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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Charles Michael Fischer
Doctor of Philosophy
Title: “Crybaby Lane: A Short Story Cycle”
Jaimy Gordon, D.A., Chair
Jon Adams, Ph.D.
Jil Larson, Ph.D.
Peter Bickle, Ph.D.
Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 10:00 a.m. to Noon
2033 Brown Hall
Crybaby Lane is a short story cycle set at a soon-to-be-closed, fictional state psychiatric hospital in 1990s North Carolina. The book is comprised of twenty stories that explore the mental illness crisis in the United States by examining juvenile delinquency, funding shortages, patient abuse, the devastating impact of deinstitutionalization, and criminalization. The title story, which appears first, incorporates a well-known North Carolina ghost story about a Catholic orphanage that burned to the ground in 1958 in order to weigh the supernatural against the hospital’s grim, squalid conditions. Other stories, such as “Summer Jobs & Hope,” investigate class and literacy. In this story, the young narrator—a juvenile patient in the state foster care system—qualifies for the county’s summer jobs program and is assigned an assistant janitorial job at a local high school, where he notices the class distinctions between himself and others. “The Bird Man” and “The Sidewalk Schizophrenic” both tackle patient abuse, and “A Game of H-O-R-S-E”—a vignette sequence interspersed throughout the book—explores the corrupt and wrongful charge of murder on a mentally disabled man housed in the hospital’s forensic ward. Influences in the short story cycle include Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and the book uses similar narrative designs that maximize the story cycle’s tendency toward modularity, as opposed to strict, cause-and-effect linearity, thus allowing the marginalized narrators to cover a range of social issues and self-reflexively question predominant notions of literacy and narrative.