prendergast-thestrange-2011.pdf (183.07 kB)
Download file

The strange and the familiar : seeing beyond when we know

Download (183.07 kB)
conference contribution
posted on 2011-01-01, 00:00 authored by Julia Prendergast
My novel is a collection of interrelated stories. Each story is framed by the idiosyncrasies and prejudices of a different first-person voice. There are gaps in narrative time and there is disparity between the narrators’ voices. The result is a ‘discontinuous narrative’; this term describes the early work of Frank Moorhouse: ‘an innovative narrative method using interconnected stories’ (Griffith University 2011).
As I draft and re-draft the stories, I am forced to assess the interaction between the voices. I am aware of the disjuncture, and I ask myself: Why not tell the story through the eyes of one narrator? Why not choose a third-person perspective, an omniscient narrator who might collect all of the voices together, in a coherent way?
As I second-guess my approach, I realise that the splintering of voices feels like the right way to tell the story and, in this way, I approach the question of methodology. I am aware that a sense of disjuncture arises out of the medley of voices, but I also realise that the disjuncture is carefully constructed; it is not accidental. This is an intuitive judgement.
If I edit my novel ethically, I ask what the discontinuity achieves, rather than how it fails in the context of logic. This means that I recognise that the narrative begins from a place that does not worry about logic, and I realise that second-guessing the surface content of the narrative, from a rational perspective, may be counterproductive.
The conscious mind, fettered as it is with inhibitions, may fail to see that the logical track is not necessarily the most productive route. The conscious mind may not recognise that going off-track is the way forward and, perhaps, the only way that the story can become something other than what I, in my rational mind, believe that it should be.
Ethical editing means that I am attentive to my intuitive response to the narrative; it means that I tolerate incongruous elements of the narrative, even if they do not fit the criteria of logic.
Ethical editing is a meeting of minds (both mine); the fully conscious mind meets the work of the subconscious mind with surprise and approval, at best, skepticism and derision, at worst. The work of the subconscious mind is elusive but it need not be subjugated to logical, rational considerations, for this means that I delimit the work of the subconscious; it means I assess the discontinuity on the basis of an external operating system; it means that I impose certain criteria upon the surface narrative, criteria that has nothing to do with understanding why the discontinuity exists in the first instance.
Alternatively, when I pay heed to a primal moment of narrative composition, a moment that is not necessarily consciously determined or logical, I apprise the surface of the narrative as a metaphorical map, I attempt to engage with the possibilities for meaning that the map encompasses; this constitutes a quest for the unstable how of meaning attribution.



Australasian Association of Writing Programs Conference (16th : 2011 : Byron Bay, N.S.W.)


1 - 10


[Australasian Association of Writing Programs]


Byron Bay, N.S.W.

Place of publication

[Byron Bay, N.S.W.]

Start date


End date






Publication classification

E1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2011, The Author

Title of proceedings

The Ethical Imaginations : Writing Worlds Papers - the refereed proceedings of the 16th conference of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, 2011

Usage metrics