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The fragmented text/the fragmented self: exploring the limits of storytelling practice

Latto, A. (2017) The fragmented text/the fragmented self: exploring the limits of storytelling practice. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This project combines theory and practice to address issues of gender within the performance of storytelling. The thesis should be read in relationsh ip to the performance of A Hidden Life, a performance based on the life of Dorothy Wordsworth. A recording of the work is at the back of the thesis. The practice aimed to interrogate female subjectivity by adapting liz Stanley's alternative literary form of auto/biography to an oral telling (1992). liz Stanley's theoretical concepts of biography and autobiography are of particular salience for women biographers. Her model of literary auto/biography advocated that women writers should be active agents in conveying life stories. The concept of auto/biography suggested the possibility of adapting this form to an oral storytelling in which to explore the relationship between the biographical and the autobiographical self that might reveal female subjectivity. The adapted form offered a way of assessing the significance of interweaving elements of the storyteller's biography within this kind of storytelling process. Further, the decision to include other elements of theatre communication in the performance became an experiment in developing innovations that would promote insight into the woman's story. The thesis aimed to proceed through research into historical reports of the folk tale and theoretical developments of orality. Traditional storytellers are mostly regarded as upholding and transmitting societal values. This thesis argues that, in the climate of gender re-alignment, the narrating of traditional tales that give preference to the male position re-enforces the patriarchal order. By re¬assessing the history of oral storytelling the thesis queries the provenance of such tales, and in particular the effect of patriarchal ideology on stories that have been translated/ transcribed from another culture or historical moment. It considers the significance of recent practices that deploy biographical material of real lives as a major element of storytelling practice as opposed to folk tales or myths and legends. In relation to this liz Stanley's gender specific analysis of biography and autobiography provides a theoretical framework for extending the possibilities of 8 life stories for storytelling by the proposition of her model of literary auto/biography in which she advocates that women should be active agents in conveying life stories. Hugh Lupton's biographical storytelling together with Liz Stanley's concept of auto/biography supplies the basis for a research performance which aimed to extend the limits of storytelling practice. The practice related a story which communicated the relationship between the lives oftwo women and explored the complexity of female identity and raised questions around history and gender. The performance of Mnemonic by Camplicite made use of structures and theatrical methods of storytelling connecting figures from the past and present and shifted across different historical and cultural terrains. This mirroring and shadowing of characters across shifts in historical time in Camplidte's performance provided a model of practice for exploring Stanley's concept of auto/biography, which in turn suggested the possibility of transposing Stanley's ideas into storytelling. The research practice presents a storytelling event which narrates stories from the lives of two women: one a well known historical figure, Dorothy Wordsworth, and the other, a contemporary woman, myself. Drawing on stories from Wordsworth's writings in her Grasmere journal and her letters, and incidents from my life in Australia that are held in my memory, the performance presents the two figures not as fixed and separate identities in a linear trajectory, but by juxtaposing the lives of the two women, one from the eighteen/nineteenth centuries and one from the twentieth/twenty first centuries, defining the links between their experiences and emotions in a patriarchal society. The notion ofthe palimpsest provides a central critical thread in analysing the relationship of the women in the storytelling process. The analysis makes specific reference to Judith Butler's contention that the gendered body is performative; to Jablonka and Lamb's concept of the epigenetic; to Marina Warner's re-interpretation of fairy tales and the silenced heroine (1994); and to Jack Zipes' advocation of the emancipatory element in the fairy tale.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Taylor, L. and Murjas, T.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Film, Theatre & Television
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:75278

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