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LTWR Graduate Student News 

Congratulations to Kesley Connolly!

Congratulations to Kesley Connolly, who successfully defended her thesis, "Insane Fantasies: The Representation and Othering of Neurodivergent Characters in the Gothic and Cosmic Horror Genres"! Kesley's thesis, "Insane Fantasies: The Representation and Othering of Neurodivergent Characters in the Gothic and Cosmic Horror Genres," is a critical-creative hybrid that calls for a reconsideration of the depiction of neurodivergent characters in horror and challenges the genre's tropes around "madness" as induced by external forces. In the creative portion of the thesis, Kesley offers an alternative to such tropes through an interactive, Twine-based, work of digital horror literature that explores neurodivergence in thoughtful and nuanced ways.

Congratulations to Laura Jefchak!

Congratulations to Laura Jefchak, who successfuly defended her thesis, "14 Days with My Mother and A Map"! Laura's thesis, "14 Days with My Mother and A Map," is a critical-creative hybrid that weaves an examination of the material aspects of representations of Alzheimer’s disease in film with a Twine-based interactive work of digital literature that utilizes the mechanics of Twine to explore the complex relationship between fading memory, family, and care giving.

Congratulations to Anthony Martino!

Congratulations to Anthony Martino, who successfuly defended his thesis, "Revelations: An Examination of Medical Ethics and Religion Through Speculative Fiction"! "Revelations" is a near-future, slipstream science fiction tale ("slipstream literature" is literature that combines elements of genre fiction with elements of literary fiction like complex characterization) in which individual and family desires, the medical industry, and religious belief clash in a moment when the human technology grid might be on the verge of breaking down. In the story, questions of how we treat those we love, both living and departed, are made especially urgent by new technological possibilities that may promise a lot more than they can deliver.

Congratulations to Josh Meihaus!

Congratulations to Josh Meihaus, who successfully defended his thesis, "Foodies: otherism and the persistence of prejudice in speculative fiction"! Josh’s thesis “foodies: otherism and the persistence of prejudice in speculative fiction" examines representations of the other, and the subsequent material consequences of othering, through a first contact narrative where the border between self and other is explored through the senses/perspective of an extraterrestrial presence newly on Earth.

Congratulations to Steven Cowdery-Rice!

Congratulations to Steven Cowdery-Rice, who successfully defended his thesis, "Judy Brooks". Steven's thesis includes a short story and critical outro which attends to the writing & revision process, translation & intertextuality, and the significance of point-of-view in undermining traditional gender constructions in the horror genre.

Congratulations to Nik Barnes! 

Congratulations to Nik Barnes, who successfully defended her thesis, “This Carpet Isn't New: An Exploration of the Medical Discourse Surrounding Asexuality and the Construct of Disability.” Nik’s thesis examines the intersection of compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory able-bodiedness through a nuanced weaving of critical and creative writings that are torn apart, then reassembled with photos, illustrations, and three-dimensional documentary artifacts, to embody the fragmented self of those situated in such a space. These collages are then hand-stitched together in the form of a physical, artistic, commonplace book. 

Congratulations to Cynthia Bazan!

Congratulations to Cynthia Bazan, who successfully defended her thesis, "Latina's Rejection of Gender and Cultural Roles by Using Writing to Obtain Agency: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and Poet X's Exploration of the Challenges of Hybrid Identity." Cynthia's thesis examines two recent and acclaimed YA novels by Latinx authors and argues for the importance of bringing contemporary Latina voices into existing scholarly conversations about Chicanx feminism. Cynthia identifies how the protagonists in these novels navigate a wide range of intersectional issues related to their identity as daughters of recent immigrants. In particular, Cynthia analyzes how the protagonists use the discourse of the writing process, literary exploration, and the identity position of "writer" to enact what Anzaldúa theorizes as neplanta, the space of inbetweenness. 

Congratulations to Amanda Vail!

Congratulations to Amanda Vail, who successfully defended her thesis, "Sacrifice (Yourself!) in The Rainbow Fish and The Giving Tree."  Amanda's thesis contributes to the fast-growing literary scholarship on children's literature by arguing that these beloved texts enable the promotion of racist and ableist ideologies and mythologizing of maternal self-sacrifice, respectively, by disguising their narratives underneath a veneer of beautiful artwork and anthropomorphized characters.

Congratulations to Jake Lovell!

Congratulations to Jake Lovell, who successfully defended his thesis, "The Road West: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Dystopian Westerns, and Cannibals." Jake's thesis examines Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road and argues for the interpretative value of viewing the work through the lens of the western and frontier studies. Jake argues that this novel, set in a dystopian future that has not often been read by scholars as a strict western, covers issues such as colonial resource exploitation, cannibalism, violence, and masculine stereotypes that uniquely tie into the frontier mythology that undergirds the western. Jake's analysis raises provocative questions about national mythologies and their power to maintain damaging and violent relationships and cultural contexts.

Congratulations to Jaimi Heptinstall!

Congratulations to Jaimi Heptinstall, who successfully defended her thesis, "The Feminist Portrayal of Snow White in ABC's Once Upon a Time."  Jaimi's thesis argues that the tv show Once Upon a Time revises the Snow White character from Disney's 1937 film to produce an empowered, heroic Snow White that contrasts with her counterpart, Mary Margaret, who is "cursed" with stereotypical femininity.  Mary Margaret's journey into whole personhood functions as a metaphor for the journey of women who seek to resist patriarchal expectations and imperatives.

Congratulations to CSUSM Graduate Dean’s Award recipient, Christine Briggs!

The Graduate Dean's Award recognizes excellence in M.A.-level projects for graduate students who graduated during the current academic year (in this case, AY 2020-2021). Christine competed with students from across campus to win this award. In her thesis, “Feminist Speculative Fiction and Reproductive Futurisms in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents and Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God" Christine explores the representations of female communities in dystopian feminist science fiction and considers how literary traditions such as Afrofuturism, Indigenous futurism, and feminist fabulation help readers identify historical and on-going systemic gendered and racial injustices. Christine’s thesis research and literary analysis emphasize the power of literary works to imagine more just futures. 

Congratulations to Christine Briggs! 

Congratulations to Christine Briggs, who successfully defended her thesis, "Feminist Speculative Fiction and Reproductive Futurisms in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents and Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God". Christine's thesis examines the complex representation of motherhood and its relationship to science fiction conventions; she finds that authors such as Butler and Erdrich use the futurist setting afforded by science fiction to explore the ongoing struggles for women of color to have bodily autonomy, civil rights, and a sense of community. Utilizing a range of theoretically complex discussions of the history of science fiction alongside more contemporary explorations of critical race studies in speculative fiction, Christine explores timely matters of gender and racial justice.

Congratulations to Robbie Hammel! 

Congratulations to Robbie Hammel, who successfully defended his thesis, "Schooled in the Whirpool". The thesis, a collection of stories, presents a series of characters struggling with failure and loss in a variety of American environments, eastern and western, urban and suburban and rural. These stories are convincingly realist, with tinges of absurdist humor, and they frequently present characters uncertain of their connection to the world around them.

Congratulations to Derek Heid!

Congratulations to Derek Heid, who successfully defended his thesis, "Genre, Form, and Subversion in Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon". Derek's thesis explores the subversion of genre expectations in superhero comics through an examination of disruptions of linear narrative, the semiotics of non-textual language, and the complications of hero/antihero archetypes in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s nineteen-issue run of the Hawkeye comic book series.

Congratulations to Francisco "Frank" Ortega!

Congratulations to Frank Ortega, who successfully defended his thesis, "The Rhetoric of Lowriding: A Misunderstood Cultural Movement in the Public Realm." In this very interesting and insightful piece, Frank argues that the car that so visibly represents the tradition of lowriding here in Southern California is actually a textual representation of a complex culture that has consciously and strategically developed to "write back" against systematic discrimination and the stereotypes often ascribed to those of Mexican descent. His passion and insider-perspective come through clearly in his thesis and make it an enlightening piece that is a pleasure to read.