Publication Details

Cosgrove, S. E. "Can we inhabit (narrative) time?." The Encounters: Place, Situation, Context Papers-The Refereed Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs. Canberra: Australasian Association of Writing Programs, 2012. 1-8.

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The Australian Association of Writing Programs


With the emergence of time-based movements (such as the ‘Slow Food’ movement and Japan’s ‘Sloth Club’) that question the pace of late-capitalist economies, time is emerging as a critical issue in the twenty-first century. This is of particular interest to authors because so much of time is understood within the context of narrative – and time has always been a key issue for authors in constructing texts. A novel can span one day (James Joyce’s Ulysses) or family generations (Jung Chang’s Wild Swans). It can be recounted from a position in the far-off future (Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre) or the immediate present (Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club – the use of present tense offers the illusion of immediacy, though the text is technically recounted from a mental hospital/heaven). Indeed, any author writing a story (or ‘encounter’ between characters) must grapple with where and when it takes place, and where the narrator (or implied author) is positioned in relation to the narrated events. This paper will argue that while time management is critical to strong realist writing, it’s usually masked for the sake of keeping the illusion of story intact. And further, I will argue that this issue of ‘time-masking’ is frequently paralleled in actual life as well (thus, the perceived need for a ‘Slow Food’ movement). Jesse Matz calls on writers to ‘discover the rehumanizing temporalities yet available in narrative forms’ (Maltz, 286). I am trying to answer that call with my latest project, an as-yet-untitled novel, driven by the question: how do we inhabit time? Or, how do our individual experiences of time shape the lives we lead? This paper will offer a practical exploration of that project in light of Paul Ricoeur’s essay ‘Narrative Time’ and Jesse Maltz’s essay ‘The Art of Time, Theory to Practice’ as starting points.