Biography As A Searchlight: Finding The Frank Stanford Story Cycle In Ellen Gilchrist's Fiction
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Ellen Gilchrist's short stories and novels form several story cycles that connect her characters and tie her work together into interdependent story groups. Her work is also strikingly autobiographical, featuring protagonists who resemble her in obvious ways. Though critics have identified many of Gilchrist's story cycles, one important cycle has been all but ignored: a young poet appears in a number of her stories, and for several of Gilchrist's protagonists, he serves as a catalyst for needed change. The poet is a fictional representation of the poet Frank Stanford, who died in 1978 but played the same life-changing role for Gilchrist herself. This thesis examines the truth/fiction parallels in Gilchrist's fiction, particularly in the stories that feature the Frank Stanford character, and argues that knowledge of Gilchrist's biography makes the Stanford story cycle visible - and places it in a larger cycle of writings about the poet. Thus, for an analysis of Gilchrist's work to be complete, Gilchrist's own life must be studied as a text alongside her stories, a narrative that supplements and complements her fiction.