Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
K. L. Cook
City of Voices: a novel about ancient Tikal is a postmodern work of fiction that explores the collapse of the ancient Maya civilization at Tikal, in present day Guatemala. The narrator of this work, an imagined writer/anthropologist, creates the story of a young woman, whose bones have been found in a cenote in Tikal. The story of Tikal's collapse is embodied through the coming of age story of Exa, a noble woman.
Exa yearns to defy convention and to contribute to her beloved city. When her sister marries Ome and then dies in childbirth, she forms a plan to prove to the priesthood that she has a connection to the gods. To do this, she becomes an adept hunted, and with the help of a hallucinogenic mushroom, sees a vision from the gods. When this vision comes to pass, she is accepted into the priesthood.
But Tikal is in serious drought, and as water and food resources shrink, discontent grows. Forces from a neighboring city in the north, begin to pose threats. As sacrifices increase in an attempt to assuage the gods and restore rain, Exa and another member of the priesthood, Chiccan, begin to question their roles in the priesthood. When Ome sees Exa and Chiccan breaking the priesthood rules, he reports them. When Tikal is on the verge of collapsing, Exa and Chiccan decide to flee the city, but they are captured and sentenced to death.
Donahue, Michelle, "City of voices: a novel about ancient Tikal" (2015). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 14315.
Available for download on Sunday, February 01, 2026