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The naughty

Kate Kostelnik, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The Naughty, a collection of nine short stories, depicts the lives of predominantly young female characters who have complex agency, real fears, and make important decisions that affect both their lives and those of others. In "The Dancing School" my academic research in both the traditional (19th-century British) and contemporary Female Gothic influences the story of a young mother who externalizes her fears and body image issues into dramatic action that she feels will keep her child safe, even at the risk of her marriage. Likewise, teenage experiences resonate across time and affect the lives of others in "Bull Shark": a young girl's drive and inability to discern complexity lead her to assault a young boy. I'm continually drawn to girl characters in order to examine constructions of propriety and femininity and also because, as younger writer, I was cautioned against working with teenagers as my work would not be taken seriously or as "literary". My literary fiction pushes on boundaries and critiques literariness itself. Another story, "Iseltwald", explores the proliferation of Muslims throughout Europe and women's reproductive roles. Anne and her Jewish husband represent liberal, global citizens whose politics and tolerances are challenged when they come into contact with a large Muslim family while on vacation in Switzerland. I believe that fiction must be connected to the social world. Like prominent Post-postmodernists, David Foster Wallace and Mary Gaitskill, I acknowledge the limitations of language, but rather than just pointing to myself pointing to it, I seek to engage the reader in the process of constructing meaning. The final story in my collection, "Rock Creek" represents Post-postmodern ideas of risked sentimentality through a character who struggles to connect with her father and his poetry. Even as she realizes that his work is just words, she cannot help but be drawn to his way of life, which is an immediate escape from consumer and popular culture. Above all, I create characters whose narratives and voices have been marginalized and are underrepresented in literary fiction. "The Naughty" depicts the dark, dangerous lives of young female characters who must assert themselves in cultures unprepared for and uninterested in the complexities and power of girls.

Subject Area

Literature|American literature

Recommended Citation

Kostelnik, Kate, "The naughty" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3557240.