with editorial guidelines however decision making is highly subjective and is based on assessments of multiple, interconnected, overlapping and sometimes contradictory factors which call for nuanced judgements.
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    Cinema as a Disabled Body: Disrupting the Aural, Visual, and Kinetic Body of Film
    Ford, Felicity Edwina ( 2022-10)
    “Cinema as a Disabled Body: Disrupting the Aural, Visual, and Kinetic Body of Film” is anchored by the provocative assertion that cinema is an inherently disrupted form and, despite ableist assumptions about how it sounds, looks and moves, it is specifically and importantly a disabled body. Focusing on a range of contemporary films released in the 21st century, this dissertation offers close formal analysis of the aural, visual, and kinetic elements of film to give resonance, shape, and movement to the disruptive cinematic body. This analysis prioritises the formal body of cinema in favour of on-screen representations and proposes that film form itself can be heard, seen, and felt as disability representation. Listening, looking, and moving with this disruptive cinematic form offers a different kind of body that can be found in disruptions to lighting, camera focus, framing, camera angle, sound fx, noise, music, voices, silence, editing, on-screen gestures, and camera movements. This is an original refiguring and reimagining of the cinematic body and the first scholarly analysis to define cinema as a disabled body. It also offers a productive re-scripting of how we frame and talk about disability and disruption. “Cinema as a Disabled Body” is a conscious shift away from understanding representation through character development, dialogue, and narrative and instead turns towards the cinematic body as a site of engagement. The cinematic body is defined as the technical apparatus of the film that informs how the film looks (lighting, framing, camera angle, focus), sounds (sound fx, noise, music, voices, silence), and moves (editing, on-screen gestures, camera movements). “Cinema as a Disabled Body” seeks to de-prioritise the notion of film as a “whole” and instead emphasise the disparate and composite elements that exist underneath the myth of a complete, synchronised, and seemingly able cinematic body. This dissertation is both a close analysis of cinematic disruption and an act of disruption itself that seeks to challenge the ableist gaze of film scholarship and reveal the value of listening, watching, and moving with a different body.
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    Masculinity, Violence, and the Failure of Patriarchal Values in the Fiction of Cormac McCarthy
    Tulloh Harper, Julia McVean ( 2022-10)
    This dissertation examines Cormac McCarthy’s concerns in his fiction with how American patriarchal, hegemonic masculine values fail to deliver their promised benefits to men. I argue that McCarthy is critical of the way cultural myths around manhood exacerbate in these men what he sees as a propensity toward violence as a means of control.Through an analysis of McCarthy’s manipulation of form, including his evocation and interruption of mythic narrative structures and recognisable character typologies, I assess the extent to which McCarthy distances himself from or aligns himself with the violent and misogynist masculinities he portrays. I also examine McCarthy’s attitude toward representation, language and narrative as adequate mechanisms for structuring human life and whether his presentation of American masculine ideals as linguistically generated allows for a more ameliorative reading of his fiction. Crucially, I consider the fact that the suffering of women is generally portrayed as subordinate to the suffering of men. I find McCarthy’s fiction to be still beholden to many core characteristics of hegemonic white American masculinity, in particular its tendency to centre itself in narratives of suffering and survival–and so I propose that any critique of white American masculinity in his works must only be seen as partial.
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    The Quantified Self and beyond: Design guiding discourse in human/data assemblages
    Jethani, Suneel ( 2022)
    This thesis examines the emergence and growth of the quantified self. The quantified self has developed from a loosely organised, internationally distributed group of self-experimenters advocating for data-driven approaches to everyday life to a catch all descriptor which reframes broader practices of self-tracking in a way that downplays its controlling a/effects on human subjectivity. This popularisation of self-tracking, as a eudaemonic praxis in contemporary digital culture has seen the emergence of a generative discourse which shapes the conception, design, and implementation of data-garnering sociotechnical systems. In the thesis, I argue that if interdiscursivity across different situated contexts of self-tracking is foregrounded then some of its underacknowledged material a/effects can be brought to light. As self-tracking practices are introduced and assimilated into many facets of our everyday lives, the intensities of self-tracking become portable, and normalised, across contexts bringing with them complex, dialectical notions of control and freedom. To better understand this tension between control and freedom, within and across sites where self-quantification is occurring, I use two research strategies: (1) examining existing analytical frameworks for understanding the relation between discourse and materiality developed in the area of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and adapting them for application within a Critical Data Studies approach to studying self-tracking, and (2) assembling and analysing data that has been collected from documented traces of self-tracking technology design, development and use—including discourses reflecting first-person accounts, newspaper and magazine articles, social media content, patents, technical documentation, marketing material, and published research across a range of disciplines. Taking an approach informed by Critical Data Studies (CDS) and Science and Technology Studies (STS), I trace the emergence of the quantified self as a means of describing a range of self-experimental practices and consider how it becomes portable to other settings. I do this through four case studies which examine relations of freedom and control in: the Quantified Self Movement, Precision Medicine, Workplaces, and Remote Electronic Monitoring. In each of these exemplars, the thesis highlights mechanisms of control and material strategies for transparency and resistance. In examining these case studies, I clarify the processes by which the scope of self-tracking technology broadens, and its intensity accumulates. The final chapter considers the emergence of a mutual praxis of critique and design that helps one (re)imagine of the power relations that are embedded into sociotechnical systems of self-tracking by way of a meta-discourse on human datafication, control, and agency.
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    Race, Capital and Desire in Roberto Bolaño: Genre in 2666
    Cao, Jack ( 2022)
    Roberto Bolano’s posthumously published 2666 is a novel split into five parts without a clear logic of organisation. I argue that its unity lies in the way each section takes up and then dissolves the conventions of a different genre. Before engaging in a close reading of the work, I seek to establish the importance of generic interpretation in contemporary literary criticism by arguing that genres are not simply categories for sorting texts, but names for complex representational mechanics through which a text relates to its social world. Upon this basis, I show that the movement of the novel reproduces the same trajectory in each of its five parts: each section uses the conventions of the genre but only to negate its usual organisation of meaning and therefore relation to history. Ultimately, I argue, these structures of experience decompose in confrontation with the colonial destruction of life. Since there is no single received literary form that adequately represents the transformations of racial violence, Bolano negates a procession of genres as a way of testifying to the complex matrix of power, death and revolt in the contemporary world. (Apologies for absence of accent on Bolano but the system does not let me type them)
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    Cultural China on the Small Screen: The Construction of a New Nationalism
    Xiong, Fan ( 2022)
    This thesis presents a study of China’s Science and Education channel, CCTV-10, between 2001 and 2013, arguing that it played a vital role in (re)constructing Chinese cultural nationalism in response to external globalising forces and internal commercialising trends. By exploring the complexities of CCTV-10 programmes’ form and content in the context of its historical development and policy environment, I examine this channel’s place in the national imaginary of a new, twenty-first century China and explore the cultural space of negotiations thus created between intellectuals, state media, and the viewing public. The main focus of our discussion is given to the emergent power of media intellectuals via CCTV-10, their vision of a cultural China, and their changing relationships with both the policy-making state and the general public. Through this, I aim to trace the institutionalisation of a new TV culture that developed, through initiatives taken by Chinese media intellectuals, into a distinctive brand of cultural nationalism under state supervision. My objective is to test the hypothesis that the case of CCTV-10 demonstrates the convergence of culture, economy, technology, and politics hewing out new possibilities for a multi-vocal public sphere. I argue that the channel’s nationwide popularity signified the (re)ascendant role of intellectuals as a key force in China’s post-socialist public culture. In terms of methodology, my work on public culture has grounding in intellectual history, media studies, and policy and censorship analyses, all of which I combine in this thesis. The chapters have been divided into three major parts with separate purposes: first to contextualise CCTV-10’s birth and growth, then to explore its transitional point, and finally to analyse its representative texts. I have intentionally given a large portion of the thesis over to contextualising and mapping in order to show the texts both in conjunction with and as a response to their contexts. Overall, I employ three concrete methods of analysis: rich contextualisation of the study of emergent discourses of culture and nation in contemporary China, policy studies under three different leaderships (Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi Jinping), and textual / formal analyses of television content. The significance of this study is twofold. On the one hand, it offers compelling evidence of highly diverse voices and heterogeneous directives at work in CCTV-10 programmes and thus challenges any simplistic assumption of the purely propagandistic effects of China’s official TV channels. On the other hand, it explores CCTV-10’s increasing populism in the light of Chinese intellectuals’ perennial quest to shape and guide public opinion, thus revealing historical links that problematise any superficial impression of the channel’s commercialisation and marketisation. In sum, I demonstrate that during the years covered by this thesis, a vibrant “shared space”, if not a public sphere in the strict Habermasian sense, was taking shape at the very heart of official media: CCTV, the mouthpiece of the Party.
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    Fantasy and Fertility: Women’s Reproductive Bodies in Medieval Literature
    Greig, Adelaide Jillian June ( 2022)
    This thesis explores how the reproductive potential of women’s bodies is portrayed in a selection of medieval literary texts from the Four Branches of the Mabinogi to Malory’s Arthuriad. Through a focus on fantasy in these narratives, I seek to further our understanding of how medieval writers and readers addressed social questions through fantastical story-telling. Literary fantasies, unburdened by the limits of historical realities, are fertile grounds for the expression of otherwise inaccessible desires, hopes, and critiques. This study charts how a series of female characters use the freedoms made possible by fantasy to reclaim the power of their fertility from patriarchal appropriation. I analyse Welsh, French, and English texts from the mid-to-late medieval period to juxtapose several case studies drawn from varied cultural milieux. My chosen narratives demonstrate the diverse ways in which imaginative literature questions the gendered roles of women’s reproductive bodies in medieval societies. The transhistorical and translinguistic scope of this project illustrates how multiple medieval narratives dispute the oppression of women’s bodies, and that this challenge is not exclusive to one writer, culture, or century. In my first chapter I consider Rhiannon, Branwen, Aranrhod, and Blodeuedd of Pedair Cainc Y Mabinogi, or the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, a Welsh tale surviving in two fourteenth-century manuscripts. The second chapter examines the ladies from three twelfth-century lais by Marie de France: “Guigemar,” “Yonec,” and “Milun.” And in the third chapter I approach the later medieval English canon through the Wife of Bath’s “Prologue” and “Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer, and several women from Thomas Malory’s Arthuriad. The female characters to be discussed refuse to be framed and defined solely by their potential to give birth to a male protagonist around whom the text will then develop. They behave in a variety of ways which actively and unintentionally resist the childbearing function expected of their fertility. Instead, these women seek the freedom to enjoy their own autonomous bodily expression. In my attention to these moments of resistance, I engage with previous scholarship on representations of women in medieval texts and the functions of literary fantasy. This study reads the bodies of fictional medieval women as encompassing both the earthly and the magical, borrowing a productive mundanity from one and the opportunity for wonder from the other.
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    Kenneth Slessor’s Gothic Harbour
    Cornwallis, Darcy James Sharpe ( 2022)
    Kenneth Slessor (1901-1971) often turned to Sydney Harbour as a productive site for his poetry and writing. Reading Slessor’s Harbour in its historical and cultural contexts, this thesis argues that he developed a poetic concerned with loss, memory, sexual desire and the uncanny return of repressed forces from the Harbour’s depths. The thesis begins in 1927, a year which saw two important episodes of drowning in Sydney Harbour: the death of Slessor’s friend Joe Lynch, subject of his later elegy “Five Bells” (1939), and the Greycliffe ferry disaster, to which Slessor responded in the pages of Sydney magazine Smith’s Weekly. In the wake of these twin tragedies, Slessor created a distinctive poetic vision of Sydney Harbour which fused imagery and atmospherics originating in Sydney’s popular press with a Gothic-modernist aesthetic he adopted at least in part from the work of T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). This thesis proceeds to read Slessor’s Harbour poetry as it developed through the 1930s, before leaving Sydney Harbour to read Slessor’s poetic evocations of Kings Cross and the battlefields of the Second World War, arguing that his Harbour poetic infuses poetry that may at first sight seem unrelated to the Harbour. It concludes with remarks about Slessor’s relationship to what Michael Cathcart has called ‘necronationalism’, exploring some of the ramifications and consequences of Slessor’s poetic project of populating an iconic watery Australian space with dead bodies and ghostly apparitions. The thesis draws on theories of the uncanny and the weird, derived from Freud among others, as well as Maria Tumarkin’s notion of the ‘traumascape’, and recent scholarship in literary studies which emphasises the role and agency of the sea, in order to formulate a new reading of Slessor’s relationship to Sydney Harbour and to literary categories such as modernism, the Gothic, and elegy. By recasting Slessor’s Harbour as a traumatising Gothic space, this thesis gestures toward a new perspective on the work of a seminal figure in Australian literary modernism.
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    Imaging a Biocentric Australia: Environmentalism and Aboriginalism in the Art and Life of Clifton Pugh (1924-1990)
    Robinson, Debbie Louise ( 2022)
    This thesis concerns the Australian modernist artist Clifton Pugh (1924-1990) and his emotional and intellectual engagement with the Australian environment, its Aboriginal inhabitants, and the way in which he expressed an environmental aesthetic and ethical awareness through art, activism, and an environmentally sustainable bush lifestyle. Renowned as a dramatic painter of primal landscapes beset by volatile elemental forces and predatory beasts, Pugh contributed greatly to national imagery during the 1950s and 1960s. He won the coveted Archibald Prize for portraiture three times and his work is represented in all major galleries and most regional and university collections in Australia. But in recent decades, Pugh has fallen from critical favour. The current art-historical appraisal of his oeuvre is outdated and limited to a narrow temporal period between 1959 and 1963. This thesis presents a study of Pugh for the twenty-first century, employing theories of environmental aesthetics, ethics, and Aboriginalism. It demonstrates how Pugh communicated environmental messages through art, examining for the first time Pugh’s use of Aboriginal motifs and techniques and the reasons why he represented Aboriginal people in his landscape painting and how this interest intersected with his environmental attitude and approach to conservation. It argues Pugh presents a biocentric vision of the Australian landscape to promote an environmental culture that values and respects Australian nature. Furthermore, his perception of Aboriginal art, culture, and stewardship form a significant part of this perspective, shaping his environmental attitude and visual orientation towards nature in art. This new interpretation of Pugh is not only relevant to Australia but also has global implications. It represents a local ideation of a broader shift in Western thought about the human-nature relationship that emerged during the 1960s.
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    Bakhtinian Chronotopes in the Campus Novel; and a Short Story Collection: Gutsy Little Unit
    Croser, Rebecca Michelle ( 2022)
    This thesis contributes to Bakhtinian chronotope studies by identifying and examining the campus chronotope produced in campus novels. In the campus novel genre, campus environs are more than simply a setting in which to locate action: the university is a geographical and psychological site that occupies a central position within the text and acts as an influential character determinant. Given that campus spatiotemporalities underpin campus novels, Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the chronotope presents as an apposite analytical framework with which to study them. In the literary analysis component, I consider three distinct chronotopic forms – dominant, intervallic and motivic – to present chronotopic readings of three campus novels. Taking Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (2005) as an exemplar campus novel, I examine the narrative opportunities afforded by the spatiotemporal constraints of the novel’s dominant campus chronotope. This examination subsequently informs the argument that competing intervallic chronotopes of campus, crime fiction and Greek tragedy create a notable chronotopic hybridity in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (1992). The campus chronotope also supports reframing and extending the diegetic value of Bakhtin’s staircase chronotopic motif and his established interpretation of stairways as sites of threshold and encounter. I contend that Vladimir Nabokov amplifies the stairway to the level of a stage in his campus novel Pnin (1957) by exploiting its associated spatiotemporal elements of performance, display and spectacle. In the creative component, I position the campus chronotope as a generative writing device to present a collection of interlinked short stories and flash fiction titled Gutsy Little Unit. Threaded through many of the stories is the campus chronotope in dominant, intervallic or motivic form. The collection is primarily focalised through the character of Nessie Loewe, though several characters in her orbit are protagonists in their own dedicated stories. Nabokov’s Pnin strongly influences the configuration of this short story collection; I take inspiration from its lightly comical tone and interlinked story structure of impressionistic sketches of Timofey Pnin’s life in and around a college.