The Art of Sungazing

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Julie Hensley

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

R. Dean Johnson

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Carter Sickels

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


Following an argument with her then-boyfriend, John, Amy Martin is the victim of sexual assault. John is nurturing and means well, but his micromanaging urging to seek therapy only pushes her further away from him. When she meets charismatic artist, Noah, who does not push her to do anything she does not already want to do, Amy finds herself swept away with Noah and all the freedom from her hurt and perceived responsibilities that he represents. Amy finds herself cheating on John, despite her best judgment. Hiding her actions from her friends and loved ones alike, Amy falls deeper and deeper in love with someone she does not really know. In a self-destructive spiral, she finds herself more and more caught up in a web of deception and increasing stress as she sees the pain she is putting both Noah and John through every day she refuses to make up her mind. By the time Amy discovers that Noah is not what he seems to be, during years of a tumultuous marriage, where she slowly comes to understand his mental illness, it is too late and she finds herself blind-sided by his eventual suicide.

Based very loosely on a series of unrelated true events, this novel deals with themes such as the balance one must strike between accepting help and determining their own path in life, mental illness, and human willingness to ignore the worst in the people we love because it is easier to only see their good qualities. Although the plot of this novel revolves heavily around romance and romantic relationships, I do not consider it a “romance novel.” Rather, I prefer to think of my work as focusing on love stories, but falling more closely into what I can only call “contemporary commercial fiction.” Unlike a typical romance novel, my book focuses more on the people participating in the relationship, rather than the progression of the relationship itself.

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