Dangerous devotions : a novel/thesis

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Dangerous Devotions is a novel of approximately 75,000 words, in the genre of crime fiction. The plot of Dangerous Devotions follows the investigation, by barrister Paul Challinor, into an exclusive and very secretive escort agency in Sydney. This agency, which doesn’t advertise in the usual ways, has as its workers, women and some men who are in wheelchairs, have amputations or other physical and sensory impairments. The agency services a niche market of people who call themselves ‘devotees’. Prior to commencement of the story a woman working for the escort agency has been nearly killed, and a refuge for women with disability has begun receiving vicious parcels of mutilated dolls. Early in the book, Paul (who is blind) meets, apparently by chance, Julia Prettie, a woman he finds immediately attractive. The potential romance and the obstacles to it form a sub-plot within the story. The story is told from multiple points of view, including those of Sonya and Avril, both agency workers and both women with physical disability. Avril loves her job and the potential for freedom it gives her, while Sonya finds much in it to shame her. In the course of the novel one of the girls is kidnapped. Julia’s sister, Jean, also disappears - unbeknownst to Julia at the time - and the plot follows Paul and Julia’s attempts to find Avril, as well as the resolution of Jean’s disappearance. Behind the writing of Dangerous Devotions is a theoretical exploration of identity and representation: of people with disability in fiction, but also of people in general. Following the work of Paul Eakin, published in the journal, Narrative, the concept of the self as a momentary, ever-reconstructing outcome of the individual’s neurobiological process is put forward. Identity, conceptualised as a neurobiological process, reduces the reliance on external and social constructions as the determiners of a person. Identity, constantly reforming in the neurones of each individual also challenges the notions of an often static, passive embodiment that informs much disability theory. While Dangerous Devotions has the conventions of the crime genre, it deploys these conventions with subject-matter and characters usually relegated to more formal, ‘factual’ discourses (medical, sociological, care-giving discourses), and in doing so attempts to both entertain and to, less overtly, usurp and overturn more traditional narrative positions of people with disability as passive, minor characters, ‘other’ to the main game. Dangerous Devotions situates people with disability as the heroes of the story.
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