Salt in winter : a fictionalized biography with critical reflections

Garbutt, JM 2021, Salt in winter : a fictionalized biography with critical reflections , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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This practice-based thesis comprises a novel exploring the life and legacy of 16th century philanthropist Henry Smith, with critical reflections on the research foundational to the creative text. The novel is a biographical work that argues for fictionalisation as an effective means to investigate a life lost to history, and to construct a sympathetic character with whom readers can engage: in my own words, “an old sick man with a big heart who would never know the full value of his achievements but would continue to nurture the dream that he could somehow enrich a distant future.”1 In 2021– that “distant future”– the Henry Smith charity perpetuates Smith’s dream of enrichment as one of the UK’s largest grant-making trusts. A fictionalised version of Smith’s contemporary, Robert Hene, acts as the first-person narrative voice in the novel, both as witness to and proponent of the tensions inherent in biographical practice, facilitating enquiries concerning the motivations and hazards of Smith’s ambition and bringing veracity to the historical context. Threads of connection between Robert’s timeframe [1576-1668 ] and that of ‘William’ – an asylum seeker and present-day beneficiary of Smith’s legacy [1985 -] – are realized both through intimations of parallelism between the two strands of the story, and playful notions of slippage. The juxtaposition of these two storylines is resonant of the Bakhtinian concept of unfinalizability, “each unity . . . enter[ing] into the single process of the developing human culture ”2 [see 3.3.2]. The critical components of this thesis articulate the quandaries for a writer faced with an obscure historical character and a paucity of evidence. Challenges concerning the integration of speculative material with historical fact explore the potential for synergy between fiction and history, whilst a definitive explanation of fiction as imperative to the narrative may be found in “The Pursuit of Truth” [1.3].The complexities of practice-as-research are viewed as both beneficial and demanding for the creative writer – particularly with regard to a long-form narrative – whilst literary examples from both past and present cite precedents for a form of hybridisation as a way to navigate biographical and novelistic genres.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Hurley, UK (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Depositing User: JM Garbutt
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2021 14:21
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 14:47

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