UVic English/CSPT MA application statement of intent (2008)

I want to study the literary aspects and performative effects of utterances made in on-line environments. The Cultural, Social, and Political Thought (CSPT) program that is available as part of the English MA degree at UVic is the ideal place for me to carry out this research.

My double English and History majors helped me gain a strong understanding of literary and history theory. The focus of my History major—“World and Comparative History”—reflects my interest in cultural studies. I was granted permission to take the History department’s honours specific “Approaches to History” seminar. This intensive year-long course forced me to examine the theoretical backgrounds that shape my study of the past.

My English Honours major helped me build the strong background in literary theory necessary for acceptance into the CSPT program. My directed reading and Honours thesis let me concentrate on developing an understanding of speech-act theory and performative language. The idea that words have the force to physically and tangibly change the world the moment they are uttered has influenced the way I read, write, and think. In my Honours thesis—“Derrida’s Speech-Act Theory: the basis of an iterable historiography”—I attempted to bring together my work in literary theory and my study of historiography. I would like to undertake a similar project in my MA program but with a focus on internet-based reality. After several years studying a historical and literary past largely removed from my own day-to-day life I want to use the skills I’ve developed to analyze something contemporary.

My proposed MA thesis has two objectives. First, I will argue that a speech-act theory analysis exposes the performative mechanics at work each time a command is made in the on-line world Second Life. Second, I will use the ideas of speech-act theory to help explain how utterances made in Second Life have developed performative force in the real-world.

My program of study will largely be shaped by the structure of the CSPT program. Several highly theoretical seminars, including the mandatory “Contemporary Cultural Social and Political Thought I,” will help me develop my proposed thesis. I am interested in the seminars on “(Post)-Colonialism and the Holocaust,” and “The Complicity Critique” that will be offered in the future.

Arthur Kroker is the ideal supervisor for my proposed project. Dr. Kroker (Political Science) is a CSPT faculty member and the director of the Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture (PACTAC). He is also the founder of ctheory.net, an on-line journal of theory, culture, and technology. Dr. Kroker’s work has helped me become more familiar with current studies of the internet. His in-depth knowledge of both theory and the internet will be an invaluable asset for me.

Other than the mandatory CSPT seminars, numerous graduate courses offered by the English department interest me. Specifically, I am attracted to the “Studies in Literary Theory” and the studies in 20th Century American, British, and Irish literature seminars. These courses would help me fulfil the credit requirements of an MA degree.

I am currently teaching English and studying Chinese in Taiwan—a daily lesson in cultural studies.

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