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Author ORCID Identifier



Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Catherine Portuges

Second Advisor

Justina Gregory

Third Advisor

William Moebius

Fourth Advisor

Stephanie Nelson

Subject Categories

Classical Literature and Philology | Comparative Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Modern Literature | Reading and Language


This dissertation makes a comparative study of Homeric Greek, Classical Greek, Modernist, and late modern works of storytelling with particular attention to strategies and techniques that achieve an exceptional degree of performative immediacy. As such, theater (the dramatic mode) forms a central concern, viewed as the fulfillment of direct performative embodiment—building on Aristotle’s idea of mimesis.

An analysis examining multiple media demonstrates how oral epic poetry, Athenian tragedy, modern theater, the short story, and the novel can make use of seemingly disparate storytelling methods that share underlying mechanisms whose effects are decidedly theatrical. Four authors—Sophocles, Samuel Beckett, Homer, and James Joyce—are examined through selected works, which include: Oidipous Tyrannos, Krapp’s Last Tape, Not I, Happy Days, The Odyssey, Epiphanies, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Giacomo Joyce, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake.

Through a primarily narratological orientation, utilizing possible worlds theory in combination with a generally rhetorical (and functionalist) approach, this dissertation outlines a lineage of cultural expression that privileges the phenomenological juxtaposition of the fictional and actual worlds, giving the audience and reader the experience of what is termed an ontological double vision. Two principal concepts are developed in support of this overarching thesis. One is the central importance of parataxis, which operates not just on the level of grammar and sentence construction but also on the structural and thematic levels. Emphasis here is on the significant gaps that result from the placement (within these various levels) of sense units side-by-side, without explicit subordinating or coordinating connection. The other key concept is the allomorph—understood as a variant instance of a given form—which also pervades these works’ multiple levels. The notion of allomorphism, for instance, provides a way of conceiving the link between the so-called Kunstsprache of Homeric oral epic and the portmanteau-rich language of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. An examination of metaphor understood as conceptual blending, to cite another example, points to the way allomorphism and parataxis function together to undergird figurative expression.

The dissertation argues that parataxis and allomorphism are indispensible to the creation of fictional worlds that manifest theatrical immediacy.