Time, Space, Self: The Present Tense, Parataxis, and Narration in Memoir

Michelle Dicinoski (2010). Time, Space, Self: The Present Tense, Parataxis, and Narration in Memoir PhD Thesis, EMSAH, The University of Queensland.

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Author Michelle Dicinoski
Thesis Title Time, Space, Self: The Present Tense, Parataxis, and Narration in Memoir
School, Centre or Institute EMSAH
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-03
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Stuart Glover
Dr Peta Mitchell
Total pages 223
Total black and white pages 223
Subjects 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing
Abstract/Summary Abstract: Time, Space, Self is a creative and critical engagement with space, time, and narration in memoir. It comprises a memoir, “Ghost Wife,” and a critical essay, “Present Tense, Parataxis, and the Autobiographical ‘I’ in Three Memoirs.” Each component feeds into the kinds of analysis possible in the other. “Ghost Wife” charts the journey of Michelle and her partner, Heather, as they travel from Brisbane to marry in Toronto, where same-sex marriage is legal. As Michelle prepares for the wedding, she reflects on the strange invisibility of her marriage: she will marry in Canada, but will return to Australia officially single. And it’s not only her government that refuses to acknowledge her marriage: will Michelle’s parents ever acknowledge the wedding? And how does this story fit into Michelle’s family’s complex history of forgetting? As she travels through the US and Canada, and reflects on her own history in Australia, Michelle weaves her story together with the stories of other women who, historically, lived as she does: as “ghost wives” who loved other women. The memoir is written mainly in the present tense, and it contains three narrative strands: the story of Michelle and Heather’s journey; the stories of the other “ghost wives” who lived in intimate relationships in the cities that Michelle and Heather visit; and hidden or obscured histories from Michelle’s family’s past. The wedding/travel narrative and the queer histories are written in the present tense and sit alongside each other in a paratactic arrangement, which led to the topic of the critical essay. The critical essay analyses the effects of the present tense and parataxis (which is the juxtaposition of elements such as sentences or sections with little overt connection) on constructions of space, time, and the autobiographical “I” in memoir. Through close readings of Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss (1997), Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast (1996), and my own memoir, “Ghost Wife,” the essay engages with three main questions: What are some of the effects of the present tense and parataxis on narratives and narrators generally? In memoir, how do these effects influence the construction of an autobiographical “I”? And how might these effects relate to a memoir’s construction of space and time? Despite their differences in subject matter and approach, The Kiss, Heaven’s Coast, and “Ghost Wife” all construct narrators whose depictions of space and time work to convey the narrator’s subjectivity. This is not simply a metaphorical construction, but rather one that suggests that the experience of exclusion and of otherness, or of connection and belonging, is related to the subject’s understandings of their placement in time and space. The use of the present tense and parataxis in memoir can help to construct, stylistically, narrators who feel a sense of alienation. Their use may also result in perceptions that the narrating “I” lacks insight and authority. Paradoxically, the present tense and parataxis can also work to bridge gaps and make connections between times and stories. I will demonstrate how The Kiss, Heaven’s Coast, and “Ghost Wife” achieve these differing effects.
Keyword Memoir, autobiography, same-sex marriage, lesbian, queer, space, time, narration, tense, parataxis.

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Created: Tue, 15 Jun 2010, 16:47:50 EST by Ms Michelle Dicinoski on behalf of Library - Information Access Service