With respect to today’s memoir craze, readers seem to expect factual truth and are generally unforgiving of truthbending and artistic liberty. However, with respect to the broader genre of Creative Nonfiction, expectations have yet to be agreed upon. Specifics such as how ethical stretching the truth is, how much liberty a writer is “allowed” to take with the truth, and even how the truth is defined are at the core of this literary debate. The authors that I call liberals believe in the authentic story over an accurate one while the authors I call purists believe that Creative Nonfiction should be factually accurate and only use creative tactics when it comes to how the truth is told. I studied Peter Rabinowitz’s theory of audiences and James Phelan’s theory of author reliability/unreliability, both originally written to discuss works of fiction. I applied these narrative theories to three works of Creative Nonfiction that approach the reader-writer contract in three different ways. What I found is that the way an author framed their work ultimately determined the author’s success or failure; my study suggests that authors who introduce their work as Nonfiction and take artistic liberties had more success with their readers than authors who also took artistic liberties but admitted it outright.
Lily Cott, ’18
English & Creative Writing
Sponsors: Michelle Mouton, Shannon Reed