PhD Research

A Question of Truth.

I am in the final year of my doctoral work. It is being supervised by Dr. Gavin Goodwin and Dr. Neal Alexander at Aberystwyth University in Wales, UK, though I am writing the last part of my thesis from Idaho, USA.

The research I have been developing for the first section of my critical work contextualizes the manuscript of my memoir, Firewalking, which explores the American “self-help” seminar world. I look to literature in the form of memoir as a counter narrative to the false proclamations of self-help gurus, who used the idealism of the 1960’s and 1970’s to commodify optimism and ride the capitalist wave of conservative American politics in the 1980’s. I look to the work of Barbara Ehrenreich, Doug Rossinow and Harry G. Frankfurt.

In the second section of my critical commentary, I speak to the question of how dialogue is written in memoir and the novel, and how interiority can lend itself to an accessibility (and validity) to truth, memory and an authentic narrative voice.

In the third section, I explore French philosopher Catherine Malabou’s concept of plasticity and how it informed my writing. Is the alteration and plasticity of a human being more truthful than a ‘back to normal’ or ‘elastic’ experience? Where in literature do we find breaks in biography? I am working to locate these intersections in the novel and memoir, while exploring autofiction and the lines that are blurred between truth and fiction in relationship to trauma—this then circles back to the ‘bullshitter’ of the self-help movement.

I cite the creative work of memoirists and novelists: Ben Lerner, Sally Rooney, Joan Didion , Annie Ernaux, Jeanette Winterson, Maggie Nelson, Lydia Davis and Mary Karr.