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Alternative title: Illumination through Narrative: Using Writing to Explore Hidden Life Experience
Issue Details: First known date: 2017... no. 38 2017 of TEXT Special Issue est. 2000 TEXT Special Issue Website Series
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* Contents derived from the 2017 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Introduction, Margaret McAllister , Donna Lee Brien , Leanne Dodd , single work criticism
'The health disciplines, such as medicine, nursing and midwifery, and the disciplines of creative arts, humanities and human services are often understood as diametrically different but, despite their disparities, have much in common. One commonality is that many researchers and practitioners in each of these disciplines (and their various associated fields) are working to explore the possibilities of individuals, as well as the human condition and humanity more generally. Yet, the increasingly corporatised, managerially-driven, competitive, and economically and vocationally-focused imperatives driving the modern academy restrict opportunities for these diverse disciplines to intersect, communicate and work together on shared interests. This is especially ironic given the regular lip service paid to multi-, inter- and even transdisciplinary research, and the evidence that approaches outside of a single discipline are needed to fruitfully approach and solve complex problems (Brooks and Thistlethwaite 2012), including those in the creative or social realm (Brien and McAllister 2016).' (Introduction)
Writing Therapy : Paradox, Peril and Promise, Ffion Murphy , single work criticism
'Belief in the remedial potential of the writing process has intensified in the past three decades, with scientific studies indicating health and wellbeing benefits; poets, novelists and memoirists proclaiming therapeutic effects; and, innovative and broad-ranging use of creative writing in counselling and health care. This paper proposes that tertiary writing education can benefit from the explicit study of writing therapy as a complex, evolving and contested set of theories and practices. It outlines and contextualises my own approach, discusses some relevant literature, and proposes future interdisciplinary mixed-methods research, for the time is ripe in Australia for writing and health teachers and researchers to work together to investigate writing’s risks, paradoxes and recuperative possibilities.' (Introduction)
Plot Interrupted : Reproducing the Narrative Benefits of Trauma Fiction in Crime Fiction, Leanne Dodd , single work criticism
'Trauma distorts time and interrupts the natural flow of people’s life-stories. While bibliotherapists may prescribe fictional stories to help clients internalise better coping mechanisms and re-author their life stories, they rarely select crime fiction for this purpose. This article demonstrates how crime writers can create works that may fit the criteria for transformative therapy. Whitehead suggests that trauma fiction writers have ‘frequently found that the impact of trauma can only adequately be represented by mimicking its forms and symptoms’ (2004: 3). By aligning the narrative strategies used in trauma fiction to distort time, such as fragmentation and repetition, with those strategies used in crime fiction, writers can develop a creative work that moves beyond the prevailing conventions of crime fiction to incorporate the well-being benefits of trauma fiction. The effect may transform perceptions and assist with reconnection, while also providing a safe narrative space for all readers to work through fears brought on by modern-day graphic exposure to traumatic events. This research may prove significant in developing a framework to cultivate a form of crime fiction that can direct readers into safe, controlled and custom-written environments where they may better empathise, explore and experiment with their responses to trauma.' (Introduction)
The ‘Punches behind the Punch’ : Poetry as Victim Impact Statement, Nicole Anae , single work criticism
'Recent years have seen developments in the affective function and textual form of Victim Impact Statements (VIS). First introduced in South Australia with the legislative institution of a new Act – the Criminal Law (sentencing) bill – taking effect in January 1989, VIS have since been adopted by almost every Australian state and territory as material tendered before the court by prosecutors for the purposes of informing the judge of the degree and extent of any loss or damage to property or any physical or mental harm, suffered by a victim as a result of a crime. In this paper, I explore the creative form VISs can take by looking specifically at examples of poetry as VIS. Presenting victims’ accounts of emotional and physical suffering using the form of poetry tracks affective shifts in the cultural expression of emotion and the political forums in which such expressions emerge publicly. From the perspective of humanism, I argue the poetry found in VISs present dual functions, both affective and rational.' (Introduction)
On Representing Autism and the Altruism of Self-reflexive Writing, Katie Sutherland , single work criticism
'Autoethnographic stories about illness and disability are usually written for, and with, readers in mind, engaging in the ‘reciprocity that is storytelling [whereby] the teller offers herself as a guide to the other’s self-formation’ (Frank 1995: 17–8). While selfreflexive narratives can be immensely healing for the writer, they also invite readers to reflect upon the issues at hand and bring about a shift in their own thinking. As such, self-reflexive writing can be a powerful tool for advocacy and for challenging the status quo. By allowing readers to empathise and connect with the subject matter at a very personal level, it can illuminate nuanced moments of adversity or insight, and capture a depth of understanding that more traditional texts may not always depict. This article draws on interviews with families living with high functioning autism and the exemplar text Far from the tree: Parents, children and the search for identity (Solomon 2014). Following Solomon, the article’s author reflects upon personal experiences and embraces self-reflexivity as a way of better understanding herself, representing her subjects, and helping to illuminate a common theme that difference is a value worth nurturing.' (Introduction)
Narratives of Death and Dying from One Remove : Surveying the Undertaker’s Memoir, Donna Lee Brien , single work criticism
'While most book-length published memoirs on the topic of death and dying could be broadly classified as illness memoirs, there are a surprising number of memoirs currently in circulation whose narratives focus on the life and work of the undertaker. Despite achieving a measure of popularity with readers, none of these works have been explored (individually or as a group) in detail or categorised as a discrete sub-set of the auto/biographical memoir. Surveying these narratives as a sub-genre of memoir – and examining their modes of writing, publication and public reception – can contribute to our understanding of both this revealing auto/biographical practice and practices of writing and publishing popular memoir more generally. A way of categorising these works is suggested, with representative memoirs in each category used as illustrative examples. In suggesting that these texts are able to communicate to readers on the often difficult topic of death and dying, this analysis serves to point to the power of auto/biographical writing.' (Introduction)
Writing Domestic Violence in Marian Keyes’ This Charming Man (2008), Lauren O’Mahony , Kathryn Trees , single work criticism
'Popular fiction for women has been variously criticised and derided for a focus on romance plots and superficial themes. Marian Keyes, a prolific author of contemporary women’s popular fiction, however, utilises romance to explore serious contemporary issues. This paper examines the representation of one of these serious issues, domestic violence, in Keyes’ novel This Charming Man (2008). The novel’s multi-story plot gradually weaves together the histories and experiences of four female protagonists from their individual points of view. Each protagonist has had a romantic involvement with one ‘charming man’, the rich and powerful Irish politician Paddy de Courcy. Chapters devoted to each woman are interspersed with short vignettes that recount moments of Paddy’s violent behaviour. The narrative organisation of This Charming Man represents domestic violence in a way that prioritises healing, physically, mentally and emotionally, for the protagonists through telling their stories and sharing those stories with other characters and readers. This form of creative writing prompts reader engagement and reflection. Such readerly engagement may increase awareness of this issue and potentially lead readers to actively seek change in their own lives.' (Introduction)
Nurse as Wounded Healer in The English Patient, Margaret McAllister , single work criticism
'The English Patient, a novel by Michael Ondaatje (1993), is a romantic drama set in the chaos of Europe at the end of World War II. In the ruins of an Italian church, a terribly burned man is being tended to by Hana, a young nurse too traumatised from her own war experiences to return home. Ondaatje’s acclaimed novel contains rich imagery, complex characters and interactions, as well as a story that weaves back and forward in time. The novel is a writerly text; the meaning needs to be unravelled by the reader and, due to this feature, it also makes for interesting reading about nursing. Too often texts about nursing are reductionist and stereotyped – nurse characters are often angels or lovers, sometimes villains and sleuths. Rarely are they portrayed as a wounded healer – an ancient, intriguing and illuminating myth. Within this paper, Hana’s struggles are read as a metaphor for those that similarly confront many nurses. She is a vulnerable young person thrust, because of the nature of her work, into the harsh realities of adulthood. She aspires to a kind of nursing that is attendant and gentle, and able to meet all of her patient’s needs. Yet the world she is forced to work in is chaotic, unpredictable and stripped of resources. The patient she tries to comfort is moribund and he endures agony and loss. In her interactions with him she learns about love, beauty, humility and, ultimately, resilience. In this way the written, literary narrative connects to a cultural narrative that at once embodies a profession’s struggles and illuminates more general transcendence.' (Introduction)
Narratives of Mental Health Nursing in the Emergency Department, Toby Price , Margaret McAllister , single work criticism
'The telling, listening to, and re-telling of stories is a fundamental human activity. In the mental health context, storytelling can take on another layer of meaning, when clinicians begin to be more conscious of the stories they hear, recall these, and then re-tell them to their clients and carers. This process has many benefits. It helps to clarify communication between someone who may not be very trusting, with another who may not fully understand; and it can reconnect mental health clinicians with a deeply embedded cultural value that can be overwhelmed by the bio-medical approach – professional empathy. This article argues that the conscious use of re-storying, an aspect of Story Theory, can extend mental health nursing practice, deepening the quality of the interpersonal relationship so that the patient, family and nurse can mutually achieve greater understanding of needs and goals, and transform a crisis into a turning point. This suggests that stories shared, reflected upon and re-storied are not only relevant in creative practice terms, but can also contribute to health and wellbeing.' (Introduction)
Semantics, Heather Taylor Johnson , single work prose
'Let’s talk about needles, their steely eyes and sharp tongues. In an earthy smelling white room full of glass jars, Chelsea sticks the first one in the top of my head. Next, she moves to behind my ears, the backs of my hands, the tops of my feet. ‘This will take a lot of sessions. Maybe six over the next four weeks.’ Because I am sick. Because I have been sick for years. So I come back, again and again, because the only thing I have to lose is my health. At this point in my illness, there is a second baby, Sunny, who needs me, as I need him. I am desperate. I swallow two cups of steaming crap every day, the raunchy herbs in the glass jars that smelled up Chelsea’s workspace and now my home. I want to spit them back out, splatter their goodness all over the kitchen and, finally, belch.' (Introduction)
All the Little Boxes, Milissa Deitz , single work prose
'My two children are biological siblings who joined our family when they were six months old respectively. My partner and I are their parents and legal guardians who incorporate into our family life four annual, court-ordered visits with their biological parents. I make this point in order to illustrate the ethical, as well as theoretical and creative, issues within my wider project, of which a short film (script below) is a part. I want to respect the privacy of my children and my partner, and I want to respect the stories of others entwined with my own. When my little girl died unexpectedly, my mind fractured. In order to show the vertigo, disassociation and hyperarousal of what is known as complicated grief, the non-confluence between image, sound and word was uppermost in my mind when conceptualising All the Little Boxes. ' (Introduction)
Segomotsi, Eugen Bacon , single work prose
Using Blogging to Engage Nursing Students in Reflective Practice, Colleen Ryan , Penny Heidke , Nicole Blunt , Moira Williamson , Donna Lee Brien , single work criticism
'Blogging is a practice that educators in creative and professional writing, journalism, communication and a variety of other writing-based programs utilise to enhance their students’ reflective writing, alongside other skills. This article suggests that this practice may be useful in other non-writing based disciplines, in this case the discipline of nursing, where reflective practice has been identified as a framework to assist in developing personal growth, problem solving and the identification of innate strengths, allowing professional maturation in difficult environments. It describes the use of blogging in an assessment item in a final year undergraduate nursing unit. Analysis of students’ blogs revealed blogging was cathartic and triggered reflection and transformation.' (Introduction)
Power in the Moment : Using Autoethnographic Narrative to Unlock Understandings of Collaborative Performance, Judith Elizabeth Brown , single work criticism
'Autoethnography provides a useful and valid way to research collaborative music performance as it enables the researcher to study their personal practice in relation to other musicians. However, the representation of data from collaborative performance creates some problems. It is here that narrative plays a vital role in being able to capture the essence of the moment from the perspective of the performer, through the use of evocative text. In examining the musical collaboration between a pianist and a choir, the analysis of the narrative data provides a rich understanding of the unseen aspects of collaborative practice in music performance, while also providing an exemplar for other creative artists who are researching the experience of artistic practice. This case study demonstrates that evocative autoethnographic narrative is a significant tool for this type of research activity, and can have wide application in the creative arts.' (Introduction)
Using Diary Writing : A Narrative of Radical Courage, Debra Phillips , Elaine Lindsay , single work criticism
'This article considers the use of diary entries as primary source material in autoethnographic research. It examines how the act of diary writing can reveal a trajectory into, and away from, an experience of depression and how diary entries can provide grounds for conjecture about possible futures and imagined self-narratives. It describes how ‘radical courage’, as identified by Phillips, can displace suicidal ideation and bolster a new self-narrative of an imagined future. The article highlights the value of diaries. More than a source of raw data for research and creative writing projects, they offer diarists a safe place to explore and create alternative and productive selfnarratives. In their unedited state, they are a first-person, present-tense record of emotional states, showing how context and events impact upon an individual’s life. Diary entries can reveal to the diarist and researcher alike the beginnings of a new selfnarrative that is not yet fully imagined nor articulated. The article includes selected diary entries and reflections on depression as a lived experience to show the connection between radical courage and a narrative of the future. This narrative form – a narrative of the imagined future – is commended for its therapeutic potential as a cognitive strategy to build resilience. Through writing and speaking, the story develops as it is lived; by being lived, the story becomes embodied.' (Introduction)
An Emotional, Physical and Humanistic Response to Performed Data, Gail Crimmins , single work criticism
'How we reach, engage with, and inform/transform our research audience depends on the medium of communication we employ. This article demonstrates that theatrically performed narrative data can humanise an audience’s engagement and response to research data and encourage personal change. In particular, it discusses how verbatim theatre was used to share the stories of women casual academics in Australia, and describes an emotional, fully embodied, and humanistic response from the audience. The reaction of the audience, a professional gathering of scholars (Denzin 2000), reveals that the dramatic re-presentation of narrative data can act as a voice for Others ‘yet to be voiced’ (Arnot and Reay 2007) and prompt reflection, and the possibility of personal change. Therefore, if the communication medium we employ is integral to the reach and impact of our research, it should be central to our research planning and practice and not consigned to a post-research dissemination phase.' (Introduction)

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Last amended 12 May 2017 09:37:12