Existentially self deceptive storytelling: a new genre

Anderson, G. 2009. Existentially self deceptive storytelling: a new genre. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages

TitleExistentially self deceptive storytelling: a new genre
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsAnderson, G.

This thesis is an exploration into the function and form of storytelling. Its

initial assumption is that consciousness is a genetically transmitted mechanism

which generates a concept of self by creating a story. In this formulation, the

consciousness is called narrative-consciousness. Since the concept of self

necessarily suggests its opposite and this in turn involves awareness of existential futility, the purpose of the story, generated by the narrative-consciousness, is seen to be, in the first instance, the hiding of this unavoidable and potentially damaging awareness. This thesis suggests that to achieve this goal the story must be based on the process of self-deception.

The thesis shows that, in general, self-deception involves three significant

components in its bid to separate any two paradoxical ideas: unease, process and hiding and that each of these maps onto a particular component in the final narrative of the self. The narrative created by a consciousness hiding, in particular, the awareness of existential angst is given the specific name existentially-selfdeceptive- story, with an acronym ESDeS.

The thesis goes on to suggest that such a narrative-consciousness could

produce written stories that follow the same pattern, in which case the stories are called existentially-self-deceptive-novels, with an acronym ESDeN.

Such a story or genre is then shown to be part of a continuum consisting of

up to three distinct ways of dealing with existential futility. The thesis labels these Story-1, Story-2 and Story-3 respectively but reserves the name ESDeN for a subset of Story-2.

Analyses of three of these stories, Heart of Darkness, Chance and Thinks

concludes that the genre necessarily includes genre-markers, bracketing deaths and repetition, can also include other optional components such as the self-deceptive process or the parent-child mechanism but that its defining characteristic is its division between an overt plot and a covert plot which contains a collusive death of a character identified with existential angst.

A covert plot is necessarily available but it is, by definition, not easily

discovered. Its successful hiding is made possible, primarily, by foregrounding the overt content of the novel at the expense of the covert. In this sense, the only necessary requirement of the overt content is it should distract and it does this best when the reader cooperates by investing time in interpretation: that is, in order to disguise the ultimate the reader concentrates on the proximal.

Finally, the thesis mirrors the endings of each ESDeN by drawing attention

to the fact that this collusion will not work for long: just as self-deception cannot withstand too much contrary evidence, the covert plot will not stand too many rereadings. Inevitably, for the true ESDeS, another point of recognition will occur

and this will necessitate the renewal or replacement of the ESDeS.

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Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/90vq0/existentially-self-deceptive-storytelling-a-new-genre

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