Thinking Beyond Your Critical Thesis?

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Five Points, A Journal for Literature and Art: Thinking Beyond Your Critical Thesis?

When I started working on my critical thesis, my thesis advisor wisely suggested that I choose an author to research and write about who was less prominent in the literary world.  What he meant by this was that if I selected an author everyone had written about (Hemingway, for example), the probability of finding something new or something unsaid about the author was unlikely. When you’re in the middle of it, you just want to see the end. A critical thesis is daunting, a lot of hard work. However, I took his advice and chose William Gay. I had already been reading and writing small essays about Gay’s work, so it was a natural fit. I went fully down the rabbit hole with Gay. Halfway through my critical thesis I realized that when I was finished with my thesis I would never be finished with Gay, and moreover, as a writer I felt compelled to make others aware of Gay’s writing and artwork. I was able to take sections from one of my chapters on his paintings and write an essay about Gay. In addition, I asked Gay’s archivist and biographer, Michael White, whom I met while working on my critical thesis, at the request of the editor to provide an unpublished interview. The archive houses Gay’s paintings, but here again, the contact through my critical thesis was already there. Your essay, review, or article may not have as many moving parts as mine did. That just makes it all the easier.

Gay passed away in 2012, and if it wasn’t for the endeavors of those preserving his memory, as well as his diehard fans, I could see him fading away in obscurity—not overnight, but eventually. So, for those MFA students who are contemplating writing their critical thesis, or have proudly wiped the sweat of your brow because it’s finally done, think about your options and don’t let it sit too long before going back and visiting a chapter or two. This is what I did with Five Points, and while I had to tweak quite a bit in tone and add more details regarding Gay’s paintings, it paid off. Literally, I got paid for something I loved doing and had completed most of the research anyway.

I’m very proud of the Five Points publication and wanted to share this achievement with everyone. I hope you consider purchasing it (only $15). Obviously, it supports literary journals and writers, but it may also give you an idea of  how to make your critical thesis pay back some of your invested time. The cover is one of Gay’s paintings. There is also an unpublished interview between Gay and Michael White, eight internal images of more paintings, plus a map of Gay’s fictional town. If you are a teacher and are wanting to introduce your students to Gay’s works, this would be a great educational tool, because it showcases a little bit of everything related to William Gay.

To purchase and support the Five Points, A Journal of Literature and Art, visit:

Happy Writing!

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