Artful life stories: enriching creative practice through oral history

van Luyn, Ariella (2013) Artful life stories: enriching creative practice through oral history. Text, 17 (1). pp. 1-17.

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This paper, written at the culmination of a practice-led PhD project in creative writing, describes how the author's engagement with oral history theory and practice enriched the design of the novel emerging from the thesis. The novel, based on oral history interviews and archival materials, blurs the boundaries between historically verifiable information and fiction. Many fiction writers draw on interviews and archival material, but not all of them feel so tied to this material that they disclose its influence on their work. However, authors such as Dave Eggers, Anna Funder, Terry Whitebeach and Padma Viswanathan explicitly identify their novels as based on extended oral histories. While these authors describe their process to some extent, there is a lack of deep theoretical discussion around the task of transforming oral histories into fiction. This paper extends this discussion by providing a practitioner's account of how two key concerns of the oral history project in Australia—a concern with subjectivity and making oral history interviews accessible to a wide audience—underpin the design of the novel. The author concludes that the unique qualities of fiction can explore subjective experience, but the authenticity demanded of novels based on verifiable data can be constraining, and should not be elevated above a concern for the satisfactions of the reader.

Item ID: 26870
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1327-9556
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Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2013 01:07
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1999 Other Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 199999 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing not elsewhere classified @ 50%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing > 190402 Creative Writing (incl Playwriting) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft) @ 100%
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