Date of Award
College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, English and Literary Arts
Creative writing, Fiction
At the opening of this short comedic novel, Mary Catherine Boyle moves back in with her parents after her mother becomes sick. Mary believes that her mother is pretending to be sick in order to force her daughter to return home. However, Mary is broke and homeless so she does not have a choice. Her parents are theatre professors at a small college in Ohio. Mary watches her mother while her father teaches. Mary believes that she is destined for greatness, even though her brother is the talented Boyle. Mary tells the reader that she will unwittingly destroy her family, but that she doesn’t mind. The chapters switch between the present in Ohio and the past in Denver. The Denver chapters (or the Decline chapters) chart Mary’s rise and fall in an urban design graduate program. She works as an administrator but feels unappreciated. She enrolls in a graduate program to find meaning, but finds herself to be undervalued there as well. In an effort to distinguish herself, she accidently quits, thus beginning her financial decline. She has high hopes for her design career, but it leads her to ruin instead.
I wrote this novel using novella generic conventions as a constraint. My critical afterword explores the influence of the novella on the modern short novel. Such conventions include repetition, symbolism and authorial intervention. I compare Wescott’s The Pilgrim Hawk to Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych to identify these influences.
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Received from author
Culliton, Emily, "The Untalented Boyle" (2019). Restricted Access ETDs. 21.