College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
BA (Bachelor of Arts)
Session and Year of Graduation
Honors Major Advisor
My collection is in the genre of linked stories. Each installment is a stand-alone creation, but when juxtaposed against the other stories a larger narrative arc is created. The mediums I’ve utilized are diverse: stream of consciousness style narration, epistolary entries, a heavy poetic inclination, and found domestic materials. The characters of my piece inhabit three different eras, the 1960’s, 1990’s, and contemporary 2018. However, they are all lodged in the same geographical location: Midwestern America. All of the characters are white working class.
Thematically my collection seeks to unearth definitions of femininity. I chase the fluctuating and elusive language that is used to discuss womanhood, specifically on the micro-scale – between mothers and daughters. The stories work in tandem to probe intergenerational constructions and explore gatekeeping. I want to ask: who teaches us what femininity is? Who controls the performance? These stories are also deeply concerned with bodies and the mechanics of inhabiting one within the confines of a deeply gendered society. To elaborate further I will use my characters as vehicles to discuss these topics. Grace, a working mother, struggles with the exhaustive nature of domestic labor, and the tedious acrobatic balance between providing care for her child and being a “competent” worker. For her daughter, Gertie, we see these themes explode into vivid experiences with mental illness and body image. Jessica, the third generation in this family, grapples with the poverty she endures and the emotional labor she performs for her adult mother, an inversion of their parent child relationship. These relationships rise together to create a three dimensional experience of femininity, and what it means to inhabit a gendered body.
On the point of craft, my thesis combats traditional narratives, for example, Hemingway and the volatile masculinity he writes of in his linked story collection, In Our Time. Mywork moves towards the quiet, little violences in the routine lives of female identified individuals. The genre of linked stories in particular is a deliberate choice because it tackles the fractured and dissociative nature of trauma. It also allows the space for multiple marginal characters to speak instead of a single empowered voice. Ultimately these stories were written to create mirrors for which readers can see themselves reflected back, represented.
femininity, embodied trauma, motherhood, mental illness, body image
Copyright © 2018 Leah Waughtal