Award Date

5-1-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Douglas Unger

Second Committee Member

Maile Chapman

Third Committee Member

Megan Becker

Fourth Committee Member

Stephen Bates

Number of Pages

161

Abstract

The dissertation will consist of a book-length collection of short stories, dealing largely in universal themes of love and death as well as working class themes, such as race, class, sexuality, identity, labor, education, poverty, hierarchy, advantage and disadvantage, friendship, and crime. The stories will mainly be set in working class environs, in particular the real-life city of Bridgeport, CT and the fictional upstate New York town of Asphodel, which serves as a symbolic gateway to the underworld and takes its name from the Asphodel Meadows in ancient Greek Mythology (the place where ordinary souls were sent to live in the afterlife). While some stories will exist solely in one of these two settings, others will pass between the two. Likewise, other settings (Las Vegas, etc.) will appear as necessary in order to explore the above-mentioned themes. While a short story collection in the classic sense, certain characters will recur throughout various narratives, in particular the character Murph, who figures prominently in at least two of the Bridgeport stories, as well as various peripheral characters who populate the shared world of the stories. I envision a sort of flowing universe in which all of the characters, events, and settings are in conversation with one another, if not directly then abstractly. These stories will explore notions of identity in working class life. For example, the story “A Matter of Discipline,” while exploring the loss of a character’s voice, is simultaneously concerned with the manner in which family identities can shift over generations, creating crises in relationships as educational/class gaps grow between parents and their children. These stories will deal heavily in anxiety and the place of the individual in the world, particularly with regards to death, and they will look to certain naturalist stories for inspiration (e.g. Crane’s “The Open Boat,” and Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,”). Considering the heavy influence of the Gothic on this project, many of these stories will actively walk the line between the psychological and the supernatural with the aim of investigating the existential tension we all face as well as exploring the way in which the working class experience can rupture a person’s connection with his/her body, thus generating further anxieties, which alter our perspective and experience with the greater world.

Disciplines

English Language and Literature

Language

English

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