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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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Tuesday, November 29 • 9:00am - 10:00am
Voice, Identity, Dislocation :: 2B11

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Subhash Jaireth:  ‘I am nothing but a human ear’: Svetlana Aleksievich and polyphony of her documentary fiction

In October 2015, Belarusian writer and journalist Svetlana Aleksievich was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Her series Golosa Utopii (Voices of Utopia) includes five books: The Unwomanly Face of War (Russian original published in 1985), The Last Witnesses: One Hundred Lullabies Not for Children (1985); Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices form the Afghanistan War (1989); Chernobyl Prayer (1997); and Second-Hand Time (2013). Several of these books have been turned into plays and documentary films.
      In a 1995 interview with a Russian journalist, she defined her writing project in these words:  ‘From thousands of voices, from fragments of our life and living, and from words and from that which remains beyond words, I compose not reality (because to grasp reality is impossible), but its image; an image of our time; the way we see it and the way we represent it to ourselves.’ And ‘the authenticity of what I write,’ she explains, ‘derives from the multiplicity of viewpoints it tries to encapsulate. I want my books to be read as chronicles, almost like an encyclopedia of my generation. What sort of life did the people live? What did they believe in? How did they allow themselves to kill others and how were they themselves killed?’
      There is a strong moral imperative that defines the creation of Aleksievich’s books. Behind each book she has a personal story to tell but that story is intimately tied up with a much larger story, the purpose of which is to look for answers to some fundamental human questions.
      The press release of the Swedish Academy announcing the Nobel Prize described Aleksievich’s books ‘… polyphonic, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.’ It is likely that they were called polyphonic because they reproduce testimonies of thousands of witnesses in their own voices.
      However, I find Aleksievich’s books polyphonic in the sense of the word conceptualised by Mikhail Bakhtin, the twentieth-century Russian literary philosopher. The objective of my presentation is to draw attention to the narrative style of Aleksievich’s documentary fiction. If her books are ‘authorised (authored) thefts’, the act of stealing she authors has a moral purpose: to create from thousands of voices a chorus of polyphony that can produce a heightened emotional impact.

Athina Singh: Honouring Narrative Truth

If someone says or writes something about themselves or someone, is it verifiable?  The idea of truth when dealing with narratives is problematic, because the information could be the truth in the narrator’s opinion.  However, it may in fact not be true according to independently recorded or popularly held views.  In this way, narrators can be considered unreliable. 

So, if a narrator can be unreliable, then what aspect of their narrative is of value?  Personal narratives could still be used as historical evidence. Ricks (2015) argues narratives are about meaning, not truth, and that narrative is closely tied to identity and the actions which follow.  He also asserts that narratives do not rely on truth for their success but rather on impact.  The most successful narratives are the ones which are most influential. 

This paper explores the dichotomy between truth and meaning in personal narratives.


Hasti Abbasi & Stephanie Green: ‘Creative Dislocation: writing and post-romantic exile’

Creative writers have long followed the tradition of romantic exile, looking inward in an attempt to construct new viewpoints through acts of imagination. Writers working in this tradition may conceive the self as transcendent and reflexive, encompassing a multiplicity of imperfect selves, which could be revisited from different standpoints based on new experiences and perceptions (Aboulafia, 2010, 74). The post-romantic writer, however, occupies a more complex and interestingly ambivalent position, which is heightened in cross-cultural contexts where writing emerges from the experience of a separation from home. For a writer producing creative work through the experience of dislocation, whether enforced or self-inflicted, regional or international, can be overwhelmingly difficult, but it can also recruit opportunities for creative capacity and expression.
      This paper will investigate the idea of the creative writer as exiled self through reflections on the traction and slippages between ideas of place, dislocation and writing. This will be explored with reference to David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life (1978). In his celebrated novella, Malouf arguably depicts exile as phenomenological prerequisite for a writer’s self-transformation, demonstrating the necessity of an exilic journey of becoming. His Ovid’s discovery is that the writer must be at the edge of things, noticing differently, available to possibility, able to embody and to channel being as metamorphoses through creative expression. Keeping Malouf’s text in view, we consider how a writer away from her place of origin can make use of dislocation as strategy and concept in a way that can fuel new creative expression.

James Vicars: Im/personating Millicent, or, Between-three

This poem sequence both re-enacts and re-frames as ‘between-three’ my recent writing, in fiction, of the life of Millicent Bryant, Australia’s first woman aviator. In so doing it inhabits Paul Ricoeur’s argument that ‘selfhood … implies otherness to such an intimate degree that one cannot be thought of without the other, instead that one passes into the other … ’ (1992: 3), while reframing the interest in ‘an other’ that Julia Kristeva draws from her reading of Hannah Arendt and expresses as ‘between-two’ (2001: 14). The poem sequence disrupts the usual repertoire of the writing of lives, first, by introducing a third party in mediating the biographic subject (a party connected personally to the subject as well as to the writer). Second, it conceives i) the writing of ‘an other’ as a faceted ‘Im/personating’ that incorporates elements of multiple selves; ii) ‘personating’ as the writing activity; and iii) the representations produced either of oneself or ‘an other’ as ‘impersonations’.


avatar for Paul Munden

Paul Munden

Postdoctoral Fellow (Poetry & Creative Practice), University of Canberra
Paul Munden is Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Poetry & Creative Practice) at the University of Canberra. He is General Editor of Writing in Education and Writing in Practice, both published by the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE), of which he is Director. He has worked as conference poet for the British Council and edited Feeling the Pressure: Poetry and science of climate change. Analogue/Digital, a volume of his new and... Read More →

avatar for Hasti Abbasi

Hasti Abbasi

Ph.D. Scholar, Griffith University
Hasti Abbasi holds a BA and an MA in English Literature. She is a sessional academic and a Ph.D. scholar in literary studies and creative writing at Griffith University.

Stephanie Green

Deputy Head, School (Learning & Teaching), Griffith University
Stephanie Green is Deputy Head of School (Learning & Teaching) and Program Director for the Graduate Certificate in Creative and Professional Writing program, in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at Griffith University. She teaches writing and cultural studies. She is a widely published essayist and short fiction writer and scholar, with work appearing in TEXT Journal, Axon and a variety of other journals.

Subhash Jaireth

University of Canberra
I am a writer, poet, essayist and translator. I am an adjunct associate professor at the CCCR, University of Canberra.

Athina Bakirtzidis Singh

HDR Student, Victoria University
Athina is a PhD student at Victoria University Melbourne researching memoir, oral history and narrative.

James Vicars

University of New England
Dr James Vicars has conducted extended research in the areas of biography and fictional biography as well as writing an account of the life of Australia’s first woman aviator, Millicent Bryant. A writer of nonfiction as well as fiction and poetry, he has ongoing literary interests in the contemporary novel, life writing and twentieth century English and Australian literature, and has been the recipient of fellowships from the NSW Ministry... Read More →

Tuesday November 29, 2016 9:00am - 10:00am
2B11 Building 2

Attendees (10)