Towards an Intersectional Approach to Creative Writing

Butler, Season. 2019. Towards an Intersectional Approach to Creative Writing. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

E M Forster’s now-famous distinction between flat and round characters has become a widely accepted feature of creative writing practice and pedagogy, and of literary analysis. In this thesis, Forster’s notion of roundness is a major point of departure, synthesised with the key features of intersectionality. Arising from its coinage in feminist legal theory, intersectionality appreciates identity as a matrix of simultaneous, mutually reinforcing points of privilege or marginalisation, for example, how Black women experience the double oppressions of racism and misogyny, or how class status complicates racial privilege. Intersectionality takes a particular interest in socially marginalised voices and the structures of dominance and oppression which maintain uneven social power dynamics. An intersectional approach to creative writing can serve the aesthetic interests of a work by using the political dimension of characters’ lives to greater effect. Intersectionality can also challenge certain unspoken conventions in creative writing practice, such as the tendency to leave race – and particularly whiteness – unmarked, a move which passively reinforces the conflation of whiteness (and other normative identities) with the ‘universal’. This thesis explores four contemporary, US coming-of-age novels which confront or confound some of these conventions by making political subject positions (here we look at race, gender, class and sexuality) more visible and active in character and plot formation. The practical element of this thesis demonstrates the execution of an intersectional approach. Cygnet is coming-of-age literary fiction told from the geographic and political margins, following a protagonist at the intersection of subordinated race, gender, class and age (youth). She lives temporarily in a diverse community defined by their marginalisation on the basis of old age. Her emergence into adulthood is burdened by her socio-economic position, lack of support structures and the particular vulnerability of marginalised people to the effects of climate change.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Additional Information:

Redacted version made available.


Creative writing, intersectionality, climate change, Bluest Eye, Invisible Man, Giovanni’s Room, Hunger Games, narratology, queer theory, critical race studies

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


30 June 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

25 Jul 2019 13:44

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:15


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