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Fictocriticism at the University of Adelaide

Honours and Postgraduate Gender Studies and Media Studies: Ficto-critical Writing Practices.

Coordinator: Ros Prosser

I have been running a writing workshop for Honours and post-graduate Gender Studies and Media students at the University of Adelaide. The following is an outline of the workshop that attempts to work with the ideas of Laurel Richardson et al. The workshop exercises have been developed from a writing workshop undertaken with Amanda Lohrey.


This is a discussion of some of the possibilities for working at the intersection of writing, research and theory. The session is a discussion of the readings, an explanation of fictocriticism and a fictocritical writing workshop.
Questions to consider:
  • What are the conditions of possibility of ficto-criticism?
  • What effects are produced by these writing techniques?
  • How does ficto-criticism ‘fit’ with academic writing?


  • Clifford, James. 'Fort Ross Meditation' Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Harvard University Press Cambridge, Massachussetts. pp 320-323.
  • Fergie, Deane, 1998, ‘Unsettled’, in The Space Between: Australian Women Writing Fictocriticism, Kerr, Heather, and Nettelbeck, Amanda (eds.) UWA Press, Perth, pp 173-200
  • Gibbs, Anna, ‘Fictocriticism, Affect, Mimesis: Engendering difference’, Vol 9 No1 April (2005)


  • Richardson, Laurel. And St. Pierre, Elizabeth Adams, 2005, ‘Writing: A Method of Inquiry’ in Denzin, Norman, K., and Lincoln, S., (eds) Handbook of Qualitative Research, Sage, Thousand Oaks, California pp. 959 - 978

Workshop outline

Reflection exercise
Interview the person next to you and find out how they go about doing research. Feedback to whole group, introducing them by name and describe their research process.
Writing exercise
Describe a house you have lived in, preferably the 1st house you lived in from your childhood.

Students may read their work out to rest of class at the conclusion of each exercise.
This workshop is about inter-disciplinary writing practices, and the range of work that allows for self-reflexivity, positionality, subjectivity, and recognition of history through the use of the 1st person or “I” as an actor in research which acknowledges that we are producing work out of our historical, cultural, political, social and autobiographical selves.

This work can disrupt the traditional thesis and has produced discontinuous narratives, a refusal of closure, and creates an open-endedness, a multi-vocality, and a non-linearity in an attempt to disrupt the essay.
(Note to students: You don’t need to do this and won’t be however some of the techniques I’ve learnt can be used in the conventional thesis.)

Some of techniques used include:

  • The idea that the subject is produced by discourse; what might the implications of this be for the work you are doing?
  • That the self is constructed inside institutions – family, religious, state education – and these produce ways of knowing or speaking about the self.
  • That research writing is a discourse inside an institutional field; how might this apply to your project?
It is a recognition of self as located at the intersection of subject and history, as Trinh T Minh Ha sees "writing itself as a practice located at the intersection of subject and history – a literary practice that involves the knowledge (linguistically and ideological) of itself as such." (Trinh 1989, p.6)

It is writing that acknowledges the place of affect.
Reading: James Clifford
Discuss the ways that Clifford produces affect in this piece.
Writing exercise
Describe a special object in the house of your childhood.

It is a discussion of the location of the researcher in particular fields – what is the meaning of doing this kind of work?

It is about the importance of looking at the history of objects or ideas. History brings us to conditions of possibility – all research projects can think through the ways in which the work, or the topic have a condition of possibility. This will help with thinking about the topic but also yourself as a researcher, to become clearer about your intentions.

Reading: Laurel Richardson
What is meant by writing as a method of inquiry?
  • A way to learn about yourself and your research topic, as you write rather than just think research you start to see your ideas form. Writing needs to be brought forward with these other strategies – not just writing up.
  • Use a multitude of approaches side by side.
  • Language helps to construct what you think about a topic.
  • Produces new ways of knowing, can help develop insights into the material of your research.
Writing exercise
Describe a favourite piece of clothing from childhood.
The writing exercises and the way they might build up a picture of subjectivity – intersection with history – storying the self inside discourse – eg family as site of institutional practices.

Reflect on the place of writing in your own work.

The exercises focus the students on the ways that they remember, the ways that home and family influence their relationship to their topic.

One of the outcomes of the workshop is the realization that writing does not feature in many students' research processes until the final phases when they are writing up. The workshop alerts students to the need to begin writing while researching, either in journals, diaries, note-taking, thinking through ideas in their writing and other forms of writing.

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Thursday, 10 November, 2011 10:29 AM