Author Faculty (Discipline)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as:

Joseph, S. & Rickett, C. (2010). The writing cure?: Ethical considerations in managing creative practice lifewriting projects. Paper presented at the 15th Conference of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved from

ISBN: 9780980757330


190402 Creative Writing (incl. Playwriting)| 200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified


The autobiographical turn in literary studies has increasingly placed value on self -representation as a strategic means of reclaiming voice, identity and agency. By and large, the narrating ‘I’ is circulated and read as a storied performance/product which empowers the writer. Typically such texts are often ones that rehearse, record and expiate individual trauma, and also produce a set of readings that textually frame the work as ‘therapeutic’. There is a growing selection of texts which narrativise personal trauma now being set for literary examination in tertiary syllabi. Concurrent to the formal reading of trauma texts in the context of literary studies is the narrative impulse to repackage traumatic experience as autobiographical process/literary output within creative practice higher degrees. This paper seeks to interrogate some of the ethical concerns that arise from students drawing on personal trauma in creative writing contexts for the production of literature that is to be formally supervised and examined. How is the potential risk of re-traumatisation of the student, and vicarious traumatisation of the supervisor/lecturer, managed? If higher degrees are providing an emergent space for catharsis, ‘unofficially’ offering writing as a therapeutic mode in creative practice, what are the implications of the supervisor/lecturer moving from a role of artistic and scholarly critic, to one of bearing witness? And in this newly formed therapeutic alliance, does an academic need more skills than they have devel oped in simply delivering a writing or literary curriculum? And what professional frames of support, if any, are in place to sustain both the student and the academic throughout the process? Without well established professional support and guidelines, is commodifying trauma in order to gain a degree, and or a literary output, ethical professional practice


Used by Permission: Australasian Association of Writing Programs