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Writing popular women's fiction for ph d by artefact & exegesis


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First official summary of candidature within PhD by Artefact (Walking with Madness) and Exegesis (Rad, Mad and Bad)

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Writing popular women's fiction for ph d by artefact & exegesis

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  2. 2. PREAMBLE Artefact choices/rationaleMy epistemology has determined my:  research methodology; feminist postmodernism  choice of a hybrid artefact; faction  chosen artefact themes; relational and interpersonal  selection of protagonists, women  choice of genre; popular novel rather than literary  authorial voice; situated and mediated via the text  novels structure; women’s life stages  use of first, second or third person narration  integration and reconfiguration of epistological writing with traditional narrative discourse,  my target readership; women 2
  3. 3. My exegesis will examine these key questions and research parameters:1.What indeed are my guiding epistemologies?2.How does feminist methodology allow for debate between‘positivist’ models of research and ‘holistic’ models ofresearch?3.Why is the feminist descriptor necessary at all?4.How will my research contribute to the building andconstruction of new knowledge within our discipline?5.What is the actual inter-relationship between the exegeticalcomponent and the artefact? 3
  4. 4. Efforts of subversion…areconceived within culture, withinthe languages which speak us,which we must turn to our ownpurposes. — (Du Bois, 1988) 4
  5. 5. Thus I remain positioned within theintellectual binary as ‘other’, the sitewhere ‘the Yartz’ attempts to seekacademic validity within the mainstreamdominant higher education paradigm,which still replicates the discredited modelof the Cartesian split of the C19th; the splitbetween humankind’s quest for ontologicalmeaning ( the science of being) and theepistemological meaning (the science ofknowledge). 5
  6. 6. When “The Repressed” oftheir culture and their societycome back, it is an explosivereturn, which is absolutelyshattering, staggering,overturning, with a forcenever let loose before. —(Cixous & Clément, 1996) 6
  7. 7. It is my contention that myresearch is situated withinfeminist and postmodernistparadigms despite both beingviewed by scholars as out ofdate, in this the beginningC21st, in the post-modernand post-feminist eras of theInformation Age. 7
  8. 8. For feminist scholarspostmodernism can bepowerful in collapsingbinaries, such as “the sacredand profane, spiritual andsecular, male and female,high art and popularculture”. —(Creed, 2004) 8
  9. 9. As a feminist it is problematic to relytheoretically on the binaries of masculineand feminine. Early feminist scholarship(and indeed feminist theories, such asfeminist standpoint theory) is reliant on“culturally and historically specific notionsof femininity and masculinity, particularlyhow they have come to be and who isserved by these dominant and taken-for-granted understandings of gender.” — (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2007) 9
  10. 10. Thus criticism of postmodernism hasarisen within feminist debates as wellas more broadly in the academy. “Inthis vein, postmodern feminism positsa ‘false divide’ between feministempiricism and standpoint, both ofwhich have failed to end women’soppression and both of which rely onthe same essentialism, which hascaused the oppression feminists seekto do away with.” — (Cosgrave, 2002) 10
  11. 11. Critics of feminist postmodernism state “thatthe implicit assumptions made about gender,experience, and identity — do not allow for ananalysis of the complexity of power relationsof which gender, identity, and experience areembedded .” — (Cosgrave, 2003)I am not convinced of this argument. Despite,what Alcoff (1997) claims to be a “fracturedterm” (p.6) postmodernist theory does call intoquestion taken-for-granted and privilegedparadigms. (Pujal, 1998). 11
  12. 12. Michel Foucault was principally interested in thecomplex ‘web of power-knowledge relations’(Foucault, 1978) and researchers over the latterpart of the 20th century used Foucault’s theorizing,called discourse analysis, to examine cultural texts(novels, films, popular culture, etc) to discover thepower relations that produced such texts. By doingthis researchers exposed the ‘world viewembedded within the text as well as the silences’.— (Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2007) 12
  13. 13. For Foucault, discourse analysis looks at morethan just language. It examines “ ideas, ideologyand referants, that systematically construct boththe subjects and objects of which they speak,and thus discourses are integral to theconstruction of social reality.” —(Foucault, 1978;Hesse-Biber & Leavy, 2007) 13
  14. 14. Luce Irigaray suggests that by exposing thehegemonic relations and exclusions withinsociety, postmodern discourse analysis anddeconstruction (Derrida, 1966), allows “FrenchFeminist Postmodernism”, as a way of“jamming the theoretical machinery”. —(Irigaray, 1985) 14
  15. 15. Creed summarizes the usefulness of gynesis inpointing out that it is a reactionary or radicalrepositioning, reconfiguring, and valorizing “of thefeminine or woman as intrinsic to thedevelopment of new postmodern modes ofspeaking and writing.” — (Creed, 2004) 15
  16. 16. Sandra Harding claims as feminist researcher I mustbegin by starting of my thinking, and writing “ about anyparticular phenomenon, from outside the dominantconceptual framework.” — (Harding, 1992)My protagonists do not live the traditional woman’s role.They each strive for career fulfilment and take fulladvantage of the freedoms the sexual revolution of the‘70s. Throughout the ‘80s they experience the societalpush to ‘have it all’, family and career. The novel ends inthe ‘90s when men and women are all reflecting on thecoming new Century and the opportunities and problemscaused under the governance of the androcentric “BabyBoomer” authorities and legislatures. (Chaudhuri, 2007) 16
  17. 17.  I am still in the process of deconstructing the power-relations that are found within the commercial publishingindustry in Australia (Davis, 2007), as well as scrutinisingthe dominant paradigm behind the ‘great Australian literarynovel’. (Croker, 2008a; Dixon, 2007). A further area of ongoing investigation is discoveringhow women read popular novels (Radway, 1991), toexplain why there appears to be a resurgence of thetraditional romance mythology within young women’scommercial popular fiction, or ‘Chick Lit’. (Croker 2007) As part of my literature survey, I have been seeking afeminine literary discourse which positions women’ssexuality and experiences as central, definitive andembedded within the language of the text itself 17
  18. 18. The Feminine has not yet deployed itsmorphology. Yoked to the maternal, reduced tothe womb or to seductive adornment, thefeminine has been used only for conception,growth, birth and rebirth of the forms of theother. (Irigaray, 1987) My current research revolves arounddeveloping a written and textual position thatchallenges phallocentricism as the dominantand embedded gaze . (Mulvey, 1985) 18
  19. 19. “Sexual difference remains an assumed categoricalfoundation even though gender may no longer beprivileged as the single lens for reading…Consequently, reading the subjectivities within a textinvolves tracing the mediated link between the multiplysituated, historically specific producer and product,writer and text, scriptor and narrative voice.” ―(Friedman, 1996) These deliberations are determining mycharacterizations within my novel. How are myprotagonists going to allow the reader a ‘gynocentric’gaze and sensibility? 19
  20. 20.  If I succeed in reconfiguring thisspace or silence, will the reader beuncomfortable by renderingsubjectivity and objectivityproblematic, and thus make my novel‘unmarketable’, ‘unpublishable’commercially? 20
  21. 21. This leads back to the necessity to collapse theboundaries between commercial (read popular)fiction and literary fiction. As I discovered lastyear Neilson BookScan include ‘Erotic Fiction’under the somewhat arbitrary classification ofliterary fiction, whereas women’s popular fiction(Chick Lit, Family Sagas, Romance Novels etc)are located within the classification generalfiction. Nowhere in the BookScan material is therea description of how this classification is decidedupon, or by whom, it is a ‘taken-for-granted’given. (Croker, 2007a) 21
  22. 22.  It remains my goal for my writing to problematisesheteronormativity and allow for freeplay of sexuality and sexualfantasy across gendered positions illuminating the dichotomy ofsubject and object. As a writer this must be achieved through thewritten word and the point-of-view mobilized within the narrative.What becomes apparent when we analyse the expressions ofsubject in language, representations, art, legends and myths isthat sex [sexe] is a primal and irreducible dimension of subjectivestructure. We are sexuate and we produce sexuate forms…Hencethe need for investigation.Its project to reveal who is speaking, to whom, about what, withwhat means. In technical terms, this means that it is a matter ofuncovering the dynamics of the utterance [énonciation] underlyingthe statements [énoncés] produced.(Irigaray, 1987) 22
  23. 23. It is my contention that there is a tradition innarratives, especially popular fiction, for thewoman to be the subject of the male sexualgaze in the same way she is framed in thecinema by the scopophilic gaze. 23
  24. 24. THE NEXT EIGHTEEN MONTHSAs well as continuing the journey of creation throughmy written artefact (the next 60,000 words or so), I willkeep locating my writing within the parameters of‘publishable’ text. This involves researching the marketand readership for my novel and the genres that appealto the female readership, my target readership. Part ofthis research involves identifying what ‘styles’, ‘genres’and ‘narratives’ have appeal to contemporaryAustralian women readers. It is apparent that by doingthis research, I cannot ignore the explosion of “ChickLit” titles, categories and subcategories crowding theshelves of the commercial bookstores. (Ferris, 2006)By utilizing a feminist content analysis I expect touncover the rationale for their production at this time,the beginning of the ‘post-postfeminist’ era. 24
  25. 25. It seems only natural for Australians to want theirliterature to reflect their daily lives and preoccupations. Isuspect also that all these elements combine to re-position Australia’s spiritual heartland in the cityscape andsuburbs, where we actually live. The Australian cityscapeof the 21st century shares many things in common withlarger metropolises around the globe.Thus my novel is set in the (sub)urbanized Australia ofthe late 20th Century. My protagonists lives can illuminatethe sociological and ideological changes experienced theculture in the lead up to the new century. The remainingissue to be addressed is at the end of my novel, are myprotagonists bitter and let down by the second-wavefeminists or liberated and embarking on a third wave ofchange? 25
  26. 26. Overview of Progress at August 2008 Artefact and Exegesis Format: NOVEL Title: Writing the Author intoTitle: Walking With Madness fiction/faction: A feminist analysis of voice andAim: 80 -100,000 words character.Current: 35,000 words Rationale: The popularity of the memoir genre, and the constructionTheme: Creativity and Madness of reality of or the ‘hyper-reality’Genre: HYBRID: fiction/faction Melbourne, Australia.Readership: Women <50 years Research question: What is the place of the author within andProtagonists: outside the construction of the two texts, and does this impact upon Dina (Edina), dancer/artist notions of believability and ‘truth’ for the reader. Sarah, singer/actor Common thematic linkage: With Julia, photographic model the analysis of the creative journey, the revelation of the space between generativity and madness asTime span: 17yrs -50 years demonstrated through women’s lived experience in the late C20th. 26
  27. 27. From the preceding diagram or concept map it isobvious that the links between the artefact andexegetical analysis is primarily thematic. My novel dealswith the life of a 50 year old Melbourne woman. Theauthor/scholar is a 50 year old Melbourne woman. Thecentral protagonist is me, yet at the same time is notme.In order to allow for the dialectic between the twodifferent texts the mobilising of discourse analysis laysbare the notion of fiction and indeed faction, asconstructed literary paradigms.(Croker, 2008c) 27
  28. 28. The novel is just that, a novel; a construction ofreality, a remembered Melbourne, with all thecolorations that memory and emotions canprovide yet it is not a memoir as it does notpurport to re-tell ‘reality’ or ‘truth’ both highlycontested notions. The events are not factualyet derived from events that occurred to me, myfriends and to others I observed around me atthe time, or those I have selected to locate inthis time and place. 28
  29. 29. The characters are not real people, they too areconstructed. They are amalgams of people Ihave known, read about or even seen in moviesand documentaries, and even those who speakto me from inside my creative mind. 29
  30. 30. The guiding theme is the ‘hoary old chestnut’ ofwomen’s emotions, hysteria and in fact how thesecan be seen on a continuum between sanity andmadness. What it is to be seen as mad, outsider,other. Through this ‘ positionality’ of theprotagonists constructed as other/outsider/stranger, the reader is lead to question the construction of‘normal womanhood’ or indeed general notions of‘normalcy’ in C20th society? 30
  31. 31. In the same way, my exegesis looks at how Irespond as an outsider, an older woman withinthe academy.(Croker, 2007b, 2008b) It also looksat what is normal, what is a ‘normal PhD journey’and what is not. (Croker, 2007) By attempting todeconstruct the polarities between normal and notnormal, traditional and revolutionary, I intend todocument and articulate what emotions andmental states come into the actual process ofcreativity throughout the state of being an creativeartist. (Brink, 2001; Charyton & Snelbecker, 2007;Kaufmann, 2003; Richards, 2000) 31
  32. 32. Is there actually creative liberation to be found ofthe realm of the ‘mad’; the nexus between intensestress, anxiety, fear and self-doubt? Must there bea moment of crisis for the writer, as proposed byHecq (Hecq, 2005a) before emotionallyrepositioning oneself as creative which in turndrives generativity?If so, then I must in the coming months through theuse of my journal and exegesis visit my own‘madness’ in the quest for a stable identity aswriter. (Croker, 2008d) 32