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Screams Underwater. Submerging the Authorial Voice: A Polyphonic Approach to Retelling the Known Narrative in Berth - Voices of the Titanic, A Poetry Collection by Natalie Scott

Scott, Natalie (2015) Screams Underwater. Submerging the Authorial Voice: A Polyphonic Approach to Retelling the Known Narrative in Berth - Voices of the Titanic, A Poetry Collection by Natalie Scott. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


This PhD thesis is comprised of my poetry collection: Berth - Voices of the Titanic (Bradshaw Books, 2012) and a critical commentary which discusses the collection both in printed and performed contexts.
Berth is a collection of fifty poems taking a range of forms, including dramatic monologue, and found, sound and concrete poems. It was published and performed to coincide with the centenary of the Titanic disaster on April 14th 2012. The collection encourages an audience to see and hear Titanic in a distinctive way, through the poetic voices of actual shipyard workers, passengers, crew, animals, objects, even those of the iceberg and ship herself. Though extensively researched, it is not intended to be a solely factual account of Titanic’s life and death but a voiced exploration of the what-ifs, ironies, humour and hearsay, as well as painful truths, presented from the imagined perspective of those directly and indirectly linked to the disaster.
The critical commentary introduces the notion of factional poetic storytelling and, supported by Julia Kristeva’s definition of intertextuality, considers the extent to which Berth is an intertext. Drawing on both literary works and critical theory, it considers the dominant, objective, authorial voice as a way of closing a text, and contrastingly presents polyphony, with its multiple viewpoints, as a way of opening up a text, in the process of moving towards retelling a well-known story in a distinctive way. I use Plato’s concept of mimēsis to make connections between polyphony and intertextuality and my creative work is then contextualised in terms of other intertexts published as creative responses to historical events, culminating in the story of the Titanic. I show how Berth is distinctive in its way of telling.
Supported by reader-response theories, I discuss the reader’s role in shaping a text and participating in the process of its reception as an open, dialogic work. Illustrated by examples from canonical poems, the commentary next defines monophony in order to draw out the characteristics of polyphony and its relationship with Bakhtin’s concepts of dialogism, addressivity, defamiliarization, collage and the carnival. Exemplified by Berth, the ensuing exploration of Bakhtinian thought shows that the concept of dialogism, which he applies exclusively to the novel, is readily applicable both to a narrative poetry collection that is novelistic but also to standalone poems.
The commentary then makes connections between polyphony and performance poetry - specifically the dramatic monologue - and other open forms influenced by British and American modernist poetic techniques. I use examples from British Poetry Revival works to characterise the forms of found, sound and concrete poem. Robert Sheppard’s critical notion of the ‘saying’ and the ‘said’ (informed by Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogism and Umberto Eco’s notion of the ‘open work’) helps me to explore how such forms influenced my own creative practice - in the printed and staged versions of Berth - and fulfilled the principal aim of the work: to use polyphonic methods in a way that contributes a voice distinctive from the existing works on the subject of the Titanic. In conclusion, I argue that polyphony is a significant device for poetry that aims to present a fresh perspective on a story which has been told many times before.

NAS PhD Ex Library Copy Thesis.pdf - Accepted Version

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Depositing User: Barry Hall


Item ID: 6582

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Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2016 13:11
Last Modified: 20 May 2019 13:22


Author: Natalie Scott

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Culture > Creative Writing

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