Breaking the curse: retelling a folk fairy tale to explore trauma and healing in novels for young people

Hollingsworth, A (2024) Breaking the curse: retelling a folk fairy tale to explore trauma and healing in novels for young people. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

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This practice-based research asks how the folk fairy tale might be used to explore themes of trauma and healing in writing for young people. My novel, The Wasting Curse, is a young adult retelling of the folk fairy tale ‘Kate Crackernuts.’ By finding gaps in the original tale, I use my retelling to introduce and explore interrelation and intergenerational trauma. I aim to assist young readers in understanding their own struggles, and to that end I also narratively explore the complexities of healing and hope. This thesis also includes a piece of contextual research. Its four sections mirror the key elements of my novel: the folk fairy tale, trauma, dissociation, and healing. I examine these topics in light of both scientific studies and recent examples drawn from young adult reworkings of old folk or fairy tales. Existing young adult literature often dramatizes trauma without accounting for its weight or outcomes, which I have tried to address in my own writing. My methodology draws heavily on autoethnography, with influences from my personal history as a young person who experienced trauma and found release in folk fairy tales. ‘Chapter One: Uncover’ introduces the concept of the folk fairy tale and the trauma that already exists in the stories we tell. ‘Chapter Two: Name’ narrows the types of trauma focused on in this research. ‘Chapter Three: Inhabit’ highlights dissociation and the ways it can be used and misused in stories, with a particular focus on the importance of traumatized characters finding safety in their own bodies. Finally, ‘Chapter Four: Mend’ covers the tricky subject of healing. This chapter questions the trope of ‘happily ever after,’ and discusses the importance of an ending that is both realistic and hopeful. My research is founded on the principle that fictional representations of trauma and healing can have a powerful impact on young readers. I offer this thesis in the hope that the methods I have developed will be useful to other writers and scholars.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

The document attached to this record is the contextualising research section of the thesis only. It does not include the creative component, which is the manuscript for the novel, "The Wasting Curse".

Keywords: PhD by practice, trauma, dissociation, healing, young people, interrelation, intergenerational trauma, folk fairy tale, young adult literature, authoethnography, creative writing, novel writing
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
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Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2024 15:35
Last Modified: 02 May 2024 10:53
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