Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

John Kilgore


In my introductory essay (“The Dying Star: Character in Contemporary Fiction”) I argue that the contemporary fiction writer views character in a new way, breaking with traditional fiction theory and its dependence on the Cartesian division of Self and Other. The contemporary writer “finds Descartes’ division of Self and Other impotent, turning instead to a vision of character in which there are no certainties; a character in contemporary fiction cannot necessarily come to ‘know herself’ or the world around her.” I trace the influence of Descartes in a wide variety of traditional fiction and theory, and then propose a new vision of character based on an assumption, borrowed in part from Jaques Derrida, that neither Self nor Other is a “transcendental signified” existing as a “Center or origin.” Following this proposal I provide readings of several contemporary writers (Borges, Coover, Gaddis and Hawkes) in an attempt to demonstrate this new vision of character at work in contemporary fiction. I conclude my introduction with a brief demonstration of the same principles at work in my own fictional piece, “Two Halves into the Water,” which follows the introductory essay. “Two Halves into the Water” represents my belief that “the ‘self’ and the ‘world around it’ are arbitrary decisions.”