Title

Wildland

Date of Award

Winter 2020

Project Type

Thesis

Program or Major

English

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts

First Advisor

Ann J Williams

Second Advisor

Christy Beemer

Third Advisor

Thomas Payne

Abstract

“Wildland” is a short story collection that explores the experiences of women in the outdoors and in relation to non-human life. They are fire lookouts, bow hunters, lighthouse keepers, and rodeo stars. They feel deep kinship with grizzly bears, fire, goats, and rivers. The women’s presence in traditionally male roles and their connection to the other-than-human calls into questions persistent divisions. In each story, “wildland” is not simply territory uncultivated and unoccupied by humans, as defined in ecology. Instead, it is where uncrowded landscapes blend with solitary mindscapes. Wildland is liminal space for exploring the unreal and the real, human and non-human, and gender or sexuality. Within this space, the stories’ characters rise from the deep grief that often fills their pasts. Strength and vulnerability are intertwined, or are, in fact, aspects of the same quality. Each woman finds she can be strong and competent on her own without the person or idea she had clung to. Her movement towards wholeness is often complicated by the abandonment or adoption of responsibility, and the recognition that her actions affect other humans. The characters not only face fear, but embrace its source. Rebirth often manifests as an impulse to self-immolate. Like lodgepole pine cones that require fire to release their seeds, the women of these stories recognize— if unconsciously— the impossibility of growth without destruction.

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