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Depression in autobiographical sports writing: A backstage pass into the dark locker room

Autobiographical sports writing (ASW) enables authors to provide the general public an insight into their world as an elite athlete. Access to the lives of these athletes is otherwise left to sports media and journalism, which can often skew material for the right headline. This autobiographical insight also allows athletes the opportunity to discuss their battles with depression and mental health without the scrutiny of media and without the risks of giving their competitors an edge. It is important for all autobiographical writers to establish a connection with the reader and recognise that by entering into the field of ASW they are also entering into an unwritten contract that implies their story is truthful. This requires a level of vulnerability and bravery from the writer, particularly with a topic such as depression. The resulting ASW grants the audience a backstage pass into their often dark and confronting ‘locker rooms’. This thesis will examine and critically analyse three primary texts from this field: Graeme Obree’s Flying Scotsman, Andre Agassi’s Open and Amanda Beard’s In The Water They Can’t See You Cry. I will undertake a literature-focused consideration of the methods each author uses to craft their narrative. These texts represent individual stories which are unique and set them apart from the vast majority of sports writing. Each author uses specific literary techniques to craft their narratives; which include a combination of first-person narration, present tense, outward expression of internal voice and careful selection of opening scenes. This is a creative practice thesis and the critical analysis will be followed by an extract from my own memoir in the same field, The Other Games. The creative component is thematically linked to the critical analysis, examining my personal life as an Olympic rowing coxswain and detailing some of my periodic battles with depression. This section will also incorporate and display some of the literary techniques that bring my chosen texts to life, in particular a carefully selected opening scene and an outward expression of internal voice through italics.
Type of thesis
Shepherd, C. (2020). Depression in autobiographical sports writing: A backstage pass into the dark locker room (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13894
The University of Waikato
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