ENGL875 Overall Reflection

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Overall Reflection – Shane Cummings

Perhaps because my thesis, which was heavily influenced by Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, is still so dominant on my mind, I can chart my journey as a writer through this portfolio. My very first submission, “Spiral” from Creative Writing Seminar 1, represents everything about me as writer before commencing the Master of Creative Writing programme. I was polished, experienced, and stylistic, but much of it was written in an instinctive manner. I relied too much on innate skill, honed by experienced. Even my Bachelor of Arts, which had a considerable practical component, did not introduce me to the more advanced narrative theories and storytelling concepts I’ve encountered in this Master’s. Concepts as straightforward as focalisation (which I was innately aware of before the course but the concept did not have a name!) have enabled me to structure my story, my characters, and my language in ways I could not have considered in the past.

I’ve used metaphor as a tool and mythology (often itself rich in metaphorical representation) as a theme in my work many times before, but I applied these very intentionally in my creative non-fiction article, “The Weight of the Soul”. I drew on all my experience and learnings from Creative Writing Seminar 1 to develop this work of creative non-fiction. Further study, and in particular, theoretical readings from Lodge’s The Art of Fiction, Stern’s Narrative Fiction, and the novel Larry’s Party by Carol Shields, gave me the confidence to tackle a structured novel complex with metaphor and considerable interwoven chapters of anachrony. The first chapter of my novel Darkes Forest was the result. Feedback from my lecturer and the class have enabled me to go on to develop a complex plot and additional chapters for this novel-in-progress.

The theoretical side of this Master’s has been a challenge for me, especially given the considerable gap since I last wrote an academic essay. I struggled in my first theoretical unit, Narrative Theory and Method, as I did not spend time deeply researching the subject matter. I consequently struggled in the early part of my thesis preparation, where I repeated the same mistakes of poor research, inadequate construction of an argument based on the readings, and poorly structured paragraphs and thoughts. Clear feedback from my supervisor enabled me to come to grips with these faults. I also reviewed the theoretical components of creative units mentioned above, and this renewed my confidence in the ability to dissect fiction as well as I could write it. The end result was my thesis, The Monstrous Cycle: Transformation and Monstrosity in Twenty-first Century Australian Horror.

This journey has taken me from an experienced but somewhat unstructured writer to one that has a fully developed understanding of the tools and theories available to me as a writer. But it goes beyond that. I have the confidence, and more importantly, the experience in researching and writing complex academic works, to go on to a career as scholar in literature. In short, I have the theoretical tools to write better short works, to complete novels I was unable to complete before, and to engage with texts in a critical and theoretical manner. I now have no limits as a writer.

532 words

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