The Paper Talisman
: The Weight of Words

  • Annabelle Irene Bidwell-Richards

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


My research focuses on how to overcome the resistance of language in addressing military-related trauma. Additionally, how can the narrative be stopped from slipping between the lines and sinking without trace? By transforming trauma into testimony, the healing narrative creates a valuable weight of words.
My epistolary novel, The Paper Talisman, highlights the psychological battle between the suppression of military trauma versus the need for disclosure. The dilemma is analogised by applying Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory, whereby the conspicuous events of wartime are evidenced as the visibly surfaced tip of the iceberg, with the resultant trauma suppressed beneath the surface as an untold narrative, represented by the submerged remainder of the iceberg,
This underlying dialogue was rudimental to Hemingway’s theory, the implicit narrative instrumental in illuminating the story. Critically, however, dependent upon the subjective interpretation of the reader, the intended intimation of the concealed narrative - if overly oblique - may fail or be misconstrued.
My creative artefact is an innovational novel, representing a fresh take on the classic epistolary form. The story is narrated not solely through the abiding use of letters but includes a broad anthology of old and modern techniques of communication and information sharing. This methodology incorporates traditional elements of letter writing and personal diaries/journals, but also includes e-mails, text messages, transcripts, social media posts, and exercises in therapeutic writing.
The accompanying Commentary, The Weight of Words, furthers the theoretical concept of ‘cognitive-offloading’ by introducing the notion of a trauma-conduit, a therapeutic means of unburdening traumatic memory into a written self-testimony. The artefact is then transferred to a technological and metaphorical point of safe storage for future recall, thereby enabling a process of healing to be initiated.
Date of Award24 Nov 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorHolly Howitt-Dring (Supervisor), Alison Habens (Supervisor) & Lincoln Geraghty (Supervisor)

Cite this