Making people up
This thesis is a process of writing characters using a cyclical methodology to turn the writer into a reader of their own work, then back into a writer again. The components of this thesis both practice and propose writing as research and develop a concept of character that is ‘relational’. Taking Donald Barthelme’s assertion, ‘Writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing, a forcing of what and how,’ this thesis is attentive to the uncertainty of process: a process that has accreted knowledge in the form of characters and methods. Making People Up is chronologically structured in order to make visible how its form was discovered through practice. The first component is a book of character studies You are of vital importance written in the first year of the PhD. This is followed by a reflective manuscript of essays which use a method of redescription to render a generative moment between the completion of one book and the beginning of the next. The third component is a second book Social Script which is a character study and a conclusion to the thesis. Building on Adam Phillips’ assertion, ‘Being misrepresented is simply being presented with a version of ourselves – an invention – that we cannot agree with. But we are daunted by other people making us up, by the number of people we seem to be,’ this thesis starts from the premise that in the everyday we make each other up and then goes on to use the form of the character study to explore unresolvable tensions around this process. Building four parallel propositions: that character is fiction; that a relational concept of character is a critique of the extent to which we can know each other; that constituting the writer as a reader of their own characters renders a generative moment and critical reflection; that oscillating the proximity to and distance from a character provokes you, the reader, to imagine character as a relationally contingent concept. The thesis will draw on key concepts by Christopher Bollas and Adam Phillips, literary discourse on character, reader-response criticism and a selection of literary and artistic works that have informed this process of writing characters. Research Questions: 1. Does a relational concept of character critique claims to ‘know’ each other? 2. Does replacing interpretation with redescription make a reflective methodology critical and generative? 3. What kind of narrative structure will constitute a ‘relational’ character study?
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