Loops and reels: narrative disruption in film, fiction, and cinemagoing history

Hogan, Edward (2020). Loops and reels: narrative disruption in film, fiction, and cinemagoing history. Writing in Practice, 6 (In press).

Abstract

This paper analyses the impact of interdisciplinary research – in this case, specifically oral history – on the form and content of a novel, The Electric. Reading between oral histories of police family life, and mid-20th century cinemagoing, allowed for the creation of a complex fictional character (Daisy Seacombe), who was able to resist the apparently oppressive nature of her social circumstances. The idiosyncratic nature of film star fanclubs, and the impact of cinemagoing on the intellectual, romantic, and working life of women, are also discussed. In terms of form, the disrupted elements of cinemagoing in the period between 1930-70 suggested a narrative arrangement for the novel, which mirrors the remembered life, and the way it is actively pieced together around gaps and omissions. Rolling programmes meant that films were not always seen in order, start to finish. Such disruptions are often seen as wholly negative, but this paper argues that they can provide for a creative engagement with narrative. The paper also investigates the cinema buildings themselves, specifically those in Brighton and Hove, as a site of compressed historical narrative, and as an entry point for the writer of fiction.

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