Masters of Creative Writing - Research
School of Arts, English and Media
Scerri, Jane Helen, Considering the Gap Between Theory and Practice: Helen Garner and Things To Talk About Later, Masters of Creative Writing - Research thesis, School of Arts, English and Media, University of Wollongong, 2016. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4924
This practice-based creative writing research project consists of a novella, Things to Talk about Later, and an exegesis, Considering the Gap Between Theory and Practice. In both, I investigate how female desire is represented in writing.
As the main influence for this project is Helen Garner, this exegesis closely examines three of her early works: Monkey Grip (1977), The Children’s Bach (1984), and the short story ‘The Life of Art’ from Postcards From Surfers (1985). Through textual analysis of these works, I examine Garner’s depiction of female desire in the post-pill pre-AIDs era of Australia in the 1980s. I also touch on her thoughts on writing, including authorial authenticity, anxiety and voice. Garner has referred to the ‘gap between theory and practice’ in most of her early novels – the theory was that monogamy was out and free love was in. The practice was more complex and involved navigating a myriad of fault lines including the painful realities of jealousy, competition and rejection. I propose that it was through Garner’s examination of these fault lines that she so successfully delineated a little talked about era in Australia’s social and cultural history.
My novella, Things To Talk About Later, is set abroad in the 1980s and follows the travels of three young adult Australians. It consists of five separate but interrelated stories, which are linked when the protagonists reunite in the final story. These characters are the Sydney equivalent of the young creative types that inhabited Garner’s fictive worlds, which were set in Melbourne in the late1970s and early1980s. While I explore the same fault lines as Garner and aspire to her success in delineating the sociosexual zeitgeist of the 1980s, my novella differs from hers in that it is situated abroad. As such, I use travel as both a narrative device and as a way of examining the relationship amongst cultural and sexual differences, identity, and the Other.