"I was young" : an immersive autobiographical journey into the troubadour tradition

Tomlinson, David John

English
October 2016

Thesis or dissertation


Rights
© 2016 David John Tomlinson. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
Abstract

There are two key problems in the field of autobiography: (i) How does one choose which scenes from a life to include? (ii) What is the most effective way of presenting those scenes?

This thesis investigates structures that address these two issues of autobiographical content and presentation. It deals with the question of what to put in, and also examines the related concerns of who presents the content (narration of self) and the techniques by which they present it (style).

The primary research questions are: (1) Is it possible to construct a coherent and involving piece of memoir if the author relinquishes some degree of control over the book’s content and, instead, is prepared to make decisions about what goes into the book based on the guidance of an external device? (2) Is it possible to reveal more of the author’s character and also enrich a reader’s emotional engagement with a memoir if, along with the written text, the author also expresses aspects of their life through a second creative voice?

The creative element of this thesis is a memoir that engages with the past in order to build a present and future narrative. Its starting point is a lost path: the one my nineteen year-old self embarked upon when he left law school in the hope of becoming a pop star. My fifty-year old self then reengages with the intervening years and asks what happened? and what might I and others learn from what happened?

I was a professional comedy writer and I use comedy to engage the reader in my story, but comedy can also be a way of evading deeper issues. My motive for writing a memoir was to learn how to stop evading deeper issues and start revealing them, and to find a voice that could encompass human frailty in a way that might have value and resonance for the reader.

The chapters are coupled with an album of related songs, which represent my second creative voice. The exegesis examines the interactive process of joint creation and how, in the case of a memoirist, a second creative voice might deepen that of the primary writing one, or, at least, deepen the impact of the memoir as a whole for both author and reader.

For my external device I used the song categories of the medieval troubadours. The arbitrary dictates of the song categories (celebrating youth, offering political comment, lamenting dead patrons, etc.) not only provoked a re-evaluation of my past, but also propelled me into immersive,
forward-looking research. Focus on the troubadours’ secular breadth of commentary led me to examine how, in practice, I might exemplify some of their social relevance to develop a form of memoir that looked out as well as in.

This practical application of an external device and a second creative voice create possible new frameworks for a memoir that aims to push the field forward.

[Each song corresponds to a chapter in the creative part of the thesis called: I Was Young. To enjoy the concept as intended, I would be grateful if you read the chapter first before playing its song partner. The songs are also available online along with the university’s publication of this thesis.]

Publisher
Department of English, The University of Hull
Qualification level
Doctoral
Qualification name
PhD
Language
English
Extent
1 MB
Identifier
hull:15628
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