Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in English

First Advisor

Thomas Franklin

Second Advisor

Mary Hayes

Third Advisor

Chris Offutt

Abstract

My thesis is a collection of literary short stories, many of which spring from my life experiences: people I've known, places I lived, jobs I worked, or subjects I have researched. Some stories are more "realistic," where landscape and geography—often West Virginia, or my native Pennsylvania—is an essential part of the narrative. Other stories are more experimental, blending realism with other styles like satire, metafiction, and historical fiction. Yet the narrators in these stories share a common trait: they are somehow isolated, alienated, or marginalized. Some are physically confined—a lobsterman who works alone on his boat, coal miners working underground, office workers stuck in cubicles—and others are emotionally removed from love, meaningful relationships, or a sense of belonging. These characters are disengaged from their communities, on the fringes of society, but they struggle to endure and make sense of their lives. And while these are not political stories, many of them involve work and class, particularly blue collar work and the lower classes. Too often, in literature and popular culture, these people are either dismissed as poor white trash or celebrated as working class heroes. Having grown up in a steel town, my characters are based on people I've known, and I've tried to describe them as real human beings with their own flaws and virtues. In short, I've tried to create stories and characters with distinct narrative voices, using different styles, techniques, and points of view to tell these stories. They represent my diverse influences, and I hope they showcase my full creative abilities.

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