Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2016

Degree Type



English Language and Literatures

First Reader

Susan Vanderborg

Second Reader

Samuel Amadon


This thesis project is, at heart, a creative nonfiction writing project—and one that evolved and changed over the course of its development. Ultimately it consists of two main parts: a 60 page oral history-based artist book, and an accompanying 14 page process paper which details my creative process as well as challenges, influences and insights. Drawing together smaller stylistic “pieces”—oral stories turned poems, pictures, documents, design elements, my own prose reflections through the repurposed mechanism of photo captions—the final text emerges as both a larger narrative and an embodiment of a culture of language greater than its smaller parts. Logistically, my first step was to research and gather the content that would make up the bulk of the text—recording my family’s stories into audio files. I prompted, asked or sometimes just sat back and listened to the sudden emergence of memories as I heard stories I had heard a thousand times, new versions of familiar stories or new stories altogether. Left with hundreds of files I, like the true future librarian I am, set to cataloguing by rudimentary thematic divisions. Around this time I also collected and organized my own thoughts and memories of my family members and about my experience as a member of this generation, hearing stories from the past. I also began digging through old photo albums, drawers and recipe books, collecting different forms of media and memory. Amassing this great collection of snapshots, I began the most arduous process of transcribing the oral tradition, then setting the prose into lines of poetry and cutting, mapping organizing and ordering the many, many pieces. Drawing from the influences of my favorite postmodern “artist books”—texts which incorporate text, design, spatiality and multimedia content to create complex pages—I sought to order my pieces meaningfully, recreating and embodying the meaning and culture I experience. Setting the pieces to interact on each individual page—juxtaposing for contrast, further evidence, disruption, explanation or new meaning—I also sought to connect across pages in ways beyond chronology. Moving past basic thematic categories—food, animals, marriage—to more nuanced connections like perseverance, providing for family, regret, loss and smaller details, the narrative presented moves more smoothly and complexly between generations, years and aspects of daily Southern life. Functionally, some key creative choices include the design: omnipresent family or time “lines” descending from the initial family tree throughout the rest of the text, drawing attention to the connections between generations or ideas, as well as the ongoing relentlessness of time and life. The choice to include the stories as poetry acts to better represent the natural cadence of speech, using the enjambment and end stops to better emulate each speaker’s specific mode of speech. The captions operate to allow for my own voice to clarify, expand or complicate the stories, without overpowering heavy-handedly. Using my own handwriting served to add a sense of immediacy, as well as connect me with the past generations strikingly similar scrawl. Ultimately, I sought to create a text that is at once intimate and inviting—handwriting, a sense of “conversation” across pages and deeply personal photos and stories—while also resisting the reader in unexplained details and by playing with the conventions of “scrapbooking” and posing for family photos in disruptive ways. Manufacturing a narrative of pieces, while maintaining the independent nature of each story, opened doors for many more questions than I answers—how memory is formed, why some things are remembered, how we create a culture of fragmented memories—and emerged as a complicated and conflicting creative process of integrity, authenticity and an immense deal of detail of intentionality.

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© 2016, Morgan Elaine Lundy