Award Date

5-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Department

English

First Committee Member

Pablo Medina, Chair

Second Committee Member

Vincent Perez

Third Committee Member

Richard Wiley

Graduate Faculty Representative

Michelle Tusan

Number of Pages

196

Abstract

With this work I wanted to explore the space between memory and imagination: namely, how much imagination fills the fissures that run though our knowledge of our past. The protagonist, Joshua, has been estranged from his family for nine years and learns of his father's death while in China. But without explanation, Joshua is awaken one morning by an old fabrication of his childhood imagination--a character now very real--who accompanies Joshua on his search for a fantastical object.

Pareidolia is the phenomenon of seeing figures and faces in vague stimulus, such as clouds and wood grains. It is commonly believed that human beings are hardwired for such activity; our minds involuntarily try to put order to chaos. This idea has been made popular in behavioral psychology with the use of the Rorschach inkblot tests, in which inkblots are used to assess a subject's mental state. My intentions are to demonstrate the effects when Aristotelian logic encounters unexplainable phenomena--specifically, how peridolia can reshape reality--by using narrative instead of inkblots to assess characters' mental states.

The characters here come from a Pentecostal background. I think this a good vehicle to express the supernatural (literally, that which is above nature) for two reasons: First, I have great intimacy with Pentecostalism, and therefore believe I can respectfully deliver both the awe and fear that comprises the strong undercurrent of that faith. Second, Pentecostalism has a fantastic mythos: glossolalia, the Holy Ghost, and resurrection are reality to some communities. The protagonist has to reconcile his existentialism with his Pentecostal heritage. For the first time in his life, he considers that answers to some important questions may not exist.

As for the setting, the narrative begins in China and spans two more countries. I believe it is important for the protagonist to literally be the stranger in a stranger land: He has turned his back on his community and has made the last nine years of his life as transient as a person can. This is important, for identity is one of the lenses we perceive reality through; we comprehend the world in part from how it is different from us, and to do that we must first have an understanding of who we are: for Joshua, that is the realization that time and memory are not linear, but rather the past exists all around him and is inescapable.

The reader will also find the archetypical Holy Grail. Holy Grails have traditionally represented the boon of a long quest and granted its founder with magical powers. Here, the protagonist has spent these last years searching for a legend. He doesn't believe all the stories he hears about it--a caravan of vagabonds aimlessly wondering the earth--but suspects that there is something behind it all. This is pareidolia: Joshua is convinced that there must be a cause, that within this ephemeral myth must be some unseen form. His obsession for finding the Caravan is the protagonist wandering through the fog with his hands stretched out.

The mind also employs pareidolia when it sifts through memories and glues them into some kind of idea: a happy or a sad day, an experience, or even into a value. The same can be said of a story.

Keywords

American Literature; Creative writing; Fiction; Imagination; Memory

Disciplines

Creative Writing | English Language and Literature | Fiction | Literature in English, North America | Modern Literature

Language

English

Comments

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