Title

BOXED UP

Date of Award

12-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Steven Faulkner, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mary Carroll-Hackett, MFA

Third Advisor

Rhonda Brock-Servais, Ph.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to conduct an examination through creative nonfiction of the definition of home and how I personally define and apply this definition to my own life. In the nine essays serving as my thesis, collectively entitled "Boxed Up," I have delved into the definitions of home and how it applies to my family, my experiences and encounters with people around me, and the twelve times that I have moved. The sense and definition of a home has a strong tie to where someone grew up and to what culture one acclimates oneself. There is also a strong tie to a culture of people without one specific culture and without a singular place where they grew up. Military kids find themselves living a transient lifestyle because of the constant need to uproot where they live and follow one or both parents. The "melting pot" and cross-cultural effect that finds itself not only affecting America, but affecting the world, finds individuals having one culture they are "supposed" to call their home and yet discovering their own identity in a completely different culture. I find myself with a transient lifestyle and yet neither of these reasons applies to me. I choose to uproot myself and the focus of this body of work explores reasons why. I have looked closely at a myriad of works, roaming across America with John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley, where I too found "the urge to be someplace else was on me," and accepting Walker Percy that "it is possible to live in both cultures without being suffocated by the one or seduced by the other" in Signposts in a Strange Land. I interviewed friends on their definitions and feelings toward home and researched not just my past homes, but the homes of my parents and siblings before I was born. I found that for a large majority of my friends, they had a definitive home, a definitive location. I also found that for a large majority of my upbringing I let others' depictions of what home should be, dictate how I ca11ed home for myself. Through this process, I even began to accept in humility that perhaps Phillip Lopate, author of 71,c Art of the Personal Essay, was right in saying that "with middle age also comes a taste for equilibrium .. . it is hard to think of anyone who made a mark on the personal essay form in his or her youth." While I am still not as emphatic as Lopate about this assertion, through the direction and study of this thesis, I have become aware of my own youth and my bland equilibrium. Lopate argues that "a young person still thinks it is possiblethere is time enough-to become a11 things" and that the "personal essayist" - undoubtedly well into his forties- "looks back at the choices that were made, the roads not taken, the limiting familial and historic circumstances, and what might be called the catastrophe of personality." The direction of this thesis is to recount my youth, the many roads that I have already taken, and where that has led me today, where it has allowed me to define a home for myself. Well, Lopate, I am still in my youth and I do still think it is possible and I hope that well into my forties I will still find it possible. However, the roads I have already traveled have brought me to a place where I can define home for now, but I would be naive to think I have it all figured out and that this will be my home forever. I still have the urge to be someplace else and I welcome every signpost and every strange land on the way until I run into my own catastrophe of a home.

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