Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Jennifer Sinor


Jennifer Sinor


Professor Chris Cokinos


Michael Sowder


In the opening pages of his work, Dog Years; A Memoir, Mark Doty explains: Love for a wordless creature, once it takes hold, is an enchantment, and the enchanted speak, famously, in private mutterings, cryptic riddles, or gibberish. This is why I shouldn't be writing anything about the two dogs that have been such presences for sixteen years of my life. How on earth could I stand at the requisite distance to say anything that might matter? (1) In this thesis I argue that Doty, among other respected contemporary writers, is saying something that matters when he writes of his relationship with his dogs. Such words and ideas matter much in the genre of creative nonfiction and particularly memoir, they matter as models of narrative craft, and they matter as works that examine the nature of personal trauma in narrative and the importance of connections to the natural world in the healing process. "Lessons in Humanity: A Memoir" appears as a creative work examining the nature of trauma and healing in memoir. The narrative addresses childhood trauma and the effects it has on our adult lives, the recovery from marital abuse between a husband and wife, the impact of a severe health crisis, and the importance of connections to the natural world, particularly dogs, in the healing process.