Semester of Graduation

Spring 2023


Master of Fine Arts (MFA)



Document Type



Sundown Syzygy is an experimental novel dressed in dapper genre clothes. Building off of the long histories of the Western, the hard-boiled noir, and the science fiction, Syzygy looks at the expectations of each genre, along with their many shortcomings. Ultimately, Syzygy, and the characters within, point to the genre constraints of the novel itself and search for the possibility of free will in a world literally written for them.

As a writer of experimental and hybrid work, Zawlacki has long given up on telling the “American short story,” and is instead interested in telling stories that question, deconstruct, and most of all, play with the very nature of storytelling. While Syzygy certainly carries strains of postmodern thought from Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault, it only does so as a leaping off point: a leap from obscurity and confusion to a legible, accessible, and, most of all, entertaining read.

Zawlacki’s reason for choosing to write metafiction is two-fold. First, he’s deeply interested in the constructs of the American novel and its shortcomings as a student and critic. Putting one’s head down and ignoring the changes in media consumption patterns, marketability of the novel form, and especially the internet, seems to be a particularly narrow path. This ties to his second point, which places us in an unusually self-reflective/reflexive moment. Popular media is in constant reference to other media. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe may be the most recognizable example of this in its sprawling and interwoven narratives, but this reflexivity can be seen in internet memes and social media more broadly; everything is a reference to another past form of media. With that in mind, Zawlacki’s work investigates our historical moment using the tradition of the American novel while incorporating aspects of this hyper awareness present in mixed media, interactivity, and internet forms.



Committee Chair

Ruffin, Maurice



Available for download on Tuesday, March 26, 2030

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