Writing 'The Shyness Lists': an autoethnography of social anxiety

Prior, R 2014, Writing 'The Shyness Lists': an autoethnography of social anxiety, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Writing 'The Shyness Lists': an autoethnography of social anxiety
Author(s) Prior, R
Year 2014
Abstract This PhD by project sits within the discipline of creative writing and aims to address the question: how can the literary form of memoir produce knowledge about the experience of shyness/social anxiety? As a reflection on the affordances of memoir, the project examines the formal considerations and narrative strategies that can address, through life writing, the lived experience of shyness/social anxiety. It discusses the issues raised when an explicitly autobiographical (‘self-presented’) mode of writing is used to address questions of anxiety around self-presentation itself.

Employing an evocative autoethnographic approach, the project aims to bear witness to shyness/social anxiety, to provoke empathy in those readers who do not self-identify as shy, and to provoke self-recognition and self-understanding in those readers who do self-identify as shy. It discovers how one can situate and articulate the ‘I’ voice in a memoir about shyness/social anxiety, and what tensions are generated by the multiple and at times conflicting versions of the ‘self’ we present in public and with which we enter into internal dialogue as we negotiate with our own shifting sense of identity. Analysing examples from published memoirs including Joan Didion’s The year of magical thinking (2005) and Lauren Slater’s Lying (2001), it demonstrates how life writers can employ a range of different voices with which to stage the ‘problem’ at the heart of their narrative.

The project discovers how multiple identity performances can be used to answer questions about truthfulness within the memoir genre, and how these multiple identities can be represented in text by disintegrating the apparently unified ‘I’ and manifesting the internal conversations of the ‘dialogical self’. It demonstrates how a writer can employ elements of form to communicate key ideas relating to their memoir’s primary subject matter, and contends that ‘writing the body’ can be an effective strategy for conveying the lived experience of shyness/social anxiety in memoir. The project also demonstrates how ‘writing shyness’ can function as immersive exposure therapy for the writer (and potentially the reader), helping to produce the kind of personal transformation that Birkerts (2008, p. 23) contends is necessary for a memoir to be successful.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Keyword(s) memoir
social anxiety
life writing
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Created: Mon, 21 Dec 2015, 13:42:19 EST by Denise Paciocco
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