Type of Document Dissertation Author Pennington, Sara Dillon URN etd-04132008-205454 Title Primer for a Feudist's Daughter: Poems Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title David Kirby Committee Chair James Kimbrell Committee Member Julianna Baggott Committee Member Nicholas Mazza Committee Member Keywords
- 19th Century
- West Virginia
Date of Defense 2008-03-19 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe following dissertation is a collection of poetry that, in large part, reveals the narrative of Zinnie Lucas, a fictional character set among historical events in my family’s past. The poems are told from the point of view (sometimes in first person, sometime with the second-person “you”) of Zinnie. The collection begins with letters, composed beyond the grave, written to Zinnie from her murdered father. At the beginning of the manuscript’s main sequence, the second section, Zinnie lives in the Guyandotte River valley of West Virginia in 1888, about the same time as the beginning of the Hatfield and McCoy feud of legend. The Guyandotte River valley is located several miles north of the Levisa fork where much of the killing of the Hatfields and McCoys took place. However, Zinnie’s story is not a retelling of the Hatfield-McCoy conflict, but of similar, less-publicized violence.
Shortly after the sequence begins, 15 year old Zinnie’s father is shot by Paris Brumfield, a member of a chronically violent family in the area. Many of the poems deal with Zinnie’s grief over her father’s death, and her contemplation of her future without him. At the time of the murder, Zinnie is the oldest daughter. Zinnie’s widowed mother, pregnant with her fifth child, attempts to avenge her husband’s death. After nearly shooting the wrong man, she makes plans for her family to escape the violent area. During the spring floods, while logs from the timber boom are being sent down river, Zinnie’s mother loads her children onto a raft and floats with them more than 50 miles to the city of Huntington at the confluence of the Guyandotte and Ohio rivers. The sequence follows the Lucases’ attempts to integrate into city life, and, eventually, the remarriage of Zinnie’s mother.
After a short departure, the fourth section titled “Revisitation” adds further detail to the historical-fictional narrative laid out in the abecedarium sequence of the second section. The third section, “A Short History of the Future,” departs from the 19th century; it is a selection of lyric poems told from the perspective of a young Appalachian woman in the 20th and 21st centuries. This section of “ancillary” poems gives the book a greater historical arc while still speaking to many of the Zinnie sequence’s themes: childbirth, death, and an attempt to reconcile sexuality with a fundamentally religious upbringing. The final section of the book, a short series of erasures of the first section’s epistles, returns to the voice of Zinnie’s father, as the memory of his life and murder begins to fade.
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