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Lucretia McCarthy

Languages and Literature, University of Leicester

Thesis title:

Weird, Feared, and Queered: Contemporary Experimental Women’s Life Writing

My thesis focuses on women’s contemporary experimental life-writing from the nineteen-nineties to present. The primary texts under examination are from four North American writers, each using forms that are atypical in the autobiographical tradition: the graphic memoirs of Alison Bechdel, the autofiction of Chris Kraus, the blog of Jackie Wang, and the autotheory of Maggie Nelson. The authors are significant for unconventional presentations of their own identity and agency, as well as their intersections of race, sexuality, aging, gender, physical and mental illness.

My study of their work centres on two key concepts: co-construction and oversharing. Co-construction is a bricolage technique using the biographies of others, theory, multimedia, and secondary references within first-person narratives. It aids the proliferation of diverse conceptions of female identity. It also acts as a validating force in the articulation of marginalised women’s lives subjected to critical invalidation encapsulated by my second area of investigation, ‘oversharing.’ Oversharing is a misogynistic expression connoting inappropriate female accounts of the personal, and the enduring grand narratives these subjects are read against. It acts as a mainstream successor to similarly pathologizing terms including narcissism and hysteria. Whilst oversharing is an accusation that the authors fight against, it can also form a narrative technique in their work, revealed in their embrace of detail and self-exposure, which works to alter the parameters of recognised identity. By examining how co-construction and oversharing present themselves in the texts, I draw wider conclusions on how experimental techniques enable the authors to challenge established boundaries of form and theme. The thesis analyses the work of writers who have previously been outside of the academy and scrutinises who is still excluded from public self-expression. In investigating representation, reception and recognition through life-writing, I make more significant claims on female identity and legitimised subjects outside of the texts.

My research builds upon scholarship in the fields of life writing, digital cultures and feminist, crip, and queer theory. In doing so, it brings together seemingly disparate texts that reveal a literary movement influenced and influencing contemporary cultural conditions, such as the rise in blogging and social media, and campaigns like #MeToo. These works fit a broader historical lineage of collaborative life writing, American autobiographical traditions and female self-exposure.

Research Area

  • Languages and Literature


Lucretia Rose McCarthy, 'Review of "Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency" by Olivia Laing,' Everybody's Reviewing (3 August 2020) <http://everybodysreviewing.blogspot.com/2020/08/review-by-lucretia-rose-mccarthy-of.html>

[Forthcoming] Special issue of Taylor & Francis' Life Writing journal based on 'Life's Not Personal: A Creative-Critical Conference on Experimental Life Writing,' Editor.


Created Identities Conference 2020, 'Agent Provocateur: Subversive Identities in the Experimental Life Writing of Chris Kraus'

Midlands4Cities Research Festival 2021, 'Exposing Her Sources, Exposing Herself: Challenging Otherness in the Experimental Life Writing of Maggie Nelson'

PAMLA Conference 2021, Autobiography Panel, 'Crip/Queer/Other: Radical Exposures in Maggie Nelson's Autotheory'

Life's Not Personal: A Creative-Critical Conference on Experimental Life Writing 2022, Organiser and Panel Chair <https://lifesnotpersonalconference.wordpress.com/>

Public Engagement & Impact

Wellcome Collection, 2022, Material Encounters Workshop Participant

Lloyds Banking Group, 2022, 'Raising Marginalised Voices' Talk

Whitechapel Gallery Placement, Ongoing, 'Unheard Voices: Marginalised Stories from the Whitechapel Gallery Archive. Talk and article forthcoming.

Other Research Interests

Queer Theory

Gender Studies


New Media

Contemporary Literature

Life Writing

Medical Humanities

Crip Theory


January 2020 - Present: Contemporary Women's Writing Association

June 2021 - Present: Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association 

January 2022 - Present: Auto/Biography Society


University of Leicester School of Arts Shorts, November 2020, 'Weird, Feared, and Queered: Contemporary Experimental Women's Life Writing'

University of Leicester Book Club, November 2020, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts

Queen Mary University of London Alumni for LGBTQ+ History Month, February 2022, <https://www.instagram.com/p/CaegpqqAYgD/>


MA English Literature  [Distinction]

Queen Mary University of London   September 2017 – September 2018

Dissertation topic: ‘Disrupting Truths, Disrupting Selves: Women’s Contemporary Experimental Autobiography’. A 15,000 word exploration of five contemporary life writing texts spanning experimental forms to thematically interrogate presentation of the body, mind and relationships through feminist critical theory.   [Distinction Classification]

BA English Literature and Linguistics   [First Class Honours] 

Queen Mary University of London   September 2011 – June 2014

Dissertation topic: ‘Awakening the Working-Class Tradition, Personal and Political Influence of a Hybrid-Realist Novel – The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’. A 10,000 word exploration of Robert Tressell’s Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, a realist novel from a working class perspective that I argue sparked the beginnings of the working class literary tradition and persists in creating real world political, social and cultural impact.   [First Class Classification]

Selected Training

I have received training to gain proficiency in writing and editing, arts management, working in archives, and research ethics and integrity. Below, I list key courses:

Royal Literary Fund, Creative Writing with Marina Benjamin, accepted via competitive application

University of the Arts and Central Saint Martins, Arts Management course

University of Leicester, Interview Skills for Researchers

Royal Literary Fund, Editing with James McConnachie, accepted via competitive application

University of Leicester, Preparing to Teach in Higher Education

Other Academic Involvement

Peer Reviewer for University of Nottingham's Languages, Texts and Society Journal


Graduate Teaching Placement 2021-22, University of Leicester, School of Arts

Modules Include:

The Novel Around the World (Undergraduate, Y1)

Concepts in Criticism (Undergraduate, Y2)