Sewanee: School Of Letters Theses 2022


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Now showing 1 - 4 of 4
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    The Hidden Ghost in Me: Emily Brontë's Homeward-Bound Soul
    (University of the South, 2022-11-28) Spydell, Anna Marie
    Emily Brontë’s relationship with the idea of “home” was complex. It is well-known that she was so knit together in relationship with the genius loci of her native landscape that she became desperately ill from a sort of “failure to thrive” on the few occasions she traveled, aching for the open air and the boundless freedom of the moors. However, in her writing and in the little we know of her life, Brontë expressed a deep longing in her soul, a reaching for something beyond herself to fill a hole, assuage a yearning, and to grant her everlasting authenticity and liberty. She writes repeatedly in her poems of a desire to commune with boundless nature, and to be boundless herself and never separated from it. Her work moves in non-linear form in search of a residence in which to thrive in freedom and peace: the characters of Wuthering Heights move back and forth between the houses of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange in search of a belonging they find only in frustrated form with one another, and in barely described but undeniably present liberty on the moors that lie between. Her poetry, too, yearns for a place that provides both freedom and safe respite from a place of non-belonging: in the quietude of nocturnal nature, and even in the peace that Brontë imagined would accompany death. While remaining deeply attached to her own home at the parsonage, Emily Brontë suffered from a kind of homesickness—an ache that roved from other worlds, to this world, to other people, and even to non-being. It is through this quality of longing that I and many others have found deep connection and communion with Emily Brontë. Growing up in a difficult domestic situation, I was lucky to discover the Brontës at an early age, and attached myself firmly to Emily, and to Wuthering Heights. In this thesis, I seek to excavate what lies beneath that attachment. One way in which I have found connection with Brontë and her work is through our mutual preoccupation with homegoing, and the different places we seek to home ourselves throughout life. Certainly, Wuthering Heights has been one home for me, a text I have carried with me wherever I go. I seek to explore the different kinds of homes Brontë’s writing invokes: home in a lover; home in the wild; home in death; a home in the creation of art. Emily Brontë explored these spiritual residences in her work: the ways they free us, and the ways they entrap. All of these Brontëan notions of home have, over long years of attachment, become forever entangled with my own. In partnership with Emily Brontë, I search for the true and final home in the life and work of Emily Brontë, and the deep meaning that it holds for those who yearn after something fugitive.
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    Too Tall to Be a Hobbit, Too Short to Be an Elf
    (University of the South, 2022) Lynch, Christy
    What follows is a memoir of obsession, escapism, and the Lord of the Rings. For the first two decades of my life, I was fanatically religious. My interests, opinions, and desires were all determined by the fundamentalist evangelical belief system that ordered my rural town in Alabama—until, when I was seventeen, my best friend died suddenly in her sleep. When no theological framework could support a tragedy of this scale, the foundation of my faith began to crack. Shortly afterward, I began a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies and theology, and as the pressures of formal study were applied over the next three years, my worldview eventually collapsed. Debilitated by grief and depression, I grasped for the thing that had been my most reliable source of escape since childhood: the Lord of the Rings. A film adaptation of The Hobbit was already in the works in New Zealand, so I dropped out of college, sold my car, used the money to buy a plane ticket, and moved 8,000 miles away to be a part of it. I arrived in Auckland deflated. For the first time in four years, I had enough free time to absorb the shock of everything I had endured—my friend’s mysterious death when I was seventeen; my parents’ divorce that same weekend; my family’s alcoholism and drug abuse; the dissolution of my faith. As I navigated life in a new country, forming new friendships, learning the ropes of a new culture, I also began to grasp the extent of the harm I’d suffered under a certain kind of Pentecostal Christianity. I was told I could heal sick people. I believed I could perform miracles. I alienated all manner of people who cared about me in my pursuit of radical separateness, which I called holiness. Of course, I experienced more than just grief during the year I spent in New Zealand. I also experienced deep care from people who barely knew me. I learned to accept help from others and, for the first time, felt the therapeutic effects of interdependence. And as I leaned head-first into my lifelong obsession with the Lord of the Rings, I had fun—making pilgrimages to filming sites, following the start-and-stop news of The Hobbit’s production, combing the internet for casting calls so that I could audition to be an extra. The first six chapters of this memoir are included here, and they alternate in time between my life before college and my year in New Zealand. The chapters from before college chart my friendship with Brittany, my childhood best friend and accomplice in religious extremism. After her mysterious death the summer before our senior year of high school, I spent the next three days plotting a way to raise her from the dead. In the chapters that take place in New Zealand, I chase my dream of being an extra in The Hobbit while navigating the difficulties of life in a new country, trying to find a job, and coping with the cargo of trauma I’d carried with me across the Pacific Ocean. The Lord of the Rings is a lifeline throughout. My obsession with J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s movies developed when I was thirteen, and it sustained me through some genuine horrors in my life, both as a child in survival mode and a twenty-one-year-old who lost her grip on reality and tried to disappear into a world of fantasy. But despite my considerable efforts, I was not ultimately cast as an extra in The Hobbit. I was too tall to be a hobbit and too short to be an elf—the very picture of a woman straddling two extremes.
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    Water Music: Stories
    (University of the South, 2022) Clay Shanahan, Lisa
    Characters confront pivotal moments, their lives and times defined by flux, in “Water Music,” a collection of short fiction. A visitor arrives, inciting change: a betrayal, a ghost, a violent act, a suicide plan, destruction of a neighborhood, sex, war. Underneath the trauma, beats the intense love between women and men. These stories leverage a variety of styles and narrative strategies, while ranging over seminal decades in America. A young girl interprets a shocking church service through sound in the titular piece, “Water Music.”A university professor and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan are designing a backyard geode garden in “The Wandered Off” when the past confronts them in a disturbing manner. In “The Photo Essay” a college woman entangled with a complicated group of friends struggles to define herself. She gains self-knowledge by discovering how others see her. Meet elderly couple Claire and Dave in “The Device,” a utopian tale set in the world’s most famous amusement park, on the day Dave plans to die. In “Possessions,” a campus ghost story, Caroline must decide who she is and where she belongs while navigating two intense relationships. A gang of children—Janie, brother Roscoe, and pal Crockett—fight back against forces they don’t understand during the tumultuous Vietnam era in “The Field.” Charlotte and Robby, a brother and sister close growing up, are attempting to reset their adult relationship when a senseless act of violence interrupts in “Waffle House Christmas.”
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    Something Left Behind
    (University of the South, 2022) Woolwine, Patricia
    A collection of poetry that explores what is left behind as one goes through the process of grief: The story of a personal loss and the journey from the beginning lost days to hope.