Before the Street Begins and The Process of Creative Expansion

Cromwell, Gregory (2022) Before the Street Begins and The Process of Creative Expansion. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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Before the Street Begins—a hyper-competitive girls’ high school tennis coach struggles with loss, both past and impending, as he tries to stay sober and lead the team. My creative project is a long novel that explores a tennis coach’s breakdown after the death of his mother. My book is about cancer, grief, trauma, addiction, atonement, the figure of the caregiver, memory, regressive masculinity, American culture, and the novel’s relationship to both film and the short story. Beginning as an idea to write a novel primarily about toxic masculinity and to undertake an academic investigation of the relationship between the Great American Novel and the American short story, specifically the theme of Western Expansion, looking at famous American novels that began as short stories, seeking to understand how the history of American literature mirrors manifest destiny, my research developed into a more expansive examination of expansion as a literary technique. While I still concentrated on literary maximalism and its connection to conceptions of American national identity and masculinity, my focus, bolstered by the study of cancer as metaphor, became how cancer can function as a new way of expanding. After closely analyzing a much more current example of creative expansion, a short story that became the novel 10:04, by Ben Lerner, another American author as well as my contemporary, and refining my own expansion plan, I decided my primary method of expansion would be my use of metaphorical cancer as a creative tool, the tool I’d use to construct my maximalist novel. A tragic reason for employing this practice, the death of my mother, became a serendipitous creative writing experiment, cancerous growth as expansion process, with cancer itself an appropriate metaphor for American masculinity, my narrator’s mind overrun not only with worry but also by cancerous, right-wing thoughts, the novel he’s writing devoured by metaphorical disease. This practice and process I discuss in my reflective essay, “The Process of Creative Expansion”.

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Thesis (PhD)
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23 Mar 2023 14:05
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 00:56