Thom Schnarre

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

David Carpenter


The allure of a creative thesis for me was the unique blending of literary study and personal exploration. I have always felt my writing a cathartic activity as I grappled with the textual issues and gained personal insights through the struggle. For this reason, I chose the creative option as a culmination of my graduate studies at EIU. While I have dabbled in all three genres -- poetry, playwriting and fiction -- in my graduate career, it is the extended fiction genre of the novel that I have chosen to pursue in this project. The thesis is comprised of two major parts: an introduction and my novel, Forced Entries.

In my introduction, I discuss my chosen genre and the literary influences and research that went into the formation of my novel. I have chosen to construct a novel similar in structure to Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye and Kathryn Harrison's Exposure. During my literary research, I explored both masculine and feminine versions of this genre, a genre generally concerned with an adult's struggle to reconcile his or her present life through a confrontation with past wounds. Since most of these wounds tend to occur in the protagonist's childhood or adolescence, elements of the traditional Bildungsroman are incorporated in the adult's search for a present piece. I have labeled this emerging genre in contemporary literature the Retrospective Bildungsroman.

In addition to these works, I have done research in both the traditional Bildungsroman and psychological/sociological studies on child abuse and sexual violence. The Bildungsroman works, J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, and John Knowles' A Separate Peace were all part of my research. The psychological works, Michael Lew's Victims No Longer and Mic Hunter's Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse, as well as the sociological work, Susan Brownmiller's Victims No Longer, provided me with the psycho-social framework necessary for my construction of my protagonist, Neal Wilkinson's, adult struggles.

The original goal was to write a novel examining the complex issues of gender and sexuality through the eyes of my protagonist, Neal Wilkinson. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse and adolescent same-sex attempted rape, the adult Neal has suppressed most memories of his victimization. Due to his inability to maintain an emotionally fulfilling and intimate relationship with either a female or a male partner, Neal chooses to return to his community-of-origin and confront the mysteries of his past through examining his boyhood journals and surroundings. As Neal struggles to come to terms with his past, the issues of his rebellion against traditional gender confines and his sexual fluidity regarding preference and desire are exposed. His problems of assimilation are intensified by his alcoholic father and the conservative demands of his domineering mother. The two significant romantic relationships of Neal's life, one with a male and one with a female, are also depicted in the work. As his painful memories become uncovered, Neal must accept his individual identity and lay to rest the self-criticism and judgment that have led to his present isolation.

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