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  • 2020BarrPhD

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'Truth is the same old story': truth, genre and the ethics of memoir in Maggie and me

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Damian Barr
Publication date2020
Number of pages86
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This is a PhD by publication consisting of a published work and accompanying critical reflection. The published work is my memoir, Maggie & Me (2013), which depicts my chaotic and traumatic childhood in a post-industrial village outside Glasgow in the 1980s. The memoir juxtaposes the personal and political – ‘Maggie’ is Margaret Thatcher whose policies and persona were indelibly imposed on my community, my family and me. The critical reflection aims to contextualise Maggie & Me in the genre of memoir, to interrogate memoir as a genre and to deconstruct my process and practice in four chapters, each arranged around a single question. I draw on the work of Buckley (1974), Couser (2012) and Gornick (2002; 2009), with reference to specific memoirs, chiefly Galloway (2008; 2011), Sanghera (2009) and Winterson (2011). In Chapter 1 I ask Why not a novel? considering Maggie & Me as a bildungsroman while examining the origins, expectations and, ultimately, limitations of the coming-of-age novel. In Chapter 2 I ask Why write a memoir? while outlining expectations and tropes of the genre and reassessing my decision to write Maggie & Me as a memoir rather than as an autobiography or work of fiction or autofiction. In Chapter 3 I ask Is it all true? establishing the distinctive ethical and legal considerations involved in writing memoir, and the pact this genre forges between writer and reader. Chapter 4 concludes by investigating the nature of memoir as trauma relived and performed and considers the possibility of catharsis before finally asking Do I feel better now? – the answer to which may lie with the reader as a shared act of meaning making.