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About Humanities Honors Theses 2019

Weights of the World: An Examination of the Evolutionary Histories of the Atlas Stone and Gada, and the Philosophy of Resistance Training

(2019)

In an age when everyday life demands less and less of the human body, it often feels as if we are growing further divorced from our nature as moving creatures. As the gym becomes the only sphere of life in which real physical exertion is experienced, our understanding and performance of exercise grows all the more distant—we get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible, using machines that isolate the muscles and limit the body’s movement. Our blood, sweat, and labor are transformed into numbers, cold steel, and increments of time. In this thesis I call upon the wisdom of both ancient and nascent strength communities to offer a perspective on exercise that is more human but does not lose sight of the importance of empirical data and quantitative values. In doing so, I give a brief account of the evolutionary histories of two not-so-typical exercise implements—the Atlas Stone and gada—as well as the myths and peoples to which they are tethered by history, legend, and science. Following my examination of the implements, I outline a three-phase exercise routine that synthesizes exercises performed using them with contemporary training principles and methodologies. Thus, in drawing upon the wisdom of the Indian wrestling and European stone lifting communities, I propose the need to cultivate a fitness culture that marries ancient techniques and attitudes with empirical findings and innovative technologies to produce trainees that are smarter, fitter, and greater in number.

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“Dance a Clean Dream”: Agency In Language In Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons

(2019)

In the words of Gertrude Stein: "Composition is the difference." Tender Buttons, her poetry collection published in 1914, is one of the most compositionally daring and misunderstood works within the modernist canon. Stein's composition brings into existence a way of seeing words: she forms her own use of language, both interpreting the rules of grammar and showing clear linguistic choices. In Tender Buttons, the word becomes the microcosm for larger philosophical issues embedded within language: identity, the body, being and knowing, and power. My thesis will closely observe how Stein's poems lend themselves to productive dialogs and/or cross fertilization with the linguistic theories of 20th century language philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida, and Valentin Voloshinov. In placing Stein in conversation with these philosophers, I hope to draw Stein in closer proximity to popular language theory and introduce new lenses to help perceive her work. More importantly, I hope to show how uniquely Stein challenges and pushes the boundaries of language, demonstrating to her readers the practice of choice and intent in the language of the everyday.

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The View from an Open Window: Soviet Censorship Policy from a Musician’s Perspective

(2019)

Under the leadership of Joseph Stalin from 1924 to 1953, censorship notoriously became a central aspect of Soviet society.  As citizens were rewarded for exposing any possible opposition to the government’s policies, no sector was left unmarked by what scholars now call the “Great Purge.”  While music was not an obvious victim of this movement, the Soviet music scene nonetheless found itself at the forefront of government criticism and reform.  In this thesis, I conduct case-studies of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and his Fifth Symphony, as well as Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky film soundtrack and his cantata Zdravitsa.  Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District brought its composer, and Soviet music as a whole, to the disapproving eye of Soviet censorship policy, while Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony saved him from further consequences.  Alexander Nevsky and Zdravitsa played instrumental roles in Prokofiev’s reintegration into Soviet society after spending years abroad.  I examine the Zhdanov Affair of 1948, in which both prominent and upcoming composers were called into a government conference concerning the unsavory music production in the Soviet Union, as a central event in the history of censorship.  Music magnifies the inherent futility of censorship, and as such, I use this investigation in conjunction with the case-studies to evaluate censorship practices within society: past, present, Soviet, and beyond.   

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