Sewanee: School of Letters Theses 2011


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 6
  • Item
    A Farewell Symphony
    (University of the South, 2011-05) Whitehead, Cheryl
    A Farewell Symphony has four major themes which weave together like a kind of documentary symphony. The themes are: the writer’s family, her work as a public school teacher in inner city Miami, her relationship with a married woman and her life as an artist. The musicians, writers, filmmakers, and visual artists who have most inspired and influenced her act as central figures in the work. In the thesis, the characters live in various states of exile and experience both internal and external alienation. The characters speak directly to the reader in persona poems, yet in other poems they speak to each other, revealing their struggles through indirect characterization. The thesis, which is not divided into sections, allows the poems and characters to freely associate with each other. Highly formal poems written in blank verse, sonnet form, and villanelle form are juxtaposed with experimental and free verse forms. The title of the thesis is borrowed from Franz Josep. h Haydn’s Symphony Number Forty-Five. Haydn’s use of the term “farewell” was humorous; the court musicians at Esterhazy needed time off from their duties to visit their families; therefore, in the last movement of the symphony, Haydn orchestrated the ending so that the performers exited in pairs until the stage was empty. Conversely, in the thesis, the term “farewell” becomes elegiac.
  • Item
    The Milk Tree
    (University of the South, 2011-05) Harding, Lindsey
    The Milk Tree is a collection of eight short stories that explore types of people and what makes individuals within these types particular and extraordinary, even as they cling to the stereotypes that limit and define them. In this collection, the reader encounters the bridesmaid, the working mother, the new mother, the crippled woman, the town’s old biddies, the college kid, the involved father, and the man in the midst of a mid-life crisis. The stories access their principal characters through an array of different narration strategies and forms. “Swirling with Grounds” is written from a first-person-plural point-of-view. “When the Bough Breaks” adopts the structure of a blog and extends the story into blog conventions like sidebar elements, comments, and a page-hits tracker. In every story, characters’ imaginations are powerfully present, often hijacking the narrative, creating internal and external conflicts, and compelling behaviors that allow complex individuals to emerge from the situations in which they find themselves. The disabled bank teller in “Once a Runner” observes hands and fashions fantasies based on what she sees. “Beyond the Field of Vision” takes the middle-aged narrator back into his parents’ lives before he was born. “A Fairytale, However Flawed” traces a working mother’s attempts, both real and imaginary, to have an affair. In “The Milk Tree,” the young father creates a birthday party game out of his wife’s breast milk pumping equipment. “HD Immortality,” a story about a boy’s desire to become a reality television star,” and “All That White,” a bridesmaid’s pre-wedding account, conflate reality with desires and hopes with the here-and-now. Throughout the collection, character develops through choice and vision, and life is revealed both as it is being lived and as it seems to be lived. The collision of these parallel lives drives each story in an effort to investigate the power of stereotype in ordering life – and, the even greater power that is accessed when a stereotype is transcended, abandoned, or aggressively resisted.
  • Item
    Sustenance: A Novel-in-Progress
    (University of the South, 2011-05) Williams, Victoria
    Sustenance explores the world of brokenness in its characters and their progress toward a redefined wholeness. The narrative moves between two characters: Hannah, a 13-year old trying to make sense of her family's new dynamic after an episode of domestic violence and her father's subsequent abandonment of the family; and Joe, a gifted Kentucky architect who loses his young family in car crash just as he has gained national attention in his field and the promise of a brilliant career lies ahead of him. Hannah's world moves in and out of Holiday, located in Tom's Creek, Alabama. It's the home place of four generations of her mother Mercy's family. Hannah's relationship with Mercy, an attentive mother and artist, deepens as Mercy struggles to understand her husband's leaving. Her mental health begins to deteriorate and its decline is exacerbated by the rhetoric preached by Havis and Clara Keeble, the pastor and pastor's wife of Higher Power Pentecostal Church, where she flees for spiritual guidance, emotional solace and help with the bills associated with the ancestral home at Holiday. The Keebles have their sights on Holiday as a place to relocate their growing congregation, which meets in a building conjoined to a rural gas station. Clara Keeble, rigidly religious, convinces Mercy she is largely responsible for her husband's abandoning the family due to her absorption with her own self-focused, artistic pursuits. Clara moves into Holiday to watch over Hannah and her incorrigible younger sister, Jolie, after Mercy's mental health deteriorates to the point where she must be hospitalized for a brief stint. After Mercy returns home, Clara shuns and works to stifle Mercy's creativity, clearing the house of any signs of artistic endeavor, and takes up a personal campaign to move Mercy, Hannah and Jolie towards her own personal view of more godly living. As the strictures of Clara religion starts to put a chokehold on any of the family's remaining identity, freedom or happiness, Jolie, Hannah's strong-willed younger sister works as a counterpoint to crack open and reveal Clara and Havis' self-serving natures. After the funeral of his wife and daughter, Joe leaves Kentucky for Atlanta, the only place he can remember any previous happiness. After a bout of drinking to stifle the pain of his loss and unable to conceive of place to go to find solace or to receive welcome, local police find him sleeping off his drunkenness and sorrow in a vehicle in his in-law's neighborhood. He is escorted to a local Catholic food bank and homeless shelter. Here, he finds comfort in serving others, the companionship of a very large dog named Solomon, and healing in working the fields of the local Cistercian monastery. Feeling called to serve the church, Joe enrolls in a seminary in Atlanta and is ordained as a Presbyterian minister. His ministry focuses on serving the local immigrant Latino population who have sacrificially left families behind in search of affording them better opportunities and life in Georgia. As he helps them deal with their own separation and loss, Joe finds himself healing. A memory of soul's repose while fevered with the death of his wife and child, passing through the town of Tom's Creek has stayed with him since his leaving Kentucky. When the opportunity to escort Horacio, a newly arrived immigrant from Oaxaca, Mexico with his family in Tom's Creek, Alabama arises, he jumps at the opportunity to discover what may be there waiting for him. Shortly after his arrival, his life and the lives of Hannah, Mercy and Jolie intersect.
  • Item
    The Law Whistles: A Case Study of the Trials of Hermione and Perdita in The Winter's Tale
    (University of the South, 2011-05) West, Kimberly Redman
    The trial scenes at the heart of The Winter’s Tale present powerful metatheatrical episodes that also serve as legal exemplars in the use (or misuse) of evidence and argument. Legal analysis of this text yields surprising riches amazing to both legal and Shakespearean studies. The type of forum, whether public or private; the nature of the audience, whether peers or the public; and the type of evidence, whether of pattern or practice, admissions against interest, demonstrative or character, inform the analysis. The Winter’s Tale builds legal texts of circumstantial evidence, weighted both wrongly and rightly, into a morally transformative, redemptive drama. In the play, the evidence adduced in three consecutive tribunals rationally, although erroneously, builds from Leontes’ suspicions to the jailing of Hermione on charges of adultery with Polixenes, to his conviction and consignment to the flames of his infant daughter Perdita, and then to a formal capital indictment for high treason that includes Hermione’s conspiracy with Polixenes and Camillo to murder the King. Fittingly, as the dramatic and legal tension mounts, trials begun in private spaces (a Queen’s sitting room and a King’s bedchamber) move to the climatic public forum. This shift of venue from private to public spaces does not obscure or alter the nature of the evidence. The textual evidence proffered on all charges is both purely circumstantial and cumulatively ambiguous. Circumstantial evidence is indirect in nature, consisting of inferences arising from facts woven into a chain of events offered to support a conclusion. The weight of the circumstantial evidence at trial must therefore support Leontes’ charges against Polixenes and Hermione but, at the same time, serve as a basis for something other than a revenge tragedy. The King cannot begin this case as a ii madman if the full force of the tragedy, or the ultimate comic redemption, of the play is to work. There must be some logical, textual basis for his version of the events as crimes. The cogency, completeness, and strength of the evidence become crucial in this regard, especially when facing the Delphic scale of moral certainty. Arguments by both prosecution and defense establish the requisite legal, but ultimately tragic, tension. Leontes’ arrangement of the chain of events into the “facts” of adultery and conspiracy, though plausible, is wrong. When circumstantial evidence is at issue and is, as here, the sole basis supporting guilt, the quality of the evidence must be stringently tested. Conviction on “pure surmises” (3.2.119) is, as Hermione argues, “rigor, not law” (121). The facts and inferences underlying circumstantial evidence should be carefully sifted and evaluated in light of the standard of the burden of proof. Leontes argues temporal and pattern or practice evidence; testimony and actions as admissions against interest; in order to support his surmises from the evidence to proof of Hermione’s, Polixenes, and Camillo’s guilt. Paulina and Hermione respond with demonstrative evidence of physical appearance and character evidence to rebut his charges. The oracle, the ultimate truth-teller, renders the verdict -- testing Leontes’ case and finding it wanting. Tragedy immediately ensues, although the seeds of comic redemption are sown in the previous forums. Shifting texts with narratives supporting innocence or guilt are familiar to both literary scholars and lawyers. Applicable of legal analytical principles to the trial scenes in The Winter’s Tale yields results of benefit to both fields. Untwisting one strand of scholarship provides surprising results. This being done, “let the law [and literature] go whistle, I warrant you.” (4.4.23)
  • Item
    Going Home
    (University of the South, 2011-05) Leroy, Rachel Van Horn;
    The poems in this thesis chronicle continuous attempts to return home spiritually, emotionally, and literally through various cycles of existence. I trace the layered metaphor “going home” through the entire collection. The first stage starts at home, where all journeys start. I include childhood poems in this section. The next section reflects the struggles and joys of maturing, represented by natural themes and scenes. In the third section, I juxtapose dark and humorous themes through various polarities, dichotomies, and contrasts, focusing more on the perilous parts of attempting to return home on various levels. Lastly, I bring the journey full circle by returning to images and themes of family and light, bringing the reader back home. The first poem in the work is about my father’s influence, so I found it appropriate to bring the collection full circle and end the thesis with a work about my father’s influence as well. Section I is Beginnings. This section initiates the process of going home. It begins in childhood, and many poems take place at my childhood home. I started with a chronological exploration of my youngest experiences, and I transitioned into older childhood episodes. Section II is Life Cycle, named after one of the section’s poems. This part leads the reader further into the story arc, exploring the natural world and joys and challenges of maturation through these various “life cycles.” The reader also explores various natural events, which someone is likely to encounter on a journey. In Section III, Two Views, the thread binding all the poems together is juxtaposing contrasts, particularly contrasting beliefs. This segment also deals with struggling through loss and doubt while journeying toward spiritual wholeness. Section IV, Offshoots of Light, includes poems that connect with various forces that have influenced me in some way or create a “light” theme. Most of the poems bring the reader closer to the end of the journey, toward the light and warmth of spiritual, emotional, and physical home. The last poem in the thesis and this section, therefore, returns the reader to my childhood home and the theme/mood in the first poem. Through the collection, the reader starts at home, circles away from the concept of childhood and home, and, at the end, returns to where she began, like a hero’s quest. In the end, the concept of returning home becomes the prevalent theme in the thesis, and therefore a fitting conclusion to the entire collection.