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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Mary Ann Cain

Department/Program

Department of Communication; Department of English and Linguistics

Sponsor Department/Program

Department of English and Linguistics

Abstract

In this project, I illustrate the interdisciplinarity of international, intercultural creative writing and history through the construction of my short story, “The Lord of Pandemonium.” I wrote it for my class in Writing Fiction, in which I developed my own writing process based on drafting, research and revision in a multidisciplinary approach. Although multidisciplinarity in storytelling offer refers to the use of multiple media resources (picture, video, audio) which complement the story, my approach explores the steps taken in order to create a story in an existing historical context, honing in from other subject areas in academia but maintaining a single dimension to storytelling in written words. My process includes research of the cultural and international context as well as the process of revision. The research I have done contributed to the composition of the reality in which the story takes place: the period of instability immediately preceding the Rwanda genocide. I went through academic articles and online research of news pieces, which offered accounts and analysis of the genocide. Together, these offered the basic structuring of the world I wrote in. I used the compiled data to construct not only a three-dimensional “map” or “scheme” of the world in which the story takes place, but also a historical context that explains why things were the way they were at a political, cultural and individual level. The second section of my process is based on revision, which prompted me to wonder how I could offer a different account of history. For revision I honed in on Diane Lefer’s essay “Breaking the ‘rules’ of story structure,” in which she argues in favor of the breaking of conventions in writing – how a story can be told in a new way. In other words, “how could I offer a different perspective to read this historical event?” Instead of weighing experiences against facts and trying to balance them out, I decided to expose facts through a narrative. Revision is about trying to get a fresh perspective on the story’s subject, so my story is about the people who do not show up in detail in history books or research. It is not factual in its character-driven plot, but every event that alters the character’s life and experiences is based on fact. Although I make use of history to bring life to the character, in my revision I honed in on individuality. How is an individual impacted by ethnic conflict, post-colonial society and which side does he take? How does that affect his perspective of the world and his personal relationships? As a person, how would this setting change the way a character sees the world? To me, that is a special kind of storytelling because I am focusing on the humanity behind history and on how people’s hands form and destroy their futures. That is what makes storytelling personal, relatable and even educational. Different perspectives, different opinions prompt learning and personal connections. My effort to try to reach for those who have not had their voices heard and trying to learn about an entirely different country is a form of creating and accepting dissent, new voices that contribute to political debate and reach people’s hearts. That public debate, which is essential for a functional democratic society, can be prompted by these revisions. I consider myself better for driving off the beaten path and deviating from our common historical knowledge. I think sharing this process can help other people learn, grow and see beyond the current, established and detached accounts of history and connect to the past in a more human way

Disciplines

Communication | English Language and Literature

Revising History: Exploring what Lies Below the Historical Cannon

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