Date of Award

Spring 4-13-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Joshua Russell

Second Advisor

Sheri Joseph

Third Advisor

John Holman

Abstract

The dissertation for my PhD is a composite novel called We Are Everyone You Know. The novel is set in a small town that is neither rural nor suburban, which, like the characters, defies classification. The cast rotates. Main characters become supporting characters in subsequent chapters and vice versa. I employ this strategy so the reader is able to see each character as an individual, that even those who seem to be in the background are living complex lives. The novel explores such themes as poverty, gentrification, the loss of innocence caused by a corrupt world, and the inability of people to realize their identities when the promises of youth turn out to be lies. Each chapter or story is told from either a different point of view or in a different style or genre. While the novel as a whole is grounded around a family and group of friends in a small town, the pieces of the story range in form from simple realism, to modernism, to post-modernism, to surrealism, to meta-fiction. I experiment with genres ranging from crime drama, to disaster survival, to sports comedy, to kung-fu epic, and more. Interspersed between the genre pieces are realist stories of a new lost generation—thirty-somethings who are stuck in permanent adolescence, who work at soul-crushing jobs, and who find neither the shining future that was promised to them in their youth nor the comfortable mediocrity of their parents’ lives. For this project I have been particularly inspired by the works of Louise Erdrich, James Joyce, and Jennifer Egan.

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