English, Department of


First Advisor

Kwame Dawes

Second Advisor

Jonis Agee

Third Advisor

Roland Végső

Date of this Version


Document Type



Diaz, Nicholas. Fragments of the Dark: Essays on Heritage, Anxiety, and Spirit. University of Nebraska--Lincoln Digital Commons, 2023.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Kwame Dawes. Lincoln, Nebraska: March, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Nicholas Diaz


“I am the war my family forgot to mention.” With these words from my essay, “My Parents Never Taught Me About My Ancestors,” I stake my position in the struggle for happiness. In a series of five experimental essays, I aim to reflect upon my assimilated white, working-class upbringing in the US Midwest and the emptiness with which it has left me. Deploying fragmentary essay forms, elements of memoir, question-and-answer, quotation, prayer, and other devices, I hope to pose destabilizing questions about our understandings of whiteness, masculinity, ancestry, and faith. Questions which, I hope, can help us (particularly those of us structurally elevated in this world) to let go of those attachments which binds us to this world’s violence, which is none other than the crucifixion to which Jesus of Nazareth calls those who would embrace True Life. Among my chiefest influences in this work are Gloria Anzaldúa, and Walter Benjamin, both of whom sought to push the edges of artistic and academic forms to potentiate new forms of consciousness. Diane di Prima also inspires me, as in her work she connects us, her readers, to the spirit of the times, which reveals itself through the power of our friendships and complicities. Drawing on the legacies of these writers, I hope to speak something which has not yet been spoken: A word of hope from hopelessness, of life from death. And so, I conclude with the last words of the Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Advisor: Kwame Dawes

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