2011 Thesis Abstracts

Felicia Aguirre, “Farfalla” (Director: Valerie Sayers)

Farfalla is a novel that responds to an ever-changing world of English literature in a unique way. Josh Hays is stuck in class all summer long at London’s legendary St. Martin’s College of Art and Design. When he is given an assignment to ‘capture an instance of cross-cultural displacement on the London streets,’ he is amazed by his classmates’ naïve opinions about what constitutes as art. For his project, he draws a picture of an American girl reading a book on Trafalgar Square. His little assignment is brought to life, however, when the American girl is reported as missing. His Trafalgar sketch and the people within it become the evidence for her disappearance, as the United States Embassy begins to conduct their investigation. As he gets to know the subjects of his piece for himself, he starts to relate to art in a new way, just as readers will respond to this novel in an unusual manner.

Farfalla is a novel that responds to a classical tradition of British literature, while, at the same time, adding a contemporary spin to the style and themes. The story is written in two alternating forms. The first, like classic British literary texts, is the third person, limited, omniscient person, from the point of view of the artist Josh Hays. The second is written like a cinematic screenplay, and the scenes that would most naturally be from the perspective of the American girl, Bethany Brooks, are written in this style. Farfalla is an interesting way to examine the contemporary creative world, a society obsessed with movies and fast-paced action. As a result, literature is also affected, and this novel juxtaposes old and new tradition together, and asks readers to decide what is gained and what is lost in the telling.

The events and experiences are based upon my travels around London, but are also influenced by two popular English literature genres: travel writing and the detective story. I studied classic and contemporary British literature, from Francis Burney and Henry James, to Nick Hornby and Ian McEwan, in order to capture an English voice, but also to compare and contrast our contemporary literary world with the classical one we know and love. The novel seems to be focused on the mystery of the American girl’s disappearance, but this is only a disguise. Much like the Italian word, farfalla, which means butterfly, the text has a larger mystery emerging through the text. Just like caterpillars ‘die,’ in a sense and are reborn into a more beautiful butterfly, so, too, are the characters reflecting on this same theme in their own way. This novel shows that it is possible to write in the exhilarating style so common in cinema, while at the same time still contemplating life’s most important mysteries… what happens after death? Farfalla tries to develop an answer through art.

Sarah Ceponis, “The Moon Moves Slowly” (Director: Joyelle McSweeney)

In a literary landscape sometimes overpowered by postmodern bleakness, The Moon Moves Slowly offers a series of stories that explore whether or not there is still a place for positivity in the world. Though showcasing affairs and terrorist attacks, helplessness and heartbreak, leaving and losing, the stories consciously demonstrate the steady—even if sometimes difficult to see or feel—presence of good.  Especially through the innocent eyes of children, or via the idealistic dreams of young adults, a framework of friendship, forgiveness, and, ultimately, love, shapes The Moon Moves Slowly.  This is a collection committed to showing a multi-faceted understanding of today’s world.  While a place full of frailties, glitches, and oftentimes more problems than solutions, these stories show that it is only the darkness of the night sky that makes possible the beauty of the moon.

Tara Kron, “Guidebook: Engaging Ideas of Travel, Identity, Estrangement Through Poetry” (Director: Johannes Göransson)

In the Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing, the chapter entitled "Traveling to Write” analyzes the development of travel writing, asserting that in the post-war era the genre made a shift from didactic to impressionistic, as well as delineating trends in the emergence of narrative personae, approaches to voice, and the role of narrative, as well as identifying five major strands of travel writing in the last 25 years: comic, analytical, wilderness, spiritual, and experimental. Literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky describes the objective of art as, “ to lead us to a knowledge of a thing through the organ of sight instead of recognition.  By ‘estranging’ objects and complicating form, the device of art makes perception long and ‘laborious.’…Art is a means of experiencing the process of creativity.” Extending this principal to the experience of travel, the role or function of a traveler parallels the role of artist in relation to art.  A traveler is outside of the culture that they are dwelling in or passing through.  The situation of a traveler within a foreign city is a site of tension between human commonalities and physical and cultural displacement.  The art that the travel writer may produce is then both a result and an expression of this theory of estrangement.  

In my Honors Thesis Creative Project, a collection of poetry entitled “Guidebook,” I work within both the subgenre of ‘experimental’ travel writing as well as the tradition of the personal lyric poem.  In this collection I endeavored to  write poems that engage various constructions of place, drawing on my experience studying abroad with the Notre Dame Paris Program in the summer of 2008, as well as the 2009-2010 academic year I spent studying at Trinity College Dublin.  The speaker in this collection of  poetry encompasses the identity of the traveler in relation to ideas of estrangement as a “device of art” as well as a core component of the formation of personal identity.

Kate Mullaney, “Almost the Fool” (Director: Valerie Sayers)

Almost the Fool is a collection of three stories which examines the constant, involuntary creation of narratives - often narratives which idealize a hero - in the contemporary world, as well as the use of language, voice, and specialized vernacular to classify, conform, and marginalize. This is revealed through various situations that reflect on media culture and transmission, establishing a constant actor and spectator, although those roles are also constantly mutable. Through varied forms, genres, and points of view, the ideas of heroic narrative, language, and media overlap and are made manifest both literally and in the subtext. Ultimately, this topical exploration of story creation implicates the reader as a collaborator in the narrative trinity of fiction, creator, and consumer.

A modern legend examines the unique qualities of the fable and narrative in oral tradition, serving as a commentary on American culture’s elevation of athlete to superhero status as well as its tendency to smooth complex, human narratives into media-friendly soundbites. Both senses of story-spinning are reflected in the narrative voice, which incorporates free indirect discourse between the specific vocabularies of the distanced, third-person narrator and that of the characters.

A dual-perspective narrative highlights the fictionalizing process of interior thought, taking place entirely through the internal monologues of two characters as they experience the same concert. Their methods of constructing narratives about the musical world and each other are vastly different due to the specialized language that only one is able to access, demonstrated through two distinct narrative voices with separate vernaculars. Their individual experiences as spectators of the same musical performance, which strongly affects their localized feelings towards one another, are ultimately inverses, highlighting the already present rift in their relationship.

A story in the realist tradition, but incorporating flashes of media-related genre writing, examines the creation of literal and figurative superheroes. In the presence of extremes of optimism and cynicism as well as extreme, rapid speech, the creation of individual identity and the attempt to find one’s own language are explored as parallel. Thoroughly drenched with the inescapable presence of contemporary media, through which nearly everything can now be experienced secondhand, the creation of narrative and the relative authenticity of language take on even greater resonance. Thus, the real world becomes fiction.

Margaret Nettesheim, “‘The Robber’ and Other Stories” (Director: Steve Tomasula)

My thesis is a collection of three short stories, all in the realism genre and all using first-person narration. The first story, “In the Name of the Father,” examines father-child relationships between the narrator’s father and grandfather, and the narrator and her father. Set against the background of her grandfather’s funeral, the narrator reflects on the legacy that fathers pass on through the generations. “I Don’t Love You, Lawrence Windsor” gives the narrator’s highly analytical account of her dating relationship with Lawrence Windsor, and ultimately reveals significance of the intangibles of romance in the contrast between the narrator’s perception of the relationship, and the actuality. In “The Robber,” the narrator avoids her own self-realization in the imaginary life she constructs for the robber that holds up the bank where she works. The three stories converge at the consideration of what it means to be “real,” and the ways in which we interpret, shape, and redefine our own realities.