Fictive responsibility: Why all novelists are political writers (whether they like it or not)
Hayhurst, Lauren Amy
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
The critical thesis element of the thesis is available to readers but please note, copyright requires that the novel is available for commercial publishing and cannot be published on Open Research Exeter.
This PhD is part novel and part thesis. The novel, The Girl Upstairs (TGU), is in three parts. Parts one and two are included here in full. A synopsis of part three is included in the appendices. The thesis presents an original “action model” for Creative Writing (CW) called “fictive responsibility”. TGU can be treated as a case study, demonstrating the practical application of this new model. TGU follows a Bengali-Muslim family as they confront the wayward behaviour of Kifah Rahman, a feisty sixteen-year-old. Set somewhere in south-west England, Kifah’s misadventures start when she discovers an envelope discarded in a drawer. The address is her mother’s childhood home across the city, but she’s never heard of the addressee, Zubi Rahman. Kifah sneaks off school to investigate. Kifah’s clandestine visits incite rumours and soon Kifah is accused of tarnishing the family’s reputation. TGU confronts the difficult subjects of “honour”-based-violence (HBV), domestic violence and “crimes-of-passion”. By exploring different types of violence-against-women (VAW), TGU shows how perceived differences in, for example, “culture”, religion, or heritage, rather than dividing us, can present new ways to connect across moral values or lifestyles, ultimately promoting togetherness and empathy between different cultures.The thesis explores how the “political” relates to “literature” through the writer’s creative process, suggesting that all novelists are inherently politicised individuals and fictions are produced through an inherently politicised process. The significance of this is undermined by those who claim fiction writers just “make it up”. Failing to recognise the “politics of representation” that operates alongside invention in CW has contributed to the recent exacerbation around “cultural appropriation”. For some writers this presents a threat to “free” expression. For others, “free” expression must be treated with respect, especially when fictionalising characters that appear external to the writer’s own experience. Theoretical and conceptual analysis is drawn from cultural studies, ethnography, literary criticism and philosophy. Case studies include fictions with Muslim female characters in a post-9/11 setting. In addition to literary analysis, the thesis explores how “authenticity” interacts with an author’s perceived affiliation with characters or themes within the fiction.
PhD in English