Writing After Criticism
In this workshop the starting point is an investigation of the contentious claim that the literary criticism which characterised the modernist and late modernist periods of literary study and the teaching of writing – a criticism based in close reading, textual analysis and rhetorical analysis – no longer provides a vital context for the practice of writing. Philosophical theory, cultural studies, media studies, environment studies, popular culture studies, digital aesthetics now provide the major critical and meta-critical languages for new writing. In distinction to these areas, text-based study of writing has been slow to invent new categories of study and often unwilling to adopt new ways of thinking about readability in relationship to contemporary creative practice. The paper retrospects equally on Barthes’ claim (1969) that there is an “irreducible antinomy” between creative and critical practice and on Gadamer’s notion of the work as “transformation into structure.” (1960) At the same time, the paper looks out at Gregory Ulmer’s notion (1994) of the current hypermedia formation of a spatial, electronic writing which is beyond, or “the other side” of, rhetoric. Utilising examples from recent print and online story and poetry, the paper focuses on a number of key concepts in creative practice – metaphor, style, originality, genre, form, medium – and asks how effectively writing can be taught outside the context of traditionally conceived critical approaches. Can we define “creative practice” outside of a critical definition of what is literature? If this can be done what does it tell us about writing now? In particular, what does it tell us about structure and readability?
Keywords: Writing, Creative writing, Text and textuality, Hypermedia and hypertext, Literary criticism, Critical theory, Hermeneutics, Metaphor, Teaching writing
Senior Lecturer and Program Director, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney