Montreal, a novel and critical commentary exploring voice in fictional autobiography

Daniel, Alistair (2023). Montreal, a novel and critical commentary exploring voice in fictional autobiography. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00016f25

Abstract

Montreal is a fictional confession narrative, set in 1993, exploring themes of trauma, class and guilt. The accompanying critical commentary analyses the impact on the creative process of research into three kinds of autobiographical writing: trauma memoir, confession and philosophical autobiography, exploring the ways in which the novel engages with questions of narrative voice and form.

The novel takes the form of a letter written by Simon Pritchard to a young woman, Eilidh Fitzpatrick, describing the events leading to the death of her father in a car accident for which Simon was at least partly responsible. Still traumatised by the crash, Simon is now a middleaged philosophy lecturer and the three facets of his identity – traumatised perpetrator, confessant and lecturer – influence the style and form of his narration.

Each chapter of the commentary deals with a different aspect of Simon’s identity as narrator, tracing the search for ways to represent them. The commentary also considers Simon’s writing practice, exploring ways of making it visible in the finished work. The novel’s original contribution lies in its treatment of narrative voice, particularly the formal and stylistic possibilities in the representation of trauma and confession, together with its attempts to represent Simon’s drafting process.

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