Date of Award

4-11-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Mary Carroll-Hackett, M.F.A.

Second Advisor

Robert Hursey, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Rhonda Brock-Servais, Ph.D

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to examine characters caught up in a transformation of identity: either a transfiguration or a transmogrification. Through the lens of fantasy, I sought to explore the trials of these characters in an exaggerated fashion that allowed me to take familiar questions and themes and attempt to make them new. All of my characters face a realization of identity: either they are startled into understanding that they are not who they thought they were, or they struggle to assert their version of self against pressure to be what others want. In “Marked”, Dwire has his self-conceived identity shaken because he was willing to do things that made him no better than the monsters he hunted. The narrator of “I Am” faces a situation almost completely opposite to Dwire’s; when he defies his purpose for being and says, ‘I am not a killer’, he undergoes a transfiguration. For Katya and Shai-Neferat, they struggle against the will of both loved ones and society to assert themselves as individuals rather than have an identity forced upon them. Shai-Neferat goes so far as to defy her god’s plan for her. Through these crises, and their responses to them, my characters change, none of them able to simply return to things as they were. These questions of identity stem from my observations of those around me who have grappled with many of the same issues my characters face and from my own stubborn fight to preserve my identity—to know when I ought to change and when I ought to stand my ground. In kindling life in these characters, I have struggled most with their voices, fighting to give them words that are their own rather than sallow imitations of mine. It is well into the revision process that my tone deaf ear begins to hear, and I am be able to attempt to craft individual voices, often word by word. I must also fight my natural inclination to write in the highest rhetorical style, even when it is not suited for an individual story. Ultimately, I write because I am a teller of tales, and I have been fascinated by the ‘what if’s’ of the world since I was young, put to bed with ‘Magic Tree Stories’ where my father sent me and my favorite stuffed toy leaping through a magic leaf pile into other worlds. Since then, there have been many who have guided me along my writer’s path: among them Megan Whalen Turner, Madeleine L’Engle, and every mythmaker that ever tried to weave meaning into their world through story. I also owe a debt to J.R.R. Tolkien for instilling in me a respect for world building and fostering my sense of storytelling, leading me to the exploration of what would become some of my strengths as a writer. As a Christian writer of fantasy, he also validated my own writing with his concept of sub-creation: “We make in our measure…because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”

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