First-person narration: the unreliable narrator in contemporary fiction

Forshaw, Judy (2017) First-person narration: the unreliable narrator in contemporary fiction. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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Abstract

This thesis comprises a novel and a critical commentary. The novel Cure for the Damned is in the Gothic tradition but has a contemporary setting. The story is told by two first-person narrators. Magnus, a forensic psychiatrist, and his partner Tom, a meteorologist, leave their life in central London to set up a therapeutic community in the Sussex countryside. Isolated in a damp cottage on the edge of woodland and cut off from their support network, old hurts and fears surface. Mistrust lies at the heart of their story. Tom and Magnus provide subtly and, at other times, starkly differing accounts of a disintegrating relationship that ends in murder. Both narrators slide between truthfulness, untrustworthiness and fallibility in a world where the real is undone by deception and trickery. The subplot is informed by the Orpheus myth, introducing a magical realist strand to the narrative in which the underworld intrudes in dreams, imaginings and hallucinations. In the commentary to accompany the creative practice element of the thesis, I use the theories developed by Elke D’hoker, James Phelan and Greta Olson to examine three broad categories of unreliable first-person narration in a trio of well-known works: narrative instability in Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, bonding and estranging unreliability in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and the untrustworthy narrator in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. In exploring the impact of these different types of unreliability on my own novel Cure for the Damned, I aim to show how the study of narrative theory is a useful tool for a writer of fiction, in that intuitive and sometimes impulsive choices are made conscious, thereby opening up narrative options, as well as clarifying and providing solutions to essential concerns of voice, structure and mood.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: narrative instability, bonding and estranging unreliability, untrustworthy, fallible, Orpheus myth, magical realism, Gothic
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2021 11:28
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:58
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/706823

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