Title

Rituals

Date of Award

6-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

English/Creative Writing

First Advisor

Askold Melnyczuk

Second Advisor

John Fulton

Third Advisor

Martha Collins

Abstract

The five stories in this collection are a first attempt at redefining the literary self-image of Jewish-American fiction. The Jewish American characters I found in contemporary fiction were consistently either ignoring their Jewish identities, or centrally conflicted by them. While every story needs a conflict, I couldn't relate to characters for whom being Jewish was their dominant conflict. This thesis strives to present characters with compelling conflicts whose Jewish and American identities are integrated into how they understand and resolve those conflicts. The main inspiration for these ideas was Isaac Babel (1894-1940), the Odessan who wrote during Stalin's volatile era, and whose Jewish characters are wonderfully complex. Like Babel, I wanted my characters to encounter problems in their immediate world without leaving themselves behind. The thesis' title comes from one of the stories, but rituals are a major theme throughout this work. While most people associate rituals with religious practice, they are essentially any kind of communal habits. We are constantly creating and enacting rituals, often unconsciously, and they speak to how we find meaning in our lives. Rituals act as frames for understanding how we relate to family, love, sex, moral complexity, and our obsessions. These ideas play out in this thesis, from the first-person narratives in the first half, to the third-person metafiction of the final story. The long-term goal of this project is not to speak for all Jewish Americans, but to write the stories I know, and to hope others will do the same.

Comments

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