Why I chose not to: A creative companion to the thesis, "It Would Kill Your Mother"

Saunders, Gillian
George, James
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Master of Creative Writing
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Auckland University of Technology

‘It Would Kill Your Mother’ is primarily set in Whangarei, a town that became a city, in Northland, New Zealand. It captures the time period from the 1960’s through to the early 2000’s. It follows the main protagonist, Ella, through her discoveries of complex individual histories, including her own, that impinge upon her life in traumatic ways. The story of Ella’s lived experience inside a white middle class narcissistic family where incest is rife, follows a traumatogenic narrative that jumps forwards and backwards in time, place and reality. Ella’s only safe place is at her family’s beach property in Doubtless Bay in the Far North, where isolation, weather patterns and beautiful pristine coastallandscape, reflect her changing circumstances over time, providing metaphorical expression of her complex inner landscape whilst also giving her ‘a place to stand’ in relative freedom. A sense of foreboding is seeded early with the various turning points and multiple traumatic events leading Ella to places and people who offer her a deeper knowing of her ‘selves’, unveiling, in time, long held secrets that expose intergenerational incest, adultery and highly sexualised environments that appear commonplace, leaving family members scarred and divided in the mistiness of middle class patriarchy and hypocrisy.

The exegesis ‘WHY I CHOSE NOT TO’ is really what I have chosen to call, a Creative Companion to my Thesis. It explains the reasons why I chose to break away from the convention of following the pre-ordained structure of the exegetical component for the MCW at AUT. For me personally, it served no purpose and only arrested my ability to talk about my work. It does however, showcase my work against a backdrop of mental illness that I have struggled with my entire life. I wanted to tell my ‘truth’ which I must stress, resisted being told. I did consider comparing my work with other examples of intergenerational incest within New Zealand, however my research drew a blank. I also began to feel that the act of comparing my work with others who had suffered in similar ways to myself was inappropriate. How a person chooses to tell their own personal narrative of a traumatic upbringing should be applauded for the fact that it exists at all. Literature regarding illness of any kind is impoverished and I suspect that is because our stories are ‘mis-fits’ when it comes to meeting the criteria for a marketable story to please its’ readers. Memoirs of incest in the context of my own country are limited to one or two authors whose incestuous histories occurred in another place and time or have, I suspect, been fictionalised into novels. This reflects poorly upon New Zealand with it’s alarming rates of child sexual abuse and speaks through its silence and absence of how hidden the nature of childhood trauma actually is. It also illuminates the socio-political, economic and cultural forces at play that keep the holders of secrets silent, their stories left untold. Memoirs on incest in other countries were easier to unearth. I have read at least a dozen American texts, however I could not find myself inside them. I have embedded within my ‘creative companion’ my own artistic and therapeutic works to capture the essence of what exists for the traumatised individual, where words fail them. All artwork and poetry that features within this document are my own work. I feel the creative companion frames and informs the creative body of work in a way that assists a reader to place themselves more comfortably in a world of discomfort that could dis-orientate and confuse them if read after the creative body of work. The opposite however, could also be true, in that the creative body of work is just as likely to engage the reader in a way that urges them forwards to find their own way through what may be experienced as ‘difficult to stomach material.’ The choice, of course, is not mine to make.

Trauma , Memoir , Life writing , Traumatic experience , Traumatogenic , Traumatogenic narrative , Multiple personality disorder , Disassociation , Archetypes , Jung
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