Supervising life-writing of trauma in a tertiary setting

Australasian Association of Writing Progams
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Text, 2011, 15 (2)
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This paper seeks to interrogate some of the ethical and procedural concerns that arise from supervising students who create literary artifact by drawing on personal trauma, specifically in the writing of sexual abuse and death of the 'other'. One of the burgeoning impulses in creative nonfiction is the chronicling of personal tragedy in memoir. Literary enterprises such as this raise ethical questions for student authors and the academics who supervise their projects. Much has been written in mainstream media about ethical transgression purporting to the veracity of memoir texts but little theory has been produced within academia in addressing the ethical and pedagogical tensions constellating the supervision of life writing on trauma, and how to navigate these. This paper will contribute to the ongoing discussions around the theory and praxis of the autobiographical 'I' and the minimisation and management of potential harm that can result from retelling trauma narratives. Drawing on two case studies demonstrating a problematic then relatively smooth trajectory in supervising creative projects of memoir, this paper posits a comparative supervision pedagogy and outcome as a study in the refinement of professional practice.
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