Sarah Across America

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Derek Nikitas

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

Young Smith

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Julie Hensley

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


My thesis project consists of a novel titled Sarah Across America. The aesthetic purpose of the project is to use the material of North American, as opposed to Western European, history in service of an epic fantasy adventure story exploring themes of racism and imperialism.

Sarah Across America takes as its inspiration an American epic, the journey of the Corps of Discovery across a continent largely unexplored by English-speakers. Lewis and Clark's purposes were myriad, but most importantly they served the imperialist aspirations of the complex American leader of the time, Thomas Jefferson. One of the members of the Corps was York, often euphemistically referred to as William Clark's "body servant" in texts lionizing the expedition's leaders. The slave York, along with the titular heroine, Sarah, is one of the central figures in my novel. The story is set in an alternate 1931, in a world where the growth of technology is somewhat retarded compared to our world because of the existence of a mystical energy known as aether, which can be "worked" by experts ranging from cartographers (such as Sarah) to submariners to aviators to gunsmiths. The efficacy of "magic" has led to a world that is familiar to, but in many ways starkly different from, our own. Sarah lives in an America that is still a colonial possession of a vibrant and world-spanning British Empire, but one in which European colonization of the continent has been confined to the Eastern Seaboard. Unconquered native nations still control most of North and South America, where megafauna such as mammoths and saber-toothed cats still walk. York has survived the century plus since the disappearance of this world's Lewis and Clark Expedition, having been mystically trapped in an aetheric map. At the same time, incursions from another world have been occurring, with technologically advanced invaders from another Earth aiming to exploit this unspoiled world for the resources they've depleted from their own. Sarah's goal, then, is to free the last American slave. In the process, she must heal the growing rift between worlds, and learn that her own world is far from perfect.

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