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Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in English, Literature



Major Advisor

Bruce Ballenger, Ph.D.


Michael Mattison, Ph.D.


Jacky O’Connor, Ph.D.


“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” says Joan Didion in her essay “The White Album” (WA 11). The stories Didion tells us in her essays are often ones of trouble – ones of social unrest, of individuals and their “doomed commitments,” of murder, and of arrogance; she talks of her own fears, insecurities, her youthful follies, and even her migraines (STB 63). In the very act of telling these stories of chaos, senselessness, sin, and suffering, Didion attempts to bring order to such events, even if she claims that order, or meaning, cannot be found (as she seems to claim in “The White Album”). When the figures of these stories (essays) so often tend to “misunderst[and] the promise,” “miss the point entirely,” or “fail to read the sermon in the stones,” she establishes order by rendering lessons, even subtle sermons, in her writing(STB 25, 144, 213). She accomplishes this through landscape imagery, metaphor, and her own reflective turns. Emerging in some of her essays, or the sermons she derives “from the stones,” or elsewhere, are echoes of Biblical accounts. Most prevalent of these accounts is the one of the garden, Eden: “our first story” (Wyatt xv).