Writing the mind, re-writing tragedy: how memory shapes our ends
University of Surrey
Supervisor: Dr Paul Vlitos
A creative-critical project about memory and fiction focusing on deterministic memory, yielding a re-definition of tragedy and shaping a plot predicated on the interplay between memory, sense of agency and free will. My ambition is to achieve prose which embeds a syntax of memory, that is to say, one representative of the memory processes at play in my protagonist’s mind. My novel posits that an illusion of free will and ignorance of tyrannical memory sets a tragedy in motion, paradoxically absolving my protagonist of personal responsibility. I analyse the role of consciousness and memory, as understood, in novels by Woolf, Ishiguro and St Aubyn, but am myself concerned with memory and its formal representation and dramatic potential. I look at how memory construction, storage and retrieval impact free will and ask if actions are determined (Sternberg, Murphy et al) and the part played by memory therein. I consider the theory of self as an invented narrative (Sacks, Strawson) because my protagonist seeks to re-write her present and her future by repressing memories. I look at the relation between trauma and forgetting (Sodré) and at memory as a mutable, processing ability (Depper) crucial to our sense of self, but which does not mean that we are our (mutable) memories (Aggleton). Textual analysis of memory, self and the unreliable narrator in Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills (2003); of consciousness in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) and Edward St Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk (2005) and At Last (2011); of the literary impressionism of Dorothy Richardson (The Pilgrimage et al); of Nabokov’s treatment of memory in Speak, Memory (1989), and his antagonistic responses to Proust (In Search of Lost Time) and Freud will inform my experimentation with language and form.