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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The Moat is a short story collection unified through themes of the hidden, the underground, and the interior, both bodily and geographic. In my work, known spaces take on unsettling and nightmarish aspects. For example, the title story questions the troubled American conceptions of security and isolationism post-9/11 through a housewife who becomes trapped in her country home as her husband becomes obsessed with personal safety, eventually excavating a moat to confine the family. "Mine" tracks a South American despot as he gains international notoriety after an accident traps miners hundreds of feet underground. As he navigates the politics of his central role in a major news story, he must also grapple with the ghost of his friend, whom he murdered in a mine years ago. In "A New Man," an unhappily married woman finds new joy in her relationship with her husband after he has a lung transplant and the lung begins to take over his personality. I am interested in the grotesque as a source of revelation and transformation. The critical essay that accompanies my dissertation examines the fraught territory of humor in contemporary gothic literature, drawing upon Freud's theories of jokes, Bakhtin's conception of the grotesque body, and Victoria Nelson's claims that the contemporary gothic is shifting toward the light. I argue that the figure of the patriarch undergoes a fundamental change in the contemporary gothic, losing his power to frighten and becoming instead an impotent buffoon.
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