Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Charles Waugh

Abstract

In this thesis, I seek to use what I learn from the theory of, craft guides to, and examples of unreliable narration in fiction to write two original short stories that are narrated unreliably. In the first section of the critical introduction to the stories, I discuss theories of unreliable narration, tracing the term from its 1961 origin through the various theoretical approaches critics have taken to its functions in fiction and its significance in stories. In the second section of my introduction, I sample the common ways craft guides advise writers to create unreliable narration. In the third section, I analyze examples of unreliable narration in fiction, focusing primarily on unreliability in short stories, since that is the form of the original writing I have done for this project. The fourth and final section of my critical introduction is a reflection on the process of writing my own unreliably narrated stories, included after the introduction.

The two stories that I have written for this thesis project respond to the theories and the craft advice I explore in my critical introduction. The unreliable narration in my first story, “Like it’s Dyed That Way,” closely follows a man with a thought disorder as he tries to remember what happened to a missing child who was in his care. My second story, “What I’m Left With,” is narrated by an elderly woman whose unreliability results equally from the desperate, sometimes dubitable messages she leaves to get her family to call her and from the growing threat of an infirm memory that might leave her with no reliable knowledge even of her own life. My goal in writing these stories is to use the concepts I have learned from reading theory, craft guides, and examples of unreliable narration in fiction, emphasizing the effects that unreliability can have on stories.

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