Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Mary Carroll-Hackett

Second Advisor

Brett Hursey

Third Advisor

Robert Lynch


The purpose of this thesis is to develop my personal viewpoint of the modern family against my childhood Southern values and constrictions. The pieces that I have selected for inclusion in the collection all focus on the specific chances, especially the missed ones, that can lead my characters to either struggle or give in to familial pressure as the characters Emily and Alice find out in my longer selections, Traveling Light and Ride the Line. The dynamic of the parent-child relationships in my pieces emerges as the overall theme throughout several of my shorter screenplays, including Dirt Church and Dialed. The family ties are strained through hard times or difficult decisions that ultimately push the characters apart; the healing of these broken bonds remains the forefront of my main message.

I often incorporate a touch of the supernatural in order to emphasize the connections between Southern superstition and the natural inheritance of certain fears from parent to child, or the classic argument of Nature versus Nurture. It is these supernatural moments, such as in one of my principle pieces, Found Objects, in which death stalks Cecelia throughout her life, that makes my own inherited fears of dying come to life on the page. The existence of elves, or yetis as a childhood story goes, draws on a young woman’s desperations and desires in Wish For It, refining the saying be careful what you wish for. This attention to specific emotions and details reflects back on the writers that I have studied during the development of this thesis, such as Joyce Carol Oates in her short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, or in the short fiction of Hannah Tinti in her collection, Animal Crackers, where the supernatural and blood connections surpass those connections that are made through logic and not through the heart. My characters’ spontaneous reactions are much like the actions of those in such films as Little Miss Sunshine, Sunshine Cleaning, and Lars and the Real Girl; all of these concentrate on family, particularly the perpetual circle of inherited values and actions.

Nothing has ever gone according to plan in either my life or my characters’ lives as they stumble through what I believe to be a personal representation of my own instinctual, emotional journey through thesis, family, and the bond of my roots. I find myself firmly placed in the tradition of those writers and filmmakers that chose to capture the quieter moments in life that can so often be missed and the mysteries that so few believe in. Overall within the collection a struggle for personal identity ensues outside the demands of others and the failure to live beyond the expectations of the family at large. The absence of parental guidance can be just as damaging as in the case of my piece, Wish For It. The collection represents my personal battle within the last few years including those related to breaking free of my expected heritage from which its become apparent that no matter how far I go, I will never truly break the bond. I will never want to for the most part. Some of my best material comes from stealing a car and driving down a long dusty road.



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