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    The aesthetic of hybrid literary memoir, and its relationship to healing: is there a contradiction between writing well and writing to get well?

    Dunn, Lily Caroline (2023) The aesthetic of hybrid literary memoir, and its relationship to healing: is there a contradiction between writing well and writing to get well? PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This thesis comprises a book-length memoir and critical essay. The book, Sins of My Father is an interdisciplinary work of life writing, a hybrid memoir/biography of my late father, who was a writer and publisher and died prematurely and (very spectacularly) of alcoholism. The overriding theme is behavioural addiction in its many forms: sex, work, spiritual quest, prescription drugs and alcohol. But also it explores the root cause of a person’s restlessness and compulsion to keep moving, to escape aspects of himself. In my critical essay I am interested in the relational aspect of literary memoir, the relationship the writer has with various versions of self, as well as with the text and their reader, and ‘narrative competence’ to use a term from narrative medicine, bearing witness to ourselves to grasp the specificity of experience, and in doing so reaching out to others. Much like narrative is a collaborative activity, relying on the engagement of one person with another, narrative competence realises that authentic engagement is transformative for everyone involved. My hypothesis will contextualise contemporary literary memoir as a hybrid of narrative and catharsis, an important democratic genre that gives a platform to otherwise obscured voices or ordinary lives; and will interrogate the reasons for its growing popularity in a therapeutic culture of disclosure and instability, and of anxiety around identity among young people. By taking influence from the emerging discipline of narrative medicine, I will suggest ways that writing one’s narrative can help both the lives of those writing it and the lives of those reading it, a kind of ‘literary self-help’ for our times; but a writing practice that transcends content by actively engaging with the aesthetic of language, syntax and form.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2023 13:54
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 16:02


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