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.
Table of Contents
Land Without Feelings: A Depersonalization Memoir
Like Looking in Fairyland: The History and Pathology of Depersonalization
The Sound a Noise Makes when it Ceases: The Literature of Depersonalization
Making the Stone Stony: Depersonalization in Literary Theory
A Moonlit Interval: Showing and Telling in Fiction
The Odour of a Rose: Showing and Telling in Poetry
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).