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Shame and the Act of Writing


Is the time coming when I can endure to read my own writing in print without blushing- shivering and wishing to take cover? (Virginia Woolf)

I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same… (Michel Foucault)

'The shame of being a man - is there any better reason to write?' (Gilles Deleuze)

Is all writing autobiography, and if so is shame always in close attendance? Does all writing ‘confess’ to something, irrespective of its form or its ‘authorial intent’? Does the valency of writing only come to full force when it exposes itself before a reader? Or does one write to efface oneself and to transform one’s shame into something else? Is there such a thing as shameless writing?

In addition to considering some of the ways in which shame and writing may be culturally configured -around questions of class, sexuality, ethnicity, and the politics of identity more broadly- we shall be inviting writers to share their thoughts on the ways in which shame is put to work in the process of writing.
Some of the tangible effects of shame might include writer’s block; interminable editing and re-drafting; the abandonment or destruction of writing; and the anxieties of ‘confessionalism’ or ‘impostureship’. But rather than designate such effects as ‘negative’, we are interested in reflecting with writers on the idea that shame can be a productive force in their practice.


Nanette Hoogslag, Wellcome Images


Record and analyse writers’ reflections on shame and the act of writing with a focus on creative engagements and interview work with students and practitioners.


'Showcasing Shame' a public talk at the Warwick Words festival, Saturday 29th November.

One day Symposium, 19th September 2014.


On 'writing-up' with Oliver Sacks

'Stating the Bleeding Obvious': An Interview with John Goodby on the Poetry of Shame

A review of shame writing: Blush by Elspeth Probyn