Award Date

5-15-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Douglas Unger

Second Committee Member

Maile Chapman

Third Committee Member

Felicia Campbell

Fourth Committee Member

William Bauer

Number of Pages

298

Abstract

In fulfillment of my MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction), I have written a thesis in the form of a novel entitled Waiting For Nothing.

In brief, my novel is about young people struggling to define their existence--or perceive a meaningful trajectory--within the troubled, detached-seeming technological present. Structurally speaking, it follows Tom, a young college graduate, who suffers from existential malaise and feels at a loss for what to do with his life. He drifts through vague, short-lived relationships with others, chooses to have only a few friends, spends a lot of time on the internet and its subcultures, and generally prefers isolation over company. His life begins to change when he meets Sara, a young woman who has recently become a paraplegic due to a car accident. The two bond over shared values of isolation, depression and anti-social sentiments, and they enter into a relationship. The story begins to resemble a relationship plot, wherein the young couple struggles to negotiate their togetherness while resisting (and capitulating to) various forces of parental pressure, internet culture, mental illness, physical handicap, drug use, and criminal activity. As their relationship matures, Tom and Sara reconsider their antisocial tendencies and become incrementally more accepting of society and its expectations, albeit on their own terms. Tom begins working a full-time job--something he previously thought himself incapable of enduring--and becomes more responsive towards concerns expressed by his elderly parents for him to become a more responsible person. The ending of the novel sees Tom and Sara in a committed and healthy relationship, in which both feel optimistic and confident towards challenges of the future, consciously resolving their previous asceticism and pessimism.

The themes in the novel connect to my research into American millennial culture, as well as experiences in my own life. In a time when digital information and modes of connectivity are exponentially increasing, it is both meaningful and entertaining to analyze the spectrum of attitudes relating to it. While Tom and Sara have positive views on internet usage and culture, they are also aware of its drug-like effects, and at one point even endeavor to ‘detox’ themselves from the internet by turning off all their devices for a month. By examining their enthusiasm and dependency on the internet, they discern that technology is neither good nor bad, but is useful as a tool and serves to amplify human nature.

In terms of literary traditions of the 21st century, I view my work as fitting into alternative literature or ‘alt lit,’ as it’s come to be known. Born on internet blogs and online magazines, the genre gained acceptance by mainstream publishers beginning in the mid-2000s, with works by writers such as Tao Lin, Noah Cicero, Zachary German, Megan Boyle and others navigating their way into print. The genre typically involves detached, socially pessimistic young people, detailed references to internet usage and subcultures, boredom and drug use. A key feature of alt-lit which has captivated me is its sincerity both in language usage and emotions. In stark contrast to most fiction produced in the United States today, the best examples of alt lit do not employ irony, wryness or exaggeration to achieve social criticism, but rather present information and emotions as sincerely and concretely as possible. In this way, a kind of sincere closeness is achieved between writer and reader, one without condescension or artifice.

Moreover, my work connects to the literary traditions of bildungsroman and romantic plot in perhaps new ways than have been previously expressed. What does it mean to become an adult or to romantically love someone in the internet age? Are the standards our parents obeyed for maturity, personal conduct and relationships still in place--or is technology moving us towards new models of how a person should be in the world? On the whole, I do think society is at a certain kind of inflection point when it comes to becoming an adult in the information age, when it seems young people are gaining new attitudes and obligations at the same time that they are letting go of traditional ones. Although the goal of young adults may still be fixed on cultivating an identity, gaining success and affection, the paths taken to resolve these tensions seem to me more varied and interesting than they have ever been. My work endeavors to discuss these tensions and challenges within the framework of established literary genres.

Disciplines

Creative Writing

Language

English

Available for download on Thursday, May 15, 2025


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