This thesis enlarges on studies of truth-telling in life writing, to focus on the elusive nature of truth in the history of a family that has experienced the ruptures of war and migration. The unreliability of memory, the capriciousness of individual subjectivities and the complexity of intergenerational familial relationships can produce contradictory accounts in narratives of this kind. The process of constructing narratives about the past from individual accounts and historical research is problematised within a reflexive theoretical process that has explored the potential for arriving at a truth through such analysis. The thesis concludes that while the full reality of a family’s past is necessarily unknowable, the process of critically examining that past can transform the presumed identities of the subjects. The dialectical relationship between theory and practice is reflected in the structure of the thesis, where the family stories are interwoven with reflexive analytical chapters that inform and echo each other. A number of themes are explored in this search for a truth, including: methodological and ethical issues in life writing; qualitative changes in identity throughout life that might obscure the truth, the way images can inform and challenge the pursuit of truth; the problems inherent in the truth of any historical account; the significance of place to life memories; and the impenetrability of individual psyches when seeking to understand the actions and motivations of the subjects. The pursuit of the truth fades in this mélange of perspectives, contributing to the effect of truth in the subjects’ minds and the redevelopment of present tense narrative identities. The transitions and transformations experienced by the subjects demonstrate the potential benefits of life writing, the inherent need for some kind of truth, and the importance of individual, collective and relational experiences to a more multifaceted view of cultural memory and the construction of identity.
Submission note: "A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Communication, Arts and Critical Enquiry, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora"
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