Reflecting upon his own prior experiences as Writer, PhD Student embarks on an ethnographic research project which seeks to explain the relationship between Boys’ creative writing and identity. A view of identity as performance is adopted, a main cast of year 6 Boys is assembled, and the stage of the year 6 primary classroom and the secondary school is set. Undertaking participant observation, PhD Student sends his reflections as emails to PhD Supervisor but as their dialogue takes hold, questions relating to the problematic nature of research and representation proliferate. Which identity is PhD Student performing in the classroom: himself, Mr Dobson, Writer or Tom? Is self-reflexivity enough? To what extent can the Boys’ identities ever be known?
Rather than silencing these problems, PhD Student looks for a form of writing which lays bare the messiness of research. He rejects the linearity of the traditional form and writes his thesis as a self-conscious fiction: a dialogue on a train between himself, a post/structuralist academic, and You, a humanist non-academic. As PhD Student’s data is analysed, critiqued and deconstructed from both essentialist and interpretivist perspectives, the impossibility of objective representation is explored.
Within its own frame of reference, PhD Student’s analysis of the Boys’ writing offers a theoretical framework for thinking about creative writing in terms of identity and agency. However, the thesis-script itself is primarily a methodological critique: one that shows that no matter what is written on pages, between the words, between the letters, there will always be the Unnamable.