9:00am – 10:30am
Robin Hemley, ‘The Speculative Essay’
Through the use of appropriated forms, such as the report card, the book review, the menu, the testimonial, the questionnaire, the classified ad, we can find new ways to make the essay an instrument of wonder and speculation. This approach will seek to turn the essay into a kind of multiple choice test in which all answers are equally correct and equally wrong, in which the form contributes to a level of self-consciousness that is both satiric and sincere. In subverting and disrupting traditional forms of the essay, we also interrupt and disrupt patterns of self-delusion that the traditional personal essay might otherwise encourage.
Peta Murray, ‘Essayesque Dismemoir: abandon, excess and other unravellings’
‘To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now,’ declared Samuel Beckett, with his customary prescience, in an interview given in 1961. This paper proposes ‘essayesque dismemoir’ one such form for our times. Hybrid, porous, and adaptive, essayesque dismemoir affords a method for collective inscription in, and upon, time and place and for essaying the liveness(es) and mis-remembrances of many, not one. At a time when contemporary events seem unbelievable, impossible, absurd, essayesque dismemoir captures the dis of our cognitive dissonance, offering an experience of attention and agency when we might remain passive at our peril.
David Carlin, ‘The Essay, Entangled: Ordinary Wonders’
To quote Juno Diaz: ‘We are at peak dystopia. Our political horizons have become distorted by dystopian imaginaries.’ The current default settings for everyday life, be it for humans, coral reefs, cities or the countryside, are marked by precarity, anxiety, an ongoing sense of unhinged, manic-depressive craziness. Against all that, what hope? Many people argue that here is where we need to connect, or reconnect, with ordinary wonders. How might the essay use techniques like slow writing (Bird Rose 2013) and 'the radical act of paying attention' (Light 2017)? How can the essay envisioned as contaminated, ruined, entangled form help trace and nurture attachments to both human and nonhuman beings? Neither objectifying nor romanticising, but creating space together for small 'horizons of hope' (Braidotti, 2013).
Megan Blake, ‘The changing space of valuable literature; or, whether The Kindly Ones is trash or treasure’
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell is pornographic and sensationalist, the story of an unapologetic SS officer who has serious sexual perversions involving lots of incest and violence, and participates in the Shoah. It is also called a ‘classic’, has generated serious and wide-ranging discussion from respected scholars, was the subject of two international workshops in 2009 alone, and won for Littell the Grand Prix du roman de l’Academie Française and Le Prix Goncourt. Littell, on the back of this one book, was dubbed a contemporary Tolstoy, Pasternak and/or Dostoyevsky. And, of course, it won the 2009 Bad Sex in Fiction award from The Literary Review. It is repulsive, absolutely – gratuitously so, most probably – but this very nature could be the thing that makes it work, and it isn’t a book that gives to you your position on it. You need to work out for yourself what that position is; and, in order to do that, you need to read and reread. The Kindly Ones involves so many topics and writing strategies that in most situations would have it discarded as trash – valueless or momentarily, salaciously gratifying. But, if treated as more of a scriptible text, and read in a more scriptible way, it offers so much meat that it can also fit itself into the box reserved for ‘literature’. Hasn’t that always been the history of narrative, though? Plays from the Renaissance and Ancient Greece that were considered throwaway entertainment are now classics; novels from the 19th century that were guilty pleasures are now erudite compositions. So perhaps The Kindly Ones is merely part of that negotiation, in which a select few texts in each era treat what is taboo or pulpy in a way that rewards re-readings, and then they wait for us to change our perspective.
Tim Napper, ‘Gunslinger, Private Eye, Samurai, Android – Noir, Cyberpunk, and the Spectacle of Ceaseless Change in East and Southeast Asia’
My PhD examines narratives of past, present and future change in Southeast and East Asia. I argue regional artists have used their creative practice to explore the nature of this change through a prism, darkly, of noir literature and film. Noir and its descendants – neo-noir and cyberpunk – have an identifiable lineage that remains consistent across narrative form, aesthetics, tone, and underlying philosophy. The Gunslinger, Private Eye, Samurai and Android are four noir archetypes that have an appeal across culture and time–from the hard-boiled template created by Dashiell Hammett in the late 1920s, which heavily influenced Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo in 1961, which was in turn copied by Sergio Leoni for his gritty A Fistful of Dollars in 1964; to Blade Runner (1982), heavily influenced, again, by hard-boiled fiction, the aesthetics of film noir, and the cityscape of Hong Kong; to Ghost in the Shell in 1996, where the director, Mamoru Oshii said the foundation of his story ‘had’ to be Blade Runner. These archetypes are essential to my creative practice, and to the story-telling of many regional artists. They have often been used in critique of a century that has witnessed a “spectacle of ceaseless change” (Chin & Gallagher 2015: 31).
Jessica Seymour, ‘Abraca-f***you! Improvisation, collaboration, and continuation in The Adventure Zone’
“It is, however, exponentially more weird to go on imaginary dates with my brother”
– Justin McElroy, The ‘The Adventure Zone’ Zone – MaxFunDrive, March 30 2017
The purpose of this paper is to examine the narrative strategies involved in the Dungeons and Dragons-inspired podcast The Adventure Zone (2014-present), which is run by the McElroy family. The Adventure Zone is an ongoing podcast narrative about three adventurers who work to find and destroy seven extremely powerful Grand Relics. The narrative incorporates several different genres, themes, and both player and non-player characters. During the podcasts, the youngest brother, Griffin, explains settings and story elements so that his two brothers, Justin and Travis, and his father, Clint, can react to them while portraying characters that they have created. The podcast is entirely improvised, and although Griffin acts as DM (Dungeon Master), he must change his plans if the other players go in a direction that he was not expecting. This means that the overall narrative arc and intended ending of the campaign may change at any time. Character backstory is introduced as needed, and the players keep track of magical items and experience that they gain as they move through each of the story arcs. This paper argues that The Adventure Zone’s co-operative, improvisational story-telling style is successful precisely because it is performed in an organic way that is true to character motivation. Storytellers may be tempted to force the narrative towards a desired conclusion, but when working with four collaborators – three of whom are not aware of the intended conclusion – then the narrative can change at any moment. Griffin McElroy’s flexibility as DM and the innovative character creation of the three players contributes to an overall-stronger narrative as the podcast continues.
Aidan Coleman, ‘The Whole: An Argument for Shakespeare in Creative Writing’
This paper considers the ways that Shakespeare can inform writers’ creative practice in the 21st Century. I will argue that Shakespeare’s body of work bridges the gap between our time and his own in a way few writers prior to Modernism do. Before outlining the qualities all writers can learn from Shakespeare’s subtle command of features such as rhythm, diction, syntax and ellipsis, I consider how some contemporary Australian poets, such as Toby Fitch, Jill Jones, and Kate Dellar-Evans have used Shakespearian content and vocabulary in their poems. I will close with a consideration of how allusion functions in these writers, and my own work.
Luke Johnson, ‘Writing the body’
Aristotle’s subordination of character to plot continues to provide provocation for narrative theorists and creative writers alike. In her 1992 book Tragic Pleasures Elizabeth Belfiore makes the point that Aristotle’s ‘views on the nature of tragedy differ radically from those of many modern readers and scholars, for whom character is the center of interest’ (91). In this paper, my objective is to see whether it is possible not only to dehierarchisise the two narrative elements action and character, but to conflate them into a single unit. If contemporary scholarship has mitigated the strict Aristotelian formula that views character as little more than a means to an end, pushing instead towards a relationship of interdependency, then my aim is to develop this even further. I envision a kind of narrative where progression, and action, and plot development might be fulfilled not by how a character chooses to act, but by the physiological changes that are both innate and inseparable from the body upon which literary characters are typically and metaphorically inscribed: the human body.
Alexandra Henderson, ‘Whose Hero? Whose Journey?: Mythic retelling and the “Hero’s Journey”’
Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces is an iconic and influential text in the field of contemporary mythology and popular culture story structure. In it, Campbell outlines ‘The Hero’s Journey’, his theory that all heroic myths share a common plot structure and themes–leading Campbell to define this structure as the ‘universal narrative’. However, as Sarah Nicholson and Maureen Murdock have noted, there’s an assumption both implicit and explicit in the text that, rather than the ‘universal narrative’ being gender-neutral, The Hero is always male. A gendered binary of man as active Hero and woman as guiding, symbolic ‘other’ underlies Campbell’s theory and discussion of mythic archetypes, and it’s this structure and concept of ‘heterosexual male as default’ that my creative research aims to challenge. Drawing on examples from contemporary popular culture, such as Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, Disney’s Moana, and fairy tale deconstruction Revolutionary Girl Utena, I will discuss the way that forms of mythic retelling (particularly within the framework of feminist and LGBTQ+ representation) subvert Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey to foreground the problematic nature of the straight, masculine hero as default. I will then discuss how these retellings have influenced my own creative work, which is a reimagining of the Irish Ulster Cycle myths but with a queer woman in the role of the Hero.
Corinna Di Niro and Amelia Walker, ‘You’re Doctor What? Challenges for creative arts research in a culture of binaries’
Our presentation explores challenges for creative arts PhD candidates and researchers in the fast-changing academic cultures of Australia and beyond. We write as two recently-graduated PhD researchers, whose theses concerned theatre (Di Niro) and poetry (Walker). Both of us consider ourselves children of the ‘ERA era’ (Krauth, Webb & Brien 2010), meaning that we commenced our PhD programs in the context of major changes to research evaluation in Australia. We have both also experienced – and still experience – challenges connected with gender and its related cultural binaries. Our presentation engages the methodology of duoethnography – ‘writing in the form of a play script’ (Given 2012: 8) as a ‘collaborative research methodology in which two or more researchers of difference juxtapose their life histories’ (Norris & Sawyer 2012: 9) – to explore the personal, political and cultural factors that shaped our experiences of PhD candidature, and which continue to impact us as we forge careers in an increasingly casualised and uncertain academic climate. Through this process of examining the similarities between our own experiences in two different-yet-connected areas of creative arts research, we recognise and discuss issues also pertinent to other higher degree by research candidates, supervisors and early career researchers. In particular, we consider how cultural notions of and around binary gender reflect and reinstate problematic-yet-pervasive assumptions that privilege the sciences in hierarchical relation over the arts. To facilitate our explorations, we present two interwoven dialogues: one between ourselves, and one between the fictional characters ‘Dr No-Idea’, a creative arts researcher, and ‘Mr Obviously-Has-Stable-Employment’, who challenges the validity of arts research. By repeatedly reviewing and remaking the fictional encounter, we explore different forms of challenges to the arts in academia, as well as various possible modes of response – that is, ways of justifying arts research’s validity and value.
Belinda Hilton, ‘Purging the Impostor: transitioning to an Early Career Creative Research (ECCR) practice’
A year on from the conferral of my PhD in creative writing I’m seeking my place as both a researcher and creative practitioner. My students ask me, ‘Why don’t you teach creative writing?’, colleagues ask ‘Are you applying for jobs?’, and I ask, ‘Can I call myself a writer if I’m not writing?’. At my doctoral graduation ceremony, the weight of the robes surprised me – being awarded the title of Doctor has led to a case of Impostor Syndrome. Transitioning from PhD candidate to Early Career Creative Researcher doesn’t feel like levelling up, but instead like starting over. I’ve achieved a creative writing doctorate, but do I have the grit to continue a creative practice outside the framework of the PhD? This paper is an exploration, seeking the catalyst to reignite a stalled creative research practice. I delve into my “to-read pile” of writer’s advice books, dust off the therapeutic writing research conducted during the PhD, and trawl the archives of Text and AAWP conference proceedings seeking writerly fuel. In How To Be A Writer, John Birmingham states, ‘You have to kick self-doubt in the dick’ (2016), in On Writing, Stephen King writes ‘you must not come lightly to the blank page’ (2000), and Kate Grenville notes, in The Writing Book, that ‘At the beginning, the only thing that matters is to get some words, any words, on the paper’ (1990). I have had time to rest from PhD burnout, nurse the wounds of examination, devote myself to procrasti-teaching; now the time has come to suck it up, purge the Impostor and face the risk of writing again. This paper is those ‘words on the page’.
Ariella Van Luyn and Robyn Glade-Wright, ‘Changing climates for the artistic-academic: towards a framework for nurturing creative arts research beyond the PhD’
Creative Arts Research in Postgraduate Degrees has gained acceptance as a research methodology over the past three decades, particularly in University in United Kingdom and in Australia (Nelson 2014; Arnold 2012). The rapid growth in the literature describing the nature of Creative Arts Research continues to evolve and clarify practice-led research approaches. However, much of the literature focuses on the nature of Creative Arts research at a PhD level (for example, Nelson 2004, Milech and Schilo 2004, Haseman 2006, Haseman and Mafe 2009, Smith and Dean 2009; Webb and Brien 2011, Arnold 2012), with comparatively few papers focusing on researcher experiences in the academic environment post-PhD for ‘artist-academics’ (Bloom, Bennett and Wright 2008) or ‘practitioner academics’ (Arnold 2015). Yet, in changing research climates in Australia, the UK and Europe, non-traditional research outputs are increasingly incorporated into the scope of recognised intellectual activities beyond the PhD, and student demand for supervision across the Creative Arts and Writing sector grows. While practice-led research has a relatively recent history in Australian Universities, increasing numbers of writing staff hold doctoral level degrees with a creative practice component. In addition, a new focus in ERA on impact, and connections with communities outside academia, represents both challenges and potential for creative writing research. Artists-academics in tertiary institutions navigate complex institutional hierarchies and imperatives. Following Josie Arnold (2012, 2015), this paper takes an autoethnographic, ‘mystory’ (Ulmer 1985) approach to addressing these tensions and practical imperatives in a changing academic climate, proposing an initial framework for nurturing creative writing practice-led research in Australian universities.
Houman Zandizadeh, ‘The Welkin's Horses Rain Ashes: the Evolution of a Few Lines into a Full-Length Play’
Siyâvash is one of the most famous parts of the Iranian epic Shahnameh, written by Ferdowsi. It tells the story of a Persian Prince, Siyâvash, who is loved by his father’s wife, Queen Sudâbeh. The King, who is suspicious about their relationship, commands them to pass through fire to prove their innocence – an ancient tradition in which liars burn. Siyâvash passes safely while Sudâbeh refuses to undergo the test. Following a number of consequences, however, they both die. The story has been adapted by many artists and writers, but often with no major change in the plot, characters, and conflicts. ‘The Welkin’s Horses Rain Ashes’ is a free adaptation of the Siyâvash story by scholar and playwright Naghmeh Samini. In this play, she focusses on the fire test because for her, it is ‘the most imaginative part of the story’. Although Ferdowsi describes this image in only a few lines, Samini develops the idea into a full-length play. In her adaptation the main character, Siyâvash, is looking for the missing part of his dreams. It leads him into a road of trials and obstacles. In this paper I aim to answer this question: how did Samini adapt the Siyâvash story for the stage? My main concern is with the process of adaptation used by her. I begin by providing the background to the Siyâvash story. Following this, I summarise the plot of Ferdowsi’s Siyâvash and continue my analysis of the play adaptation by exploring its histories, performance contexts, the dramatic elements, and the writer’s perspectives and inspirations – most notably, the genre of magic realism and Joseph Campbell's monomyth structure.
Wilson, Annabel, ‘Collision & Collusion: The Darkest Night - A creative collaboration’
The point after which everything changes irrevocably for each character in the work, ‘The Darkest Night’ is the ‘peak’ of the stage and radio play ‘No Science To Goodbye’. Troubled by how to best serve the story in a theatrical sense, I left the writing of this climactic moment until last. As much about landscape as it is about love and loss, the intention behind ‘No Science To Goodbye’ was to convey a trio of unravelling lives within a distinctive environment. So the purpose of this particular scene was to interweave poesis with place. There needed to be a trauma, a Search and Rescue mission, helicopters and a hospital sequence; told with a musical score crafted by Cory Champion, minimal set and a cast of three. The collaborative team of our director, three actors and musician knew the story - they’d read the seed material (the creative component of my Masters). During workshops and the devising period, they kept raising the question: How are we going to make ‘The Darkest Night’ happen? By experimenting with structural tools, polyphony and sound, we constructed the scene with the aim of amplifying what Ellen Bryant Voigt has described as ‘the peak in the emotional chart’ (1994: 1). The process of shifting lines around soundscape and silence lead to a space of open-endedness and fracture in the creation of what Gary Henderson coined a ‘theatrical poem’. ‘Collision & Collusion: The Darkest Night - A creative collaboration’ will investigate the writing process of ravelling the part of ‘No Science To Goodbye’ I found most difficult, and most rewarding, to write.
Julian Meyrick, ‘Australian Theatre after the New Wave’
In this paper, I discuss my new book, published by Brill this September. Australian Theatre After the New Wave charts the history of three ground-breaking theatre companies: the Paris Theatre (1978), the Hunter Valley Theatre Company (1976-1996) and Australian Nouveau Theatre (1980-96), each of which appeared towards the end of the ‘New Wave’ of Australian theatre in the 1960s and 1970s. The book presents the narratives chronologically, detailing the different personalities, organisational approaches and aesthetic styles. In the twenty years after the historic dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in 1975, these ‘alternative’ theatres struggled to survive in an adverse economic environment and an increasingly complex administrative one. The book also examines the policy envelope in which the companies operated, looking at the major arts and cultural policy documents of the period. Using archival sources, including previously closed files from the Australia Council for the Arts, I focus on the changing relationship between artists and the Australian State during these decades – what I call ‘the policy-practice fit’ – and the growing dominance of a managerial ethos in shaping our national cultural agenda. This was a time when Australian arts funding changed significantly, both procedurally and politically. I consider this increasing concern with public accountability (‘the justification imperative’) and a corresponding multiplication in audit and reporting tasks, in a critical light. In this paper, I am concerned with what lessons these case studies drawn from Australian theatre offer contemporary creative writers.
11:00am – 12:30am
Deb Wain and Penelope Jones, ‘Food, Fears and Anxieties in a Climate-Change Future’
How do creative writers approach the current fears and anxieties about food production and consumption in a climate-changed future? David Bell and Gill Valentine acknowledge that ‘food has long ceased to be merely about sustenance and nutrition. It is packed with social, cultural and symbolic meanings’ (Bell & Valentine 1997: 3). These meanings are of particular importance yet have not garnered significant attention in literary criticism or deliberately utilised in creative practice. Current climate change literature and literary criticism focuses on any number of the anticipated consequences of climate change such as rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, increased carbon and greenhouse gases, extreme weather events, mass extinctions, ozone depletion, glacial and polar cap melt, decreased water availability and heatwaves. Food studies theories will be drawn upon as a means by which of considering what current texts are indicating around the control of food, what this says about food movements such as organics and slow food, as well as the ways in which foodways can be a form of resistance and food choices can be a political act. By exploring climate change and food studies theories and creative texts that respond to such theories we will analyse the representations of food, food production, control and nutrition. The impact of food supply in a climate-change future will be critiqued through an engagement with literature that includes representations of food such as Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam Trilogy. Via such texts, we will consider the fears and anxieties around food’s impacts on society and culture, the ways in which food acts as ‘social glue’ (Bell & Valentine 1997: 15), and how these texts engage with ideas of uncertainty and resilience in terms of food production. In an ongoing creative project we are exploring the social and cultural ramifications of a world where the government controls food production and, through this control, manipulates the various populations it purports to care for and govern.
Darryl Whetter, ‘Field Notes from the Anthropocene: Climate Change Fiction Set in Canada’s Oil Sands’
German literature confronts the Holocaust; American literature addresses slavery, yet landscape-obsessed Canadian literature devotes almost no attention to Canada’s notorious oil-sands. My in-progress oil-sands novel addresses internationally relevant questions about this global epitome of peak oil. Given their accumulating toxic waste and threats to First Nations’ health within habitat-threatening global warming, at what point must the Canadian oil sands be regarded as genocidal and/or a crime against humanity? Does genocide only apply to existing populations or are emerging populations (be they youthful, First Nations, globally coastal, etc.) vulnerable to genocide? The Canadian oil sands are a defining feature of contemporary Canada, yet they receive little attention in Canadian fiction. My cli-fi novel combines this relevant subject with the popular genre of the landscape novel. An excerpt of nearly 5,000 words was recently published by Canada’s oldest literary journal (The Fiddlehead). My reading will be augmented with photographs from my fieldwork investigations in key oil-sands landscapes (including a helicopter flight above them) as well as audio from my interviews with First Nations elders affected by the notoriously toxic sands. The political consequences of a petro-state Canada are also revealed in this climate-change novel. One young ‘ecoteur’ prepares ‘direct action’ against university scientists in the pay of American oil companies and tries to help government-silenced scientists to share public-health science online. The young ecoteur couple compare their dysfunctional families to a dysfunctional parliament twice prorogued by a pro-sands government that limited the speech of federal scientists and literally burnt science libraries (those examples are from recent history, not fiction). Stories love change, but Life soon won’t love climate change.
Rosemary Williamson, ‘Wind, Water and Woe: Writing Eco-catastrophe in The Australian Women’s Weekly’
A growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship concerns the ways in which writers conceptualise non-human others, including the natural environment. It calls for a posthumanist sensibility suited to a time in which anthropogenic climate change will make humans’ relations to their natural environment more fraught because there will be more intense and more frequent eco-catastrophes, or what commonly are called natural disasters. Such scholarship is especially relevant to those who write about eco-catastrophe in Australia, a country in a region of the Asia-Pacific so threatened by climate change that it has been called Disaster Alley. In this context, writers and editors of magazine feature articles and other types of popular non-fiction should interrogate, and consider the ethical implications of, the ways in which accounts of eco-catastrophe shape perceptions of Nature behaving badly. Scholars in writing studies can aid such interrogation. To that end, this paper identifies dominant and recurring tropes in narratives of eco-catastrophe in one of Australia’s most popular and highest-circulation magazines: the Australian Women’s Weekly. It takes a longitudinal approach, by presenting case studies of feature articles from 1934 to the present. All cover cyclones and floods considered to be among the most powerful in Australia’s history since white settlement. Particular attention is given to the role of eco-catastrophe as spectacle, along with the perpetuation of an anthropocentrically artificial culture-nature divide that arguably is problematic in the twenty-first century. Findings will be situated within, and extend, recent scholarship in the environmental humanities.
Natalie Texler, ‘Illuminate: poetry from moments of healing’
Autoethnographical accounts are often used in creative writing processes to show the perspective of the practitioner through the lens of practice. While this is illuminating on a critical perspective, the accounts of people recovering from mental illness is usually analysed through qualitative means by the field of psychology, or interpreted through textual analysis. This has resulted in a gap for the examination of how a person recovering from a mental illness chooses to communicate. These inner perspectives are rarely given explication, or justified in their original unedited forms. Often, narratives are preoccupied with the moments leading up to the moment of ‘breakdown’, with endings remaining hopeful, yet not fulfilled. This collection of short poems seeks to ‘illuminate’ the perspective of experiencing recovery from a mental illness episode. Kept in their raw and unedited form and arranged in the order they were written, the collection aims to provide insight into the struggles for clarity, the desperation, and the desire to heal found in the weeks and months following hospitalisation. While avoiding editing is problematic for publication, these communications are vital to further understand the experiences of people living with mental illness. They provide a perspective that is often overlooked – that of a person learning to manage their mental illness, and to self-realise their identity post hospitalisation.
Jill Jones, ‘Suburban Energies in Australian poetry’
I look at poems that (claim to) situate themselves in and move themselves through a variety of urban and suburban places, in capital cities as well as smaller cities. I will approach the poems not as static representations of those places but rather as mappings, nodes, energies that orient or negotiate experiences within and through these places, that acknowledge histories, political realities, environmental realities, changing material culture. In one sense, this is a kind of psychogeography, looking at unities or disunities of ambience, and the linking of unsettled or fluid emotional states to particular areas. I will examine the wide variety of modes of composition these poets use, including collage/fragment, seriality, performance, dialogue/diary, anecdote, as well as affective energies in the poems, including melancholy, irony, distance/intimacy. I intend to refer to work by poets such as Keri Glastonbury, Ken Bolton, Sam Wagan Watson, Cameron Lowe, Pam Brown, as well as my own work. I will also look at elements of The Red Room Company’s ongoing geolocative project, The Disappearing, which focused on poems mapping fragmentary histories and memory of place using a specially-developed phone app.
Andy Jackson, ‘The defecting voice of the other – new poems of bodily disruption’
Emmanuel Levinas posits that the other is experienced in a ‘defecting of disclosure’, a ‘failing of presence’. A genuine encounter with the other within writing, then, ought to involve both an unsettling intimacy and a profound distance. But how is the other encountered within poetry? What difference does first-n, second- or third-person address make? How is the voice and physical appearance of the other shaped by various aural and visual poetic devices? This paper explores these questions primarily through the presentation of new poems which engage in various ways with the disruptive proximity of bodily otherness. Some of the poems take on the voices of people with disabilities. Other poems address these others, directly or tangentially. In all cases, the body is presented as a site of disruption, harnessing the failings of poetic language in order to stage potentially transformative encounters. The paper will begin, however, with a brief theoretical introduction, expanding the concepts of both caesura and lyric voice. I argue that contemporary lyric operates neither as the simple expression of a singular authorial voice, nor as a catachrestic effect which creates the illusory figure of a voice, but as the trace of an encounter with the other through the disfiguring of poetic language. I will also explore the possibility that caesura is not restricted to the technical break in a poetic line, but extends to multiple elements of the poem, allowing the voice of the other to emerge from within its ruptures, silences and artifices, as well as its overt voice of address.
Jen Webb, Deborah Hunn, Katrina Finlayson, Julia Prendergast, discussion chair by Shane Strange
For the doctoral candidate, submission of your thesis represents the final stages of an intense engagement with a research project, and very often, a way of life. However, the trials and tribulations of examination lie ahead. In this panel we bring together experts in examining creative doctorates with newly examined doctoral students to talk about the following: Submission: gearing up for the end; managing expectations from the examination process; evaluating creative theses –what are examiners examining?; finding appropriate examiners for your work; the role of the supervisor through submission and examination.
Rebecca Carver, ‘The Impact of Adversity on Identity: Cognitive Psychology and Life-Writing Narratives’
My Pa’s life was littered with adversity, even trauma; his earliest memory was being blown across the street, as a six year old, in a bombing during the 1939 Battle of Britain. His father was already missing, and his mother was injured during the blast and consequently institutionalised. Pa was, therefore, placed in an orphanage, and wove his life narratives into the fabric of the facility, while his mother wove hers into the material of the mental home. Thus began a story – of individual and also family – that was characterised ever after by falling, or being knocked, down and having then to find a way up and forward. My creative project explores Pa’s biography in his own voice, through the lens of cognitive psychology, investigating the way in which his perception and narration of events (rather than the events themselves) changed him. Although his stories were often poignant and sometimes heartbreaking, he told them without ceremony or expectation. The life writing medium explores the relationship between this unimaginably matter-of-fact attitude and the formation of resilience, fusing private and public – individual and institutional – narratives to make his life ‘meaningful in terms of the lives of others’ (Buss 2001: 595) and in terms of a wider societal truth. McAdams, Josselsohn and Leiblick (2006: x) insist that, ‘our narrative identities become the stories we live by,’ but it is how we divide our own lives into emotionally significant chapters, and how we entwine them with the communities with which we engage, that is thus far underexplored through a creative medium. In this sense, my paper seeks to contribute to practice-led research in both life writing and cognitive psychology, through the telling of one man’s fascinating story.
Rosie Chang, ‘Mindfulness, creative writing and strong emotions: An examination of Natalie Goldberg’s approach to mindful writing practice’
Creative writers discuss the challenges of facing strong emotions in relation to writing practice. Indeed for some, strong emotional experiences become an impediment to their writing process (Davies & Cook 2010; Friedman 1994; Mann 2012). Emotions such as anxiety may be perceived as experiences to reject (Fidler 2008); while experiences of joy, or ‘flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi 1975), may be perceived as experiences to pursue. These perceptions imply an impulse to alter or control one’s current experience. Mindfulness approaches can offer an alternative approach to rejecting or pursing experience, a middle way. I am interested in mindful writing practice. In this paper I ask the question: What might we learn from an individual’s engagement in mindful writing practice? I approach the question by examining Natalie Goldberg’s body of work (Goldberg 1986, 1990, 2000, 2009, 2013, 2014). Goldberg’s innovation is to articulate an approach to ‘writing practice’ that is analogous to meditation practice. Goldberg’s monographs have become classics in bookshop how-to sections, and her writing exercises are referenced in literature on writing pedagogy. However, there has been little scholarly engagement with her intellectual contribution to contemplative studies, perhaps because her work is typically classified as ‘creative self-help’. In terms of method, at the time of writing I am engaged in textual analysis of Goldberg’s six monographs by coding and analysing thematically. The analysis draws on Buddhist perspectives (Loori 2005; Trungpa 1996), and theoretical frameworks from psycho-analysis, psychology and health science (Kabat-Zinn 2003; Mace 2007). In terms of the conference theme, the analysis will touch on the paradox that mindfulness practice is not motivated to seek change or self-improvement (Piver 2015). The paper will report on findings, and explore implications for personal and pedagogical practice.
Ursula Robinson-Shaw, ‘Against Redemption: refusing therapeutic narrative’
Barbara and Richard Almond, in their qualitative analysis of the therapeutic narrative in literature, write that ‘the psychoanalyst is a student of the human imagination, the novelist an observer of the human condition’ (Almond 1996). In this paper, I will argue that the dominant fictive representation and production of subjectivity – the ‘human condition’, that linchpin of literature – is linked to the imperatives of capitalism through therapeutic narrative. By operating as a mechanism to recuperate damaged experience, therapeutic narrative abrogates meaningful efforts to emancipate subjective relations. Though therapeutic narrative has changed over time in response to industrial, psychoanalytic, and finally neoliberal forces, it consistently poses a schemata of the self that is an extension and reproduction of ideological violence, which precludes conceptualisations of the self that do not align with the imperatives of capitalism. This paper represents, in part, an effort to diagnose what Anis Shivani described as ‘the predominant attitude of resignation, acceptance, even fatalism’, which has had an observable influence on contemporary creative practice, and to account for the persistence of therapeutic narrative in contemporary literature (Shivani 2015). It will align a range of theoretical arguments from literary and cultural theory in order to seek modes of resistance against therapeutic narrative, and focus on the transformative potential of literature to establish forms of radical difference. It will examine the ways in which therapeutic narrative might be dismantled in order to imagine a more fully emancipated subject in fiction, who does not need to be recuperated, incorporated, redeemed or contained. The ultimate contention of the paper will be that, insofar as art conforms to the redemptive aesthetic which characterises therapeutic narrative, it is a system identical to its own crisis. By engaging in a dialectically critical account of the development of therapeutic narrative, I hope to identify its central features in order to aim at their dissolution.
Chantelle Bayes, ‘Writing the Posthuman City: Environmental Imaginaries, Cyber-Flâneurs and the Cyborg City’
As environmental concerns become ever more urgent, it’s important to re-examine conceptions of ‘nature’ particularly in urban environments where a milieu of environmental imaginaries interact and continue to shape conceptions of and attitudes towards non-human nature. In a post-truth world where facts and fictions blur, creative practitioners might find opportunities to forge new ways of knowing, and new ways of connecting with the city. The development of new literary imaginaries can reconstruct natural/cultural relationships and propose alternative ways of living in a posthuman and multispecies community. The rise of smart-phone applications like Story City that allow writers to create digital narratives overlayed on real places as an alternative version of the self-guided tour have the potential to encourage real connections with urban environments. These narratives conflate virtual, corporeal and imagined experiences of the city and allow for new environmental imaginaries to be created in situ. I will explore these narrative possibilities in relation to notions of the post-human flaneur as developed by Debra Benita Shaw (2015) and the cyborg city in reference to Eric Swyngedouw’s (1996) and Matthew Gandy’s (2005) work on the city as cyborg organism – a hybrid of natural/cultural processes and entities.
Kerrie Davies, ‘Researching Historical Literary Journalism: The practice of immersion informed by the flâneur in works of historical literary journalism’
When Norman Sims (2012) outlined the characteristics of literary journalism, he emphasised the importance of immersion reporting. Immersion requires the literary journalist to directly observe or participate in the events he / she is researching and has been likened to ethnography. (Conover 2009) Due to the expected presence of the literary journalist, immersion occurs in present time, and thus is problematic for literary journalists researching historical events that elapsed decades if not centuries ago. This paper discusses how immersion can be enacted in historical literary journalism via approaching the practice informed by the flaneur who observes street life. (Baudelaire 1869) The literary journalist revisits places that are significant to the historical narrative as exemplified in A Wife’s Heart (Davies 2017) and Stan Grant’s Talking to My Country. (2016) By simultaneously observing the past and the present, the immersion gives character, immediacy and intimacy associated with the practice in contemporary research. This paper arises from researching A Wife's Heart, a literary journalism hybrid comprising a biography of Bertha Lawson, Henry Lawson's wife, who separated from Lawson in 1903; and a contemporary memoir of single parenting, The original DARTS (Literary Journalism) thesis of the creative work and accompanying exegesis was submitted in March 2017.
Dan Disney, ‘“it’s all good, it's all fucked” flânerie amid the shitstorms, post-truths, and big data's Homo digitalis’
In an era of fake news, climate change denial, the rising threat of ideological and/or epistemic violence, kleptocratic petro-narratives in trumped-up tones of there’s no such thing as an Anthropocene trumpeting alongside absurdist non-satires – or should that read ‘nightmarish political surrealisms’ – it seems cadres of First World men-in-suits are evermore vociferously urging our complicity in aging, hyper-capitalistic models. Philosopher Byung-Chul Han’s In the Swarm (2017) foretells of a near-future in which ‘the mounting narcissification of perception is making the gaze, the other, disappear’ (In the Swarm 24); in response, this paper asks the rhetorical question ‘if creative producers are in the business of cultivating “voice” then, logically enough, to which ends?’, and argues for the creative text as a hopeful, humanising cry seeking a fraternity of others while speaking some kind of sense to power. Making-sacred in the marketplace-real, by these means can we hope to shelter together, a fraternity gathered against what Han characterises as an impending and fast-approaching ‘shitstorm’ (2). In an era of fast-changing political dimensions, this paper argues creative producers must turn, ethically, to face ourselves within our others, as distant and as near as a mirror’s reflection.