Keeping House : a novel and novel companion

Piper, Sally Lynn (2011) Keeping House : a novel and novel companion. Masters by Research by Creative Works, Queensland University of Technology.


The creative work of this study is a novel-length work of literary fiction called Keeping House (published as Grace's Table, by University of Queensland Press, April 2014).

Grace has not had twelve people at her table for a long time. Hers isn't the kind of family who share regular Sunday meals. As Grace prepares the feast, she reflects on her life, her marriage and her friendships. When the three generations of her family come together, simmering tensions from the past threaten to boil over. The one thing that no one can talk about is the one thing that no one can forget.

Grace's Table is a moving and often funny novel using food as a language to explore the power of memory and the family rituals that define us.

The exegetical component of this study does not adhere to traditional research pedagogies. Instead, it follows the model of what the literature describes as fictocriticism. It is the intention that the exegesis be read as a hybrid genre; one that combines creative practice and theory and blurs the boundaries between philosophy and fiction. In offering itself as an alternative to the exegetical canon it provides a model for the multiplicity of knowledge production suited to the discipline of practice-led research.

The exegesis mirrors structural elements of the creative work by inviting twelve guests into the domestic space of the novel to share a meal. The guests, chosen for their diverse thinking, enable examination of the various agents of power involved in the delivery of food. Their ideas cross genders, ages and time periods; their motivations and opinions often collide. Some are more concerned with the spatial politics of where food is consumed, others with its actual preparation and consumption. Each, however, provides a series of creative reflective conversations throughout the meal which help to answer the research question: How can disempowered women take authority within their domestic space?

Michel de Certeau must defend his "operational tactics" or "art of the weak" 1 as a means by which women can subvert the colonisation of their domestic space against Michel Foucault's ideas about the functions of a "disciplinary apparatus". 2 Erving Goffman argues that the success of de Certeau's "tactics" depends upon his theories of "performance" and "masquerade" 3; a claim de Certeau refutes. Doreen Massey and the author combine forces in arguing for space, time and politics to be seen as interconnected, non-static and often contested. The author calls for identity, or sense of self, to be considered a further dimension which impacts on the function of spatial models. Yu-Fi Tuan speaks of the intimacy of kitchens; Gaston Bachelard the power of daydreams; and Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin gives the reader a taste of the nourishing arts. Roland Barthes forces the author to reconsider her function as a writer and her understanding of the reader's relationship with a text.

Fictional characters from two texts have a place at the table – Marian from The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood 4 and Lilian from Lilian's Story by Kate Grenville. 5 Each explores how they successfully subverted expectations of their gender.

The author interprets and applies elements of the conversations to support Grace's tactics in the novel as well as those related to her own creative research practice. Grace serves her guests, reflecting on what is said and how it relates to her story. Over coffee, the two come together to examine what each has learned.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 42199
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research by Creative Works)
Supervisor: Olsson, Kris
Keywords: guerrilla tactics, colonisation, domestic space, domestic politics, gendered geography, mechanics of power, nourishing arts, fictocriticism
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 27 Jun 2011 02:43
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2013 03:12

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