Thesis Title

On Someone Else's Dime

Date of Graduation

Spring 2015


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Michael Czyzniejewski


literary naturalism, monologic work, polyphony, agential constellations, asymmetrical hierarchies

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


Setting is a crucial element of the five stories that appear in my thesis. Specifically, the shared setting of all the stories is a neighborhood that is caught in a never-ending cycle of poverty, crime, and the social conditions that the two conspire to create. Therefore, I consider my work to be an extension of literary naturalism, which explores how social conditions, heredity, and environment shape the individual. While the characters in my collection occupy the same physical setting, they do not ever come into contact with each other. This comes from my desire to examine them in isolation, both what is foisted upon them and what is created by their own choices. My characters are incapable of fully understanding how exactly they have been influenced by the naturalist concerns. It is only through my recognition of their patterns of behavior that they achieve any degree of unity, thus creating a "monologic work,” which does not allow for a response from the characters themselves. In spite of this, because my stories are equal in "voice” and are strongly united by theme, this is, according to Milan Kundera, "perfectly sufficient” to create polyphony, which reinforces the notion that all of my characters are victims of their surroundings and exhibit patterned behavior. While my characters are not connected, within each story they do form what Lubomir Dolezel refers to as "agential constellations” or "asymmetrical hierarchies,” which feature both power holders and subordinates. Such conflicts are resolved through either accommodation or the protagonist freeing himself from his particular asymmetrical hierarchy.


© Joel William Coltharp

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