Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: PR6100, PN3348.A8
The thesis comprises a novel – Interpreters and a critical commentary.\ud \ud Interpreters\ud \ud The novel explores the notion of identity, the interpretation of the past, the secrets and lies inherent in families, the parent/child relationship and the collective and personal guilt of a generation who grew up in Nazi Germany. It is a work of fiction that has grown out of memory and imagination, informed by original research, family memoirs, and oral history. Interpreters tells the story of Julia Rosenthal, a successful anthropologist, who returns to the suburban estate of her 1970s childhood. During her journey, both actual and emotional, the unspoken tensions that permeated her seemingly conventional family life come flooding back. Trying to make sense of the secrets and half truths, she is forced to question how she has raised her own daughter – with an openness and honesty that Susanna has just rejected in a very public betrayal of trust. Meanwhile her brother, Max, is happy to forge an alternative path through life, leaving the past undisturbed. In a different place and time, another woman is engaged in a painful dialogue with an unidentified listener, struggling to tell the story of her early years in wartime Germany and gradually revealing the secrets she has carried through the century.\ud \ud Critical commentary\ud \ud Autobiographical fiction as a genre can be laden with moral and ethical issues, and I have made their examination the centrepiece of my critical commentary.\ud I have focused on the contractual understanding of the relationship between the author, reader and those written about, the issue of who “owns” memory, and issues relating to a writer's responsibility – and the limits of that responsibility – to their sources. I have examined the tension between “truth” and “fiction” and whether this is something that is particularly problematic in the writing and reading of autobiographical fiction. I have also considered what happens to the writer and the reader when the rules are broken by fake memoir, particularly fake memoir related to recent history and, most particularly, to the Second World War and its aftermath. My reflections on my own novel and its genesis are complemented throughout by discussions of other, mostly twentieth century, authors' and critics' works.
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- Adams, Tim. 2006. Feel the pain. The Observer, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/jan/29/biography.features/pri nt. [accessed 1 August 2011]
- Anderson, Sam. 2008. The Memory Addict. New York Books [cited 1 August 2011.] Available from http://nymag.com/arts/books/features/46475/.
- Couser, G. Thomas. 1997. Recovering Bodies : illness, disability, and lifewriting, Wisconsin studies in American autobiography. Madison; London: University of Wisconsin Press.
- Couser, G. Thomas. 2004. Vulnerable Subjects : ethics and life writing. Ithaca, N.Y. ; London: Cornell University Press.
- Frank, Arthur W. 1995. The Wounded Storyteller: body, illness and ethics. Chicago ; London: University of Chicago Press.
- Franzen, Jonathan. 2010. Ten rules for writing fiction. Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writingfiction-part-one. [accessed 1 August 2011]
- Lott, Tim. 2007. Memoirs are made of this. The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/sep/28/biography. [accessed 1 August 2011]
- Marrin, Minette. 2009. Her son was betrayed because she's a writer first, mother second. The Sunday Times, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/minette_marri n/article5864699.ece. [accessed 1 August 2011]
- Myerson, Julie. 2009. Through a story, darkly. Prospect, http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/tag/julie-myerson/. [accessed 1 August 2011]
- Wilkomirski, Binjamin. 1995. Fragments: memories of a childhood, 1939-1948. London: Picador.
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