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Autobiography, memory and the playwright

Dickenson, Sarah Jane


Sarah Jane Dickenson


The thesis is made up of two plays and a piece of writing that is a reflection and critical sharing of a developmental and critical process of writerly development. The thesis explores the use of memory and autobiography in playwriting and is concerned with the development and enhancement of playwriting through a process experienced and analysed by its author.

The work draws upon recent psychological research into memory, particularly the idea that memories can be manipulated. The work of Mazzoni and Geraerts enables links between scientific psychology and narrative fiction and autobiography to be explored. Explorations of memory, narrative and the construction of self feed directly into the first of two plays, That Berlin Moment, in which a group of characters grapple with the implications of lost, false and unwillingly recovered memories.

The thesis includes individual and comparative analyses of my own work alongside that of three other dramatists: Anthony Minghella, James Graham and Richard Bean. Much of this work is drawn from a series of interviews with each playwright, which focused on uses of autobiographical material. Ideas about appropriation and adaptation are significant in focusing and developing this material. Informed by this analysis, the second play, Petticoat Lane, represents an attempt to push further with autobiographical writing, developing characters and situations based closely on my own memories, whilst incorporating insights gained from the scientific and theoretical work on memory.

The thesis is an articulation of a self-conscious process of writerly development, which suggests an unexpected connection between autobiographical and applied drama playwriting. Rather than setting up an opposition between self, creativity and original imaginary worlds on the one hand, and social utility and empowerment and political concern on the other, this process has opened up new ways of understanding the potential for playwriting to provoke and enable positive change.


Dickenson, S. J. (2014). Autobiography, memory and the playwright. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date May 7, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords English
Public URL
Additional Information Department of English, The University of Hull
Award Date Dec 1, 2014


Thesis (1.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2014 Dickenson, Sarah Jane. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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