Date of Award

Fall 12-2018

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Katherine Cochran

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Monika Gehlawat

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Emily Stanback

Committee Member 3 School



This thesis examines Fred Chappell’s virtually overlooked collection of poetry Family Gathering (2000), and how the poems operate within the mode of the grotesque. I argue that the poems illuminate both the southern grotesque and Roland Barthes’s theory of photography’s Operator, Spectator, and Spectrum. I address Family Gathering as a family photo album full of still shots, snapshots, and even selfies, which illumines how Chappell’s use of the grotesque in this collection derives more from its original association with visual arts rather than only depicting the grotesque typically associated with characteristics deemed explicitly shocking or terrifying. I argue that reading Chappell’s poems as photographs with grotesque qualities allows us to consider multiple ways Chappell draws on various definitions of the grotesque, informed by Barthes’s theory of photography. Finally, I argue that the collection allows us to consider the grotesque as a spectrum that exists simultaneously alongside what we might call normal.