Shifting: the creation and theoretical exploration of a collaborative autobiographical novel

Cerne, Helen (1998) Shifting: the creation and theoretical exploration of a collaborative autobiographical novel. Research Master thesis, Victoria University of Technology.


This Master of Arts thesis has two parts: a collaborative autobiographical novel Shifting, written by Helen and Serge Cerne, and a theoretical commentary which explores aspects of collaborative writing. The research material in this thesis has come from a variety of resources: primary and secondary sources, literature data bases, a journal I kept while writing the novel, interviews with family members, discussions with my partner and field visits to places represented in the novel. Only my part of the novel has been submitted for examination but the whole of Shifting has been included because all of it must be read to understand the thesis. The novel, written from a male and female narrative perspective, has alternate chapters which tell the story of an Italian migrant boy and an Australian-born girl growing up during the 1950s and 1960s. The story deals with physical, emotional and psychological changes in the lives of the two central characters. Shifting is a social history of the period which mainly documents the western suburbs of Melbourne. The central argument of the thesis, both novel and commentary, is that identity is not fixed but constantly changes or shifts, especially in moments of crisis such as migration. Displacement and marginalisation, or repositioning of identity, are delineated in each chapter of Shifting to contrast or echo the 'other' narrative. The theoretical commentary also discusses various models of collaboration, collaborative agreement, dialogue and negotiation, with special references to Shifting. An analysis of heterosexual collaboration shows how socio-economic circumstances or gender expectations can limit the female partner's contribution to the creative partnership. Finally, autobiography as a form of self narrative is explored as a form of personal mythologising.

Additional Information

PDf contains 2 volumes.
Master of Arts

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Keywords Collaborative authorship, Autobiographical fiction, Childhood, Australia, 1950s, 1960s
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