Stephanie de Montalk

Stephanie’s dissertation blended a personal memoir of intractable pain with a study of pain's resistance to verbal expression.

PhD awarded 2014

Stephanie is a former nurse, documentary filmmaker and member of the New Zealand Film and Literature Board of Review. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington, and was the Victoria University of Wellington / Creative NZ Writer in Residence in 2005.

She is the author of seven books: the memoir/biography, Unquiet World: The Life of Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk (Victoria University Press, 2001, also published in Polish translation by Jagiellonian University Press, Krakow, 2003); the historical novel/poetic narrative, The Fountain of Tears (VUP 2006); four collections of poetry, namely Animals Indoors (VUP, 2000, winner of the Best First Book of Poetry Award at the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards), The Scientific Evidence of Dr Wang (VUP, 2002), Cover Stories (VUP, 2005) and Vivid Familiar (VUP, 2009). How Does It Hurt? (VUP, 2014) is a blend of memoir, imaginative biography and poetry, which formed the creative component of her PhD. In 2015, Stephanie was awarded the Nigel Cox Prize for How Does it Hurt?

A slightly revised version of the book will be published in the UK and the USA, in November 2018, by by leading academic publishers Routledge, under the title Communicating Pain: An exploration of suffering through Language, Literature and Creative Writing.

Stephanie writes: 'My PhD dissertation, How Does It Hurt?: Narrating Pain, aims to bring visibility and a measure of clarity to the state of being that is physical pain. In particular, it confronts the paradox of writing about personal pain, notwithstanding pain's resistance to verbal expression. The focus is chronic pain, which, despite advances in the science of pain and the alleviation of acute (temporary) pain, is little understood, poorly communicated, inadequately treated and, according to recent studies, silently reaching epidemic proportions.

'The work overlaps a study of my response to living with and writing about chronic pain since an accident in Warsaw in 2003 (the creative component) with consideration of pain's linguistic parameters and the ways in which three other writers have lived with and written about intractable pain (the critical research component). The thesis as a whole, thus, unfolds within a framework of my own personal story, and those of Polish poet and intellectual, Aleksander Wat (1900-1967), English novelist and social theorist, Harriet Martineau (1802-1876), and French novelist, Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897), who believed that for victims of incurable pain, literature "is a solace and relief [...] a mirror and a guide"'.

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