Bearing witness: the writing of domestic abuse in a work of fiction [and] What men do

Stuart, E (2018) Bearing witness: the writing of domestic abuse in a work of fiction [and] What men do. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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Abstract

My aim in this thesis is to show how the portrayal of abuse in fiction differs from the writing of other fictional forms. And to examine the tools and methods the writer of such material needs to bring to bear on their work as a consequence. The thesis is composed of two parts – a creative manuscript and a piece of contextualising research. The manuscript is in the form of a novel, entitled 'What Men Do', about a woman who physically abuses her husband. The woman at the centre of the novel, Connie Williams, a primary school teacher, faces difficulties at school and in her marriage in the wake of a recent miscarriage. The novel charts her descent into violence and mental turmoil, while at the same time presenting a concurrent narrative involving a police investigation into her actions. The contextualising research, 'Bearing witness: the writing of domestic abuse in a work of fiction', investigates the writing of a work of fiction involving domestic abuse, by means of close analysis of two novels addressing the subject, as well as my own. I take Anne Enright’s Booker Prize-winning novel 'The Gathering' and examine how Enright depicts the topic of domestic (sexual) abuse in it. I also explore how Roddy Doyle approaches the subject of domestic violence in 'The Woman Who Walked into Doors'. I compare and contrast my own novel and my experience of writing about domestic abuse with these authors’ works. For ease, this part is divided into six contextualising areas: Family, Society, Sex, Patriarchy, Religion, Mental Illness. I then turn to the idea of ‘bearing witness’ in these novels, as well as in my own, and investigate how and why Doyle and Enright bear witness in this form, and what implications it has for the success of their writing and the public reception of their work. This chapter is divided into three parts: firstly A Call to Arms which examines initial ideas of bearing witness in works of fiction; the next part The Novel as Investigation concerns the investigative elements of bearing witness in a novel, using a quasi-legal context or other form of investigative framework; the third part, entitled Fact vs Fiction deals with testimony in fiction, contrasted with other forms of writing such as poetry and memoir. Thus, through fictionalising and examining domestic abuse in my own and others’ work, I hope that I can bear witness not just to those close to me who have experienced abuse but to those others who have not (yet), to adopt the language of Time magazine, broken their silence.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Note:

This thesis consists of a creative manuscript entitled 'What men do' and an accompanying piece of contextualising research.

Keywords: creative writing, fiction, domestic abuse, marriage, testimony, Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 22 May 2019 15:59
Last Modified: 22 May 2019 16:15
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