Valerie Arvidson

Valerie is exploring picture and photo-embedded fiction through the analysis of three novels complemented by a collection of her linked short stories.

Commenced 2015

Valerie is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, prose-poetry and hybrid/interdisciplinary writing. She is originally from Massachusetts but lived in Seattle for several years before moving to New Zealand with her husband. Valerie earned her B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College (2008) and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington (2012). In Seattle she taught literature and research writing at Green River College and creative writing and composition at the University of Washington. Her writing has appeared online or in print with Headland, Drunken Boat, The Seattle Review, Blunderbuss, Anomalous Press, Hunger Mountain, and Apt. She has writing forthcoming from Permafrost and Luna Luna.

The primary focus of Valerie's thesis will be how authors put photographs or pictures into a working relationship with fictional texts to evoke certain themes of longing and loss in their narratives. The PhD project will include a creative and critical exploration of how narrative, memory, history/ancestry, fiction/autobiography, folklore, fairy tales, visuals, pictures and photographs interact and intersect in hybrid/interdisciplinary narrative literature.

Valerie writes: 'I will explore the following books through a strategy of close reading and careful analysis developed specifically for these picture-embedded novels: Carole Maso's The Art Lover (1990), Teju Cole's Every Day Is for The Thief (2007/2014), and Aleksander Hemon's The Lazarus Project (2008). I will analyze the particular relations between pictures and narrative in each book, which include various visual materials including photographs, fragments and photocopies of fine art, and historical/archival images. I will look for what might be the source of any perceived resistance, ambivalence, and struggle between pictures and narrative. How does each author construct and arrange a fruitful, vital interaction and negotiation between pictures and text in his or her book, taking into account potential tension and friction between the two modes? How have the authors strategically curated the pictures in these fictional narratives so as to produce or emphasize the themes of longing and loss? What technical and structural choices have been made to compose particular multimodal movements in these narratives? The three novels are also semi-autobiographical and contain stories-within-stories. I will look carefully at how these writers have braided these various narrative layers together with the images to create cohesive yet complex books.

'Aided by concepts such as Roland Barthes "punctum," W.J.T. Mitchell's thoughts on the vitality of the image, Liliane Louvel's idea of the "pictorial third", and Bakhtin's heteroglossia, among other concepts, I will pay special attention to the use of photographs in fiction and the evocation of the themes of longing, loss, and getting lost. Also, how might I approach all this in my own project of picture-embedded writing?

'For the creative part of the PhD project I am writing a collection of linked short stories under the working title The Girls We Used to Be. The stories will be connected by certain recurring themes and a strategic use of pictures and photographs, (from various sources, including my own archives and art), emphasizing those themes, which also mirror those in the case studies: longing, loss, getting lost, family, art, memories, mortality, melancholia, and searching for a sense of “home.”'

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