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River novel & complementary discourses

Irving, Adam (2016) River novel & complementary discourses. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The complementary discourse explores the function and value of narrative and why mankind seems to have always seen events, connected or unconnected, as stories. It investigates how we process and perceive fiction and compares narratives found in non-fiction, police witness statements, films and diaries to consider why the human brain seems hard-wired to transform events into narrative. The accompanying novel, A River, is set in Manchester over a three hundred year period. The events in the chapters are presented in reverse order; from the 1990’s to the 1720’s, beginning with the chronological end of the tale and working towards the starting point. The chapter’s regression highlights how a familiar location is constantly in flux and sometimes shares little with the same place of the past. Time and location are both treated as characters, playing important roles in the personality of the city. The buildings and streets, events, food and language have all been researched for accuracy, either first hand or using diaries, films, maps and photographs. The novel occupies a grey area between fiction and history. The narrative actively avoids the traditional novel formulas of historical fiction and magic realism and is intended to be an accessible experimental novel, questioning the idea of what a story is.

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