Beyond this point here be dragons: consideration and caution for supervising HDR writing trauma projects

Australasian Association of Writing Progams
Publication Type:
Journal Article
TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Programs, 2017, 42 (Special Issue Writing Trauma), pp. 1 - 15
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Abstract As memoir and autobiographical/ autoethnographic texts flourish in the market place, so this emergence is reflected in the tertiary sector. Mostly sited within journalism, English and creative writing schools, accordingly a proportion of these texts incorporate trauma narrative as students turn to creative practice degrees as a means to write through disruptive autobiographical events. Accordingly, supervisors of HDR candidates undertaking long form trauma narrative find themselves more and more immersed in the trauma, bearing witness to their students’ potential unease. We argue that this type of supervision may potentially necessitate a differentiated management approach, with the establishment of additional protocols, informed by the potential dangers of re-traumatisation of the candidate; and vicarious traumatisation of the supervisor. The aim of this paper is to report on some of the preliminary findings of a qualitative research project [1] where a range of Australian academics supervising Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates writing about traumatic experiences were interviewed regarding supervisory protocols and practices. Here we focus on selected insights from supervisors who responded to one of the interview questions: ‘what do you consider the potential risks for a student and a supervisor involved in HDR projects framed by trauma narrative?’ We anticipate this paper will provide helpful perspectives from experienced academics for early career supervisors about to embark on trauma shaped projects.
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