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Please note: the conference is in BUILDING 2 on the UC Bruce campus. 
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DAILY FORECAST (care of Describing Things in Canberra):  

Wednesday Canberra weather: regardless of any thing Neil Finn may have said, you don’t really have your own personal weather bubble. You can easily test this by travelling from the Woden Valley to the northside on foggy morning. Or getting on a plane in December and flying to Helsinki.

So those of you who are in Canberra today will probably experience much the same weather as each other. Warm to hot and slighty sticky. The weather equivalent of spilling cocoa on your new trousers.

Chemical interventions such as deodorant, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and anti-histamines are strongly indicated. Consider long before you commit to opaque tights, however hairy your legs are. Once the sun is over the yard arm, applications of gin and tonic may be beneficial.



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Monday, November 28 • 2:30pm - 3:30pm
Threads of Pain and Trauma :: 2A6

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John Dale: Writing about the Dead

This paper investigates the difficulties in writing about victims of violent crime and draws on the author’s own experiences of researching two books about murdered women. It examines the legal processes and ethical issues involved in gathering information. Do writers treat the dead differently? What are the principles and practices involved in writing about the dead? What motivates a writer to write about a murder victim is not easily explained. It may be an image, a headline, a vague idea that only becomes clearer the more they investigate. Writing about the dead involves penetrating below the surface of things, uncovering the complexities of narrative and character. There is always lurking at the back of the writer’s mind an uncertainty, a constant self-questioning: Am I doing the right thing? If it’s true that all writing of the narrative kind is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality – then, for the writer, writing about the dead involves a journey into the unknown, driven by that innate curiosity we all share of what lies beyond the grave. 

Nathan Smale: Transacting Trauma: Reader transaction theory and fictocritical infinity.

Empathy is defined as the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person. However there has been a long-held belief that empathy has limitations as feelings and thoughts, although they can be talked about by others, cannot be seen, or had by them, leaving empathy as an approximation of what is felt. In contemporary theories of empathy personal experience and self-awareness are seen as the shaping forces behind how close the approximation of feelings and thoughts can be. Psychoanalysis shows that it is possible to improve self-awareness and challenges the contexts of our self-narratives, raising the question of whether it is possible to construct an experienced and aware self which is capable of a higher, more accurate empathetic response. 
      Through the lens of psychoanalysis this paper will explore the empathetic relationship between reader and trauma texts using reader transaction theory and fictocriticism. Reader transaction theory emphasises a dialogic relationship between reader and text and will be used to demonstrate how the reading experience develops self-awareness and how that awareness shapes further reading experiences. This development of self will be combined with fictocriticism, a genre which occurs in the excess of speech and knowledge, in an attempt to fill in the gaps in the empathetic experience of a traumatic text. This combination of reader transaction and fictocriticism will be used to explore the following question: What are the limits, in the reading process, on forming a complete understanding of a traumatic experience?

Anna Denejkina: Exo-Autoethnography: writing and research on intergenerational transmission of trauma

Since the late 1970s, autoethnographic research and writing has progressively demonstrated that non-fiction creative writing practice can aptly utilise this alternate-ethnographic method as part of its research and narrative, producing rigorous creative work which is palatable both by the academy and the general audience: bringing a social science closer to literature.

This paper proposes the use of the methodological model I am calling exo-autoethnography as a distinct ethnographic method of qualitative research within non-fiction creative writing, and autoethnographic writing, that deals with intergenerational familial trauma.

Exo-autoethnography is an approach to research that seeks to analyse (graphy) individual and private experience (auto) as directed by the other’s experience or history (exo) to better understand:

1. A history that impacted the researcher by proxy; and

2. Personal and community experience (ethno) as related to that history.

Exo-autoethnography is the autoethnographic exploration of a history whose events the researcher (author) did not experience directly, but a history that impacted the researcher through familial, or other personal connections.

Placing focus on a history that impacted the self (author) by proxy, the methodology aims to connect the present with a history of the other through intergenerational transmission of trauma and/or experiences of an upbringing influenced by parental trauma.


Katie Sutherland:  Striking a balance: Creative non-fiction storytelling on children, parenting and disability

The genre of personal non-fiction narrative holds gravitas in creating social awareness and in helping a writer come to grips with their own reality. However, much thought must also be given to issues of ethics and privacy. Authors should ask themselves: under what circumstances do they have ownership over another person’s story? Further responsibilities must be considered if that person is actually the storyteller’s child.
      This presentation primarily draws on the author’s Doctoral project, Painting the spectrum: Everyday stories of families living with high functioning autism, a collection of narratives that fuses together the author’s reflections on being a mother with the stories of interview subjects. The presentation also draws on the exemplar text Beyond the pale: Folklore, family and the mystery of our hidden genes (2016), whereby author Emily Urquhart finds “salve in the search” for information about her daughter’s albinism (p 257). Urquhart utilises conversations, photographs and legends to piece together her daughter’s genetic make-up. Rather than a biography on her daughter Sadie, it is a nuanced piece of research on albinism and accepting a child with difference. It offers pause for thought on how to tackle vulnerable writing about one’s own family, and how to adequately represent the complexities of parenting and disability.
      Both Beyond the pale and Painting the spectrum (a work in progress) employ writing techniques that creatively retell the stories of others, including the authors’ own families. Neither text professes to share the entirety of their subjects’ stories, however they do go part way in providing a map upon which readers are invited to reflect and respond. The challenge for the authors is in knowing where to ‘draw the line’ and where to place the map’s boundaries.


avatar for Caren Florance

Caren Florance

HDR student, University of Canberra
Caren Florance is a research student and sessional design tutor in the Faculty of Arts & Design at the University of Canberra, Australia. She often works under the imprint Ampersand Duck, and is an artist whose work focuses on the book and the printed word, using traditional letterpress and bookbinding processes along with more contemporary technologies. She also teaches at the ANU School of Art and is collected by national and... Read More →

avatar for John Dale

John Dale

Writer, UTS
JOHN DALE is the author of seven books including the best-selling Huckstepp, and two crime novels The Dogs Are Barking and Dark Angel, which won a Ned Kelly Award. His other books are a memoir, Wild Life, and a campus novel Leaving Suzie Pye, which was translated into Turkish. He has written a novella, Plenty, and his latest crime novel, Detective Work, was based on an unsolved Sydney murder.  | He is Professor of Creative... Read More →
avatar for Anna Denejkina

Anna Denejkina

PhD Candidate; Casual Academic, University of Technology Sydney
Anna Denejkina is a writer, and PhD Candidate with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). She is a casual academic at UTS, and has a Master’s degree in journalism from the university. Her current research focuses on ethics of autoethnography, and familial relationships pertaining to returned Soviet veterans of the Soviet-Afghan War, 1979 to ’89.

Nathan Smale

Swinburne University of Technology
Nathan Smale is Master's student at Swinburne University. His current academic pursuit is in reader response and transaction, the back and forth between reader and text, focusing on self-creation and understanding. He plans on continuing this research into a doctorate.

Katie Sutherland

HDR Student, Western Sydney University
Katie Sutherland is a Doctoral Candidate at Western Sydney University’s Writing and Society Research Centre. Her Doctorate of Creative Arts research project incorporates a collection of narratives about families living with high functioning autism, utilising an autoethnographic methodological framework. She is interested in the use of personal writing as a platform for advocacy. Katie holds a Bachelor of Arts (English) and Bachelor of... Read More →

Monday November 28, 2016 2:30pm - 3:30pm
2A6 Building 2, UC

Attendees (7)