Creative Process, Critical Method: Fiction as Analysis, Law's New Direction.

Prof. Michael Meehan
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This paper argues the case for 'creative writing' in the university as a critical and analytical discipline, working in conjunction with such fields as sociology, history, philosophy, with particular assistance from the rules of evidence and courtroom procedure. The paper examines through a range of texts, Andrew Motion's Wainwright the Poisoner, Saramago's The History of the Siege of Lisbon, Peter Carey's Ned Kelly, Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, W G Sebald's The Emigrants, the use of fictional devices to elicit, illustrate and analyse historical information, showing how fictions can be used to trial and test hypotheses drawn from an 'incomplete' context of established facts. The paper then argues, in the context of these texts, that an even stronger basis for understanding the analytical power of fiction lies in the rules of evidence and techniques of legal advocacy, where narrative, fictionalising and multiple hypothesis (shifting the 'point of view', adjusting time-framing, subverting chronologies, etc) are routinely invoked to 'sift' stories, dismantle witness credibility, undermine spurious narrative coherence, and test and re-situate the meaning and the evidentiary value of the 'established facts'. Courtroom experience illustrates ways in which an overt fictionalising through successive hypothesis may offer a powerful truth-seeking device, of a kind that can produce radically new analytical perspectives, through the defamiliarising of established verities and through dramatisations of the extent to which almost any 'fact' – even material evidence – will shift in character and meaning according to narrative context. Reconfigured as a knowledge-based analytical discipline, 'creative writing' can play a special role not just in challenging and revitalising Literary Studies, but also in forging new partnerships with other core Humanities disciplines, offering the possibility of radically new forms of research, analysis, presentation and assessment.

Keywords: Creative Writing
Stream: Knowledge
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Cross-Examination and Critique

Prof. Michael Meehan

Head of School, School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University

Michael Meehan has a BA (Hons) from Monash University, an LLB from the University of Adelaide, and a PhD in eighteenth-century literature and political theory from the University of Cambridge. He has published extensively on eighteenth century literature and on literature and law, and has published novels in Australia, Britain and the United States, winning the 2000 New South Wales Premier's Award with his novel The Salt of Broken Tears. He has for many years been Chair of Adelaide Writers' Week, Australia's largest writers' festival, and is presently involved in research projects on the literary festival and public culture, and on issues related to literature and law.

Ref: H05P0757