Patchwork Someone: A Memoir, and Religious Memoir in a Secular Age: Critical Commentary

Read, Jacinta. 2018. Patchwork Someone: A Memoir, and Religious Memoir in a Secular Age: Critical Commentary. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis in Creative Writing comprises two parts. The memoir, Patchwork Someone, is a ‘coming of faith’ story that deals with themes of religious certainty and mental illness. It is set primarily in Hong Kong, in the period encompassing the region’s handover from British sovereignty back to China. The memoir recounts how, as a teenager engaged in a search for belonging, I encountered Evangelical Christianity, and found an allure in the church that was juxtaposed against the instability of mentally ill family members and my own experimentation with drugs. The memoir then describes a mental health crisis that followed more than a decade later, when, as a committed believer and church member, I had a serious incident of self-harming. Recovery follows, but the book departs from the classic conversion arc because it lacks an explicit conclusion and alludes, instead, to the value of negative capability.

The accompanying critical work, Religious Memoir in a Secular Age, is a study of the influence of the Confessions of Saint Augustine on apparently non- religious contemporary life-writing. Although the Confessions is regularly cited as the first example of autobiographical writing, there has been little investigation into it by the creative writing community. This critical commentary seeks to address the shortage, and analyses how religious memoirists who strive for diverse audiences can gain insight from a close reading of the Confessions. It offers a brief history of religion in self-life writing, and identifies written forms of religious practices that are evidenced in the Confessions, namely prayer, confession, reflection and testimony. Contemporary articulations of these practices are identified in eight memoirs published between 1985 and 2016 for comparison. Regardless of the changing influence of religion in society, the urges that first prompted Augustine to write his memoir prevail, and continue to be expressed in contemporary literature.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Memoir, religious memoir, memoirs, writing, secular age, Confessions of Saint Augustine

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


31 August 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Sep 2018 14:30

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14


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