Unforgettably in love: uses of the amnesia trope in contemporary romance

Degree
Doctor of Philosophy in Creative Writing
University
Massey University
Publication year
2021
Comment

Here's the abstract:

This study examines and demonstrates ways in which contemporary romance employs the amnesia trope, focusing on its potential for both plot development and protagonists’ personal transformation. The amnesia trope allows authors to explore a variety of issues, such as matters of identity, the nature of human existence, deception and morality, as well as extreme vulnerability on the part of the heroine or hero due to lack of social context. The critical component of this thesis investigates the meaning and usages of amnesia in contemporary romance fiction, with a particular focus on medical amnesia resulting from external trauma. To analyse the trope, I briefly summarize how the genre has evolved over the last 70 years, highlighting its ability to impart guidance and its aptitude for flexibility and openness. While drawing connections between romance subgenres, particularly between contemporary romance and romantic suspense in which the protagonist experiences medical amnesia, I examine popular employments and implications of literary amnesia to demonstrate a spectrum of possibilities available to authors. Based on an in-depth analysis of six romance novels, I describe three frequently occurring approaches to the trope: amnesia as an ultimate proof that love conquers all; amnesia as an extreme vulnerability which transforms strangers into lovers; and amnesia as inner drive for reinvention, which heals emotional wounds and fosters the lovers’ personal development. The creative portion of the thesis, a full-length relationship-based novel titled Disremembered, applies many of the strategies discussed in the critical part to explore the richness of the amnesia trope within a cross-genre form that incorporates elements of romance, suspense, travelogue, and metafiction. The novel also gives narrative form to a personal endeavour to understand the character of ego, including elements of the nature versus nurture debate, popular understandings of dissociative identity disorder, and the theory of reincarnation.

The thesis was embargoed until 1 April 2023.