Naked Writing in the Academy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


W.B.Yeats suggests that “there’s more enterprise/in walking naked”, implying that it is more useful and honest to write without the security of protective clothing. For him this meant dispensing with the rich mythological framework he had previously adopted in order to write more directly about his own experience. For the academic researcher working within the auto/biographical tradition, it means agreeing to shed the “authority moves” of conventional academic writing in order to get closer to the subject. Such divestment, for all its rewards, is highly perilous and it takes courage to enact the striptease.
Drawing on a completed doctoral study into representations of resilience in adult learning, this paper seeks to explore the risks and responsibilities involved in employing naked auto/biographical writing techniques within conventional academic texts. A piece of naked writing will be offered for discussion as illustration of these tensions. It is argued that although such writing has no stronger truth claim than the traditional academic text – the apparently naked autobiographical text actually employs as many disguises and rhetorical devices as the conventional academic one – the process of writing it forces the writer to confront what Laurel Richardson describes as the “censorious hold of science writing on our consciousness as well as the arrogance it fosters in our psyche” (1997, p.89). As such, writing beyond what Derrida calls “the guardrail” (1976/1992, p.158) of academic conventions is a precarious, but potentially liberating, activity that ultimately has much to offer the subjects of research in terms of faithfully representing their/our experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes
EventBSA Auto/Biography Study Group One-Day Conference: Dress and Undress - The British Library, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Dec 200915 Dec 2009


ConferenceBSA Auto/Biography Study Group One-Day Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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