Practice, a Novel; and Discipline Your Darlings: Writerly Discipline in Freud, Foucault, and the Discourses of Creative Writing

Brown, Rosalind (2022) Practice, a Novel; and Discipline Your Darlings: Writerly Discipline in Freud, Foucault, and the Discourses of Creative Writing. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis explores, in both creative and critical modes, the concept of discipline and its relationships to desire, attention, creativity and writing. The creative component, a novel entitled Practice, follows its protagonist, Annabel, through a day in the strictly routinised life she has designed to maximise her own immersion in her undergraduate work. As she reads, walks, and fantasises, the various threads of her thinking–her work on Shakespeare’s sonnets, her relationship with her older boyfriend Rich, and her own private story about two invented characters–begin to tangle together in a contrapuntal meditation on obsession, distraction, and eroticism. The critical component identifies and examines the contemporary cultural fascination with ‘writerly discipline’, the expectation that writers must consciously design and regulate their own working practices to produce good work. I begin with a theoretical introduction to discipline, demonstrating that it is conceptually unstable and depends on its underlying ‘doctrine’ for its ideological significance. My first chapter then analyses a corpus of recent Anglo-American texts which speak to the theme of writerly discipline; these sources place discipline in ambivalent interrelation with an assumed innate personal creativity which is supposed to be necessary for creative writing but also to require constant management. My second chapter, picking up on Freudian themes in my corpus of modern sources, explores Freud’s own discussions of self-discipline and creative writing, demonstrating that they are liable to some of the same contradictions and ambivalences as more recent discourses. In my final chapter I use the work of Michel Foucault to extend my critique of discourses of writerly discipline, concluding that–as Foucault suggests of sexuality–creativity may well be conceptually constituted, rather than ‘discovered’, by discourses about how to access and manage it.

The creative component of this thesis has been omitted from the publicly available version.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2022 12:56
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2022 12:56


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