Title

Breathing Room

Date of Award

12-1999

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

University of Cincinnati

Cedarville University School or Department

English, Literature, and Modern Languages

First Advisor

James C. Wilson

Second Advisor

Jon Hughes

Third Advisor

Josip Novakovich

Keywords

Essay, autobiography

Abstract

Breathing Room is a book-length collection of 14 original essays. As such, the pieces comprise a synthetic (rather than chronological) autobiography. The subjects addressed in the essays vary according to inclinations, the entitlement that comes with the genre’s territory. Thematic concerns are dialogic and epistemological. The essays are, at the core, self-interrogations, self-appraisals, a way to learn more about my metaphysics and my physics, to paraphrase Montaigne, as well as a way to devise a system of confession or apologetics, to paraphrase scholar James Goodwin.

Formal differences exist among the pieces. A few are straight narratives, others are discursive and more conventionally essayistic, one is a set of imaginary interviews with my junior high basketball coach and a lovelorn secretary at the college where I now teach, another is a series of actual interviews taken at a local Supercuts with the stylists and clientele there. If the essays were to be categorized by sub-genre, they would range from personal essay to autobiography to creative nonfiction to literary journalism. I appeal to the essay's often-cited irreducibility as a defense for all formal liberties taken. I likewise invoke the notorious tension between memory and imagination for any lapses or embellishments where people, places, or things are concerned.

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