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Title: Ipseity : using the Social Identity Perspective as a guide to character construction in realist fiction
Author: Stott, Luke
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 3021
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2016
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"Instead of studying, for example, how the psychology of personality limits and prevents real social and political change, we should be studying how political and ideological changes create new personalities and individual needs and motives." The above quotation is from social psychologist Professor John Turner, who is one of the two theorists, the other being Henri Tajfel, most responsible for the Social Identity Perspective, the principle subject of this thesis. The Social Identity Perspective is an approach to Social Psychology that incorporates two sub-theories: Tajfel's Social Identity Theory and Turner's Self-Categorization Theory. This thesis is based upon using the perspective for the purposes of creating more realistic and believable fictional characters in realist fiction. For the purposes of this thesis Pam Morris' definition of realism will be used, that being, 'any writing that is based upon an implicit or explicit assumption that it is possible to communicate about a reality beyond the writing.' According to both theories, individuals can develop two principal identities: the personal self, which is to say a collection of idiosyncratic qualities that define them as a unique individual, and a collective self (or social identity) that encapsulates the status and characteristics of the social groups they belong to in opposition to other social groupings. Turner theorised that the personality of a human being is heavily influenced by their social context at an unconscious level. This influence can be made manifest by their parents, by their school friends and work colleagues, by their romantic partners, and especially by the collective cultural expectations native to the area they choose to reside in. Turner put forward the concept that our personality and actions are therefore influenced by society at the level of how the individual defines himself or herself. This occurs without agency on the part of the individual. These social belief systems therefore mould what the individual thinks, their actions, and their motivations. This thesis will demonstrate a method of usage for elements of Social Psychology, specifically the Social Identity Perspective that underpins the actions, interactions and motivations of the fictional characters contained within the thesis's creative element. It is the contention of this thesis that The Social Identity Perspective will assist an author in marrying together ever more realistic characterisation to other areas of writer research already extensively drawn upon by the author such as those projects focused upon creating a more realistic setting in a historical novel for instance. As previously stated it is the intention of this thesis to apply aspects of social psychology to the creation of realist texts only, the findings however may also be of use to authors who write in other genres, after all even the writer of fantastic fiction still requires characters whose actions are fundamentally recognisable and justifiable to the reader in order for them to be able to make sense of the fiction and as Henry James said, 'one can speak best from one's own taste, and I may therefore venture to say the air of reality (solidity of specification) seems to me to be the supreme virtue of a novel'. It is the aim of this thesis that its findings may highlight the potential of using The Social Identity Perspective and other adjuncts of Social Psychology as tools for both plot construction and character development that is completely realistic. This may then lead to other areas of research, some of which are suggested in the concluding chapter of this thesis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social identity perspective ; Social identity theory ; Self-categorisation theory ; Characterisation ; Realist fiction ; Literary criticism ; Creative writing ; Novel construction ; Plot ; Social psychology