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Publication Date

Fall 2016

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Cathleen Miller


Agency, Cultural Criticism, Human Struggle, Nonfiction, Social Commentary

Subject Areas

Creative writing


My thesis seeks to demonstrate the universality of human struggle through a collection of nine essays. The first section, “THEM,” is comprised of two essays whose subjects are removed from both the reader and the narrator. The first essay, “Finding Humanity,” profiles a San José homeless man, Steve, whom the narrator finds to encapsulate the human spirit. The second essay, “Writing Public Spaces,” discusses the nature of graffiti in downtown San José, specifically the legal ramifications of ‘tagging.’ The second section, “ME,” is composed of essays in which the narrator is the focus; the first essay, “Images Worth a Thousand Screams,” details the narrator’s relationship with televised violence. The second essay, “Past Sense,” represents her attempt to grapple with what she refers to as a “nomad’s childhood.” The final essay of this section, “Prepping for the Apocalypse,” chronicles the narrator’s experiences as a part-time substitute teacher. The third section, “WE,” comprises essays in which the narrator includes the reader as a communal subject. The first essay, “Street Walking,” concerns the ramifications of sexist downtown San José practices, such as catcalling. The second essay, “Tied Up in Smoke,” explores one of the most addictive legal substances in America: cigarettes. The third essay, “Making Space,” exposes the sexism implicit in female aesthetic practices through the lens of bulimia. The final essay, “Waiting for the Flood,” ends the collection on an apocalyptic note as it explores various implications of the California drought.