Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Creative Writing | Fiction
Blocked is a manuscript of short stories designed to explore conceptions of selfhood as represented in the fictional story. In the manuscript, I investigate issues of performance and authority as they relate to how characters define themselves in relation to the other—both the other characters in the story as well as the socio-cultural structures they have come to inhabit.
The loss of authority is a theme that I explore throughout my work. I am interested in authority as another aspect of performance—another role that people play, a mask (or face) that they take on. It also relates directly to the task of writing and the arc of contemporary literary criticism, which has come to view stories as a product of a socio-cultural economic system, and the subjects and symbolic motifs of those stories as participants in a type of sign play referring to cultural discourses, such as those centered around class, race, gender, sexuality, etc. As such, I try to construct stories that are not simply trails of clues leading to a foregone conclusion, but living stories in which reader and author share in the production of the meaning of the text.
In the manuscript, I try to balance narratives that center around the exploration of a single idiosyncratic character with the necessity of bringing other perspectives into their world. Boundaries are a particular interest in this regard, because of their symbolic resonance for how we understand the public and private space, the differences between one person and another, as well as the boundaries between “truth” and “fiction” that are at issue in any work of literary fiction. I try to juxtapose the worlds constructed of the characters’ hopes and dreams (the worlds where we all have perfect marriages, stress-free lifestyles, well-adjusted kids, and a vacation house in Florida) with the imposition of the so-called “real world” of conflict and difficulty as another way of exploring the boundaries between constructions and reality. This is also a metaphor for how one pictures themself as a stable, united personality, when evidence suggests that in each social interaction we assume a different personality (or “face”), and act as performers of social norms based on the discourses of our culture.
Within this context of performance, I try to critique dominant understandings of love, family, insanity, justice, etc, with respect to how they negotiate constructed identities such as class or gender. I explore how characters that identify themselves as rich or poor, male or female, understand and perform their parts in a ritual space such as the courtroom, where the conventions of issues like “justice” are debated over and passed judgment on.
The most difficult challenge is to show these discourses at work in the life of the characters through subtext, while on the outside constructing an evocative story with complex characters and situations that are fueled more by reader empathy than they are by a full intellectual understanding of the work. I try to create stories which can be viewed in many lights—not only in the drably academic aspect, but also as a more visceral, emotional experience. I try to write in a way that appeals to all sorts of readers, to inspire not only an appreciation of a well-constructed theoretical argument, but the feeling of being involved in and moved by a story, in order to impart a sense of the power of the stories in my own life and the ones at work in the world around us.
Hazle-Cary, Christopher, "Blocked: Short Story Manuscript" (2009). Honors Capstone Projects - All. 437.
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