1st Edition

Depersonalization and Creative Writing Unreal City

By Matthew Francis Copyright 2023

    Depersonalization and Creative Writing: Unreal City explores the common psychological symptom of depersonalization, its influence on literature and the insights it can provide into the writing process.

    Depersonalization is a distressing symptom in which sufferers feel detached from their own selves and the world. Often associated with psychological disorders, it can also affect healthy people at times of stress. Beginning with a first-hand account of the experience, the book goes on to argue that many well-known literary texts, including Camus’s The Outsider and Sartre’s Nausea, evoke a similar psychological state. It shows how a concept of depersonalized writing can be found in the work of literary theorists from widely different traditions, including T.S. Eliot, Roland Barthes and Viktor Shklovsky. Finally, it maintains that creative writers can make use of the lessons learned from a study of depersonalization to arrive at a deeper understanding of writing.

    Given this knowledge, the controversial writing teacher’s maxim show, don’t tell, so often misapplied or misunderstood, can be repurposed as a practical instruction for taking students’ writing to a new level of sophistication and wisdom.

    Part 1


    Chapter 1

    Land Without Feelings: A Depersonalization Memoir

    Part 2


    Chapter 2

    Like Looking in Fairyland: The History and Pathology of Depersonalization

    Chapter 3

    The Sound a Noise Makes when it Ceases: The Literature of Depersonalization

    Chapter 4

    Making the Stone Stony: Depersonalization in Literary Theory

    Part 3


    Chapter 5

    A Moonlit Interval: Showing and Telling in Fiction

    Chapter 6

    The Odour of a Rose: Showing and Telling in Poetry

    Chapter 7

    Crossing the Threshold: Quests, Epiphanies, Liminality


    Matthew Francis is Professor of Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University, UK. He has published six poetry collections with Faber & Faber, most recently Wing (2020). He is also the author of two novels, WHOM (Bloomsbury, 1989) and The Book of the Needle (Cinnamon Press, 2014), and a collection of short stories, Singing a Man to Death (Cinnamon Press, 2012). He has edited the poems of W.S. Graham for Faber and published a study of Graham, Where the People Are (Salt Publishing, 2005).