Creative Writing and the New Humanities by Paul Dawson

By Paul Dawson

This booklet examines the institutional heritage and disciplinary way forward for inventive writing within the modern academy, having a look well past the perennial questions 'can writing be taught?' and 'should writing be taught?'.
Paul Dawson strains the emergence of artistic writing along the hot feedback in American universities; examines the writing workshop with regards to theories of creativity and literary feedback; and analyzes the evolution of inventive writing pedagogy along and in accordance with the increase of 'theory' in the United States, England and Australia.
Dawson argues that the self-discipline of artistic writing constructed as a sequence of pedagogic responses to the long-standing 'crisis' in literary experiences. His polemical account offers a clean viewpoint at the value of inventive writing to the emergence of the 'new humanities' and makes an incredible contribution to present debates in regards to the function of the author as public highbrow.

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So instead of being inspired, being breathed into by divine power and becoming possessed with a mad poetic frenzy, the poet composes with a power like that of God. This power, rather than the ability to imitate nature, is a power to create another nature, one far more pleasing or so unlike the natural world as to justify the comparison of the poet with god. What the poet imitates is not natural phenomena but that which produced them – God’s creative power. It is notable that Sidney does not employ the word ‘create’, and this is because of the aforementioned potential for blasphemy.

We speak now of the artist’s activity as “creation”,’ Raymond Williams comments in The Long Revolution, ‘but the word used by Plato and Aristotle is the very different “imitation” ’ (1965: 19–20). Since antiquity poetic production had been referred to as mimesis, or imitation of nature, based on the authority of these two philosophers. The Renaissance introduced the idea of poetry as creation. The creation of a world in the poet’s mind, of a heterocosm, was considered analogous to the divine act of creation by God.

My argument is that the discipline of Creative Writing is a distinctly twentieth-century phenomenon, made possible by the transition in the common parlance of literary criticism from the faculty of imagination to that of creativity, and by the importance of this concept of creativity to the rise of modern English Studies. It is beyond the scope of this study to provide a history of the complex notion of the imagination. I would like to briefly sketch, however, the historical trajectory of the word as it shifted from a largely passive mental faculty to become the central focus of Romantic theory by virtue of its reconceptualisation as a creative faculty.

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