The Abortion Game: Writing a Consciously Political Narrative Nonfiction Work

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Woodhead, Jacinda (2015) The Abortion Game: Writing a Consciously Political Narrative Nonfiction Work. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


In this creative‐writing research project, I set out to create a narrative nonfiction manuscript that investigates the contemporary politics surrounding abortion. The fundamental question driving the creative manuscript was, ‘Why is abortion largely invisible in Australia?’ Abortion is the second‐most common therapeutic surgical procedure in Australia, yet the history, the politics and the practice of abortion remain hidden from view. This invisibility allows us to avoid grappling with and confronting the complicated issues abortion raises. Using techniques commonly associated with fiction writing, such as narrative arc, characterisation, dialogue and scenes, the 69,000‐word manuscript investigates the factors, tiers and characters involved with abortion in Australia. The narrative nonfiction manuscript should be read first. The manuscript is accompanied by a 31,500‐word exegesis analysing the production, lineage and ethical implications of consciously political narrative nonfiction, a term that refers to works that make deliberate political interventions. Similarly to Hartsock (2000), I argue that when writing a consciously political narrative nonfiction work, the writer does not objectify the world as something different or alien from the reader, and instead strives to render characters as complex human beings. The exegesis reviews theories of ethics, objectivity and narrative within a form that is fundamentally journalism, yet can never fit within this narrow definition as it is primarily about mapping the cultural other (Sanderson 2004). The exegesis also scrutinises the usefulness and complexity of immersion as a research methodology. While I initially attempted to immerse myself as a limited participant‐observer in the world of pro‐choice and pro‐life politics, over the course of the research, my methodology resulted in a kind of radicalisation prompted by my fieldwork. For example, after witnessing the ongoing harassment of clinic patients and staff, I found myself openly hostile to the position and tactics of pro‐life activists. While I felt I remained capable of transcribing and depicting the worlds of these subjects, a seditious need grew to challenge their authority and worldview outside the text. This led me to make a political intervention inside and outside the text, and I thus crossed the precipice from observation to active participation. While I acknowledge that this is an unconventional narrative position, one that rejects ideals of journalistic objectivity, I argue that this subject position was born of the research and practice of this project – that is, of actually participating in the world of my subject, abortion. Moreover, this level of participation in the world of the textual subject is a direct result of writing a consciously political narrative nonfiction work, a subgenre that allows for the practitioner’s politics and reactions to situations to help shape the text, and the consequences beyond.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1606 Political Science
Historical > FOR Classification > 1903 Journalism and Professional Writing
Historical > FOR Classification > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Arts
Keywords creative writing, ethics, objectivity, subjectivity, journalism, literature, narratives, politics, society, women, pro-life, pro-choice, abortion clinics, termination procedure, religion, Christians, Victoria, Melbourne, Queensland
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