Doctoral Dissertations



Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Members

Michael Knight, Margaret Lazarus Dean, Christopher Hebert, William Hardwig, Christopher Ojeda


Arrangements focuses on the intersection of public and private cultural spheres by exploring what it means to be a member of a society that espouses support for the public good while also restrained by traditions and social norms that privilege the individual. The novel centers on Isaac, a misfit college student traumatized by a childhood spent protecting his mother from his abusive father. Set against the backdrop of Madison, WI during the 2011 capitol protests, the novel follows Isaac as he navigates this political landscape in the wake of his mother’s death. It is a novel that seeks to distort the familiar by troubling the chemistry of familial bonds. Isaac’s abusive childhood defines his self-worth, which he attempts to prop up through acts of political vigilantism. The collision of these two worlds, the political and the familial, is an effort to marry political themes with a touching human drama.

The critical introduction to this dissertation project maps successful strategies of recent political novels (Anna Burns’s Milkman and Sigrid Nunez’s The Last of Her Kind among others). This analysis illuminates how effective political fiction avoids didactic explanations of ideology and instead strives to engage the reader by presenting complex ways of thinking and feeling about the relation of the individual and society.

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