WRIT 350:
The Theory & Practice of Literary Creation

Calendar Description:

A lecture course surveying the nature of the creative process.

Recent Summary:

The Greek word poietes means "one who makes" and refers to those who assemble any form of literary artifact — playwrights, pastoral poets and writers — in the form that eventually became the novel, epic poetry — but also the word, in its verbal form, refers to making of all sorts: ship-building, metal work, ceramics. Though such making is present all around us, the creative act at its heart is difficult to describe. Grasping creativity, like trying to name, say, the essence of love, is like attempting to catch fish with your bare hands. There is something there to be trapped and held, but it is tremendously elusive. The best we can do this year is ask a number of questions about the creative process and attempt answers that we know at the outset can't be complete, yet which will still be helpfully illuminating.

This will not be a philosophy course in aesthetics, though periodically we will be listening to what ancient and modern philosophers have had to say about the making of literature. This class will not study various psychological theories about the creative process. Instead we will read other writers (poets, novelists, essayists, dramatists) on the business of making literature, and we will speak amongst ourselves, writer to writer, about a few of the questions that occur to people who write screenplays, poems, stories, novels, plays and essays. What is it to be a creator — a writer, visual artist, composer? How do I know if I am a writer? Is creativity only an artistic quality, or can people who do not see themselves as artists, mechanics, for example, or mathematicians, also be creative? Is creativity, while deeply subjective, also somehow a political act? Or is writing an irresponsible flight from political duty? If literature isn't political, why are artists often the first to be suppressed in totalitarian regimes? What is it to fall silent as a writer? How do you begin a work? Where do the words come from?

This course takes on the matter of artistic creation by examining published interviews with authors; letters of advice between writers; the work of writers-philosophers on art; the odd poem and story; and through a number of panels (where we will meet creators other than writers — scientists, visual artists, choreographers — and hear them speak of their creative process) and symposia.



Course#: WRIT 350
Units: 1.5

Prerequisites: Second-year standing.

Note: Credit will be granted for only one of WRIT 350, WRIT 200.


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