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Date Permissions Signed
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Trueblood, Kathryn R., 1960-
Guess, Carol, 1968-
Purdy, John Lloyd
Ecologies of Memory is a short story collection that explores conceptions and fallibility of memory and how it intersects with love, belief, and the formation of identity. "Processes of Erosion," the first story in the collection, addresses memory as a geological process in the form of a glacier scraping a small Alaskan town off the map. This presents the idea of memory as a topological feature: something that can't necessarily be controlled, that intrudes into our homes and heads. "Vespers" continues this theme in the character of Bill. His wife, Anna, has just left him suddenly, and he's forced to engage with two types of memory. He feels compelled to treat the instance as an investigation, pouring over manuscripts, his external memory, in order to find what went wrong. Simultaneously he's attempting to fix her in place, knowing that his memory of her in ephemeral. Ultimately, akin to the glacier, he finds himself closed off, monastic life intrudes as he is unable to effectively deal with the loss. The story "A Body Always, Already" attempts to identify ways that memory is involved in the formation of identity. Ariel is a character in trouble. She is attempting to self-actualize, to make a life for herself, but is unable to do so, due to the identity of the self her father tried to make of her. Here her past self is intruding on the present, the mechanism being a new-age church, and she is forced to come to terms with this dissonance. The final story of the collection, "Random Access" returns to the character of Bill, now married to a psychiatrist named Lily. Lily is working in clinical trials using a drug that allows memories to supersede reality. Bill becomes addicted to the past, returning to his first wife and opening up the old wounds he had sealed in "Vespers." As Bill seeks to perfect his memories of Anna, he comes to face the unsettling proposition that he might be remembering incorrectly, or even manufacturing memories, destroying the authenticity that gives the drug such allure. The collection ends with Lily taking the drug herself attempting to find one point of vivid happiness in her life. She cycles into the past until she at last settles on a memory of the womb, but the reader knows, tragically, that this must be a confabulation. This draws attention to the possibility that our most fondly remembered instances might be manufactured. The collection explores memory even to the degree we represent the past in fiction. Mechanisms are created to allow flashback to diagetically take place, taking the reader to the past as the characters experience it, as intrusive ecologies, taking on lives of their own.
Western Washington University
Subject – LCSH
Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this thesis for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author's written permission.
Graham, Thomas P. (Thomas Philip), "Ecologies of memory" (2012). WWU Graduate School Collection. 224.