Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Stuart Dybek

Second Advisor

Dr. Jil C. Larson

Third Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Running Johnson


Creative dissertation begins with a critical study of comedy as Weldon employs it in her novels of marriage, infidelity, and divorce. Traditionally, comedy ends in marriage; Weldon's dark comedies end in self-understanding as a necessary prerequisite to growth and possible future relationship. However, Weldon does not celebrate divorce. She recognizes the impact on women's lives of historic period, world events, and their own female nature. An avowed feminist, Weldon yet refuses to blame men for women's problems, but insists that while women struggle against sexism, they often conform to it. If there is no genre designation comparable to "bildungsroman" for a novel whose plot concerns the coming of age of a middle-aged wife, then Weldon has invented it, and I identify the structural elements of such a plot. Weldon takes women's comedic tradition to another level, wielding the tools of satire, wit, and irony.

My concerns are similar to Weldon's, and so is my narrative tone. My novel concerns issues of personal and professional ethics, the intersection of the public and private. Sweetie, the show dog, expires on Dane Kaufman's operating table, and her owners sue. Before the daisies wilt over her grave, the tragedy has compounded, involving several families. The final toll includes two long-standing marriages, a successful medical practice—albeit that of a veterinarian and not a heart surgeon (his wife's distinction)-and threatens a fledgling political career, and the Rev. Ronald Damschroder's controversial membership campaign at the Second First United Methodist Church. If anyone doubts that a dog's death can draw into a maelstrom so many other the lives, let them consider Desdemona's misplaced handkerchief. If a mere square of linen could reduce a great man into a bellowing, murderous beast, how much greater must be the power of a beribboned toy poodle over the lesser folk of Vieux Chien, Michigan? One hopes that the children can learn from the mistakes of their parents, but will they?

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access