The articles for this week’s discussion touched on issues in composition that I feel are directly related to the separation of English departments and creative writing programs in the academy. Studying Literature (capital L) seems to denote a certain type of critical writing that often dismisses ‘creative’ composition as less rigorous or less all together. This binary seems rather paradoxical at times considering students of literature, obviously, study canonical works of art. Furthermore, this separation seems to have trickled down to the students. For example, in my class my students definitely seem to have an understanding that there is a ‘serious’ type of writing that involves analysis and a ‘less serious’ type of writing that is creative.
Gemmarino relates this distinction to conceptions of what is considered professional in the field of English studies. The idea that we can rethink the way we teach students how to think critically by using creative writing as a tool to “de-essentialize” our stagnant notions of what it means to critically think does undo this professionalism in many ways. However, the classroom activities that Gammarino offers as examples seem like a fantastic way to bridge the supposed gap between what it means to write about/analyze a text and to craft a text. I particularly liked Melbye’s serious play writing activity and I think that students can use this triangulation to reflect on the relationship between the creative works, analysis, and their own ability to create and respond to their own work and the work of their peers.
I also found the student journal responses in the Bishop article to be, in a way, more interesting than the discussions between the theorists themselves. Bishop points out their confusion between the terms essay and story and also their very blatant fears about what skills they will need to be what they think is a writer. I thought that these entries were great examples of how students can and should interrogate what it means for them to be a writer. This also could allow students to problematize the term itself; make it their own!
While this all sounds lovely, the distinctions still remain as terminological boundaries. They exist. Furthermore, there are certain type of ‘writing situations’ that require a certain type of writing. This is more about communication than it is about genre. I don’t deny that these writing situations can be classed but I don’t necessarily think that these distinctions are implemented in a ‘top down’ fashion. There are undoubtedly different ways to write and think about writing. In other words, we write for different reasons- with different goals. Our personal goal for the writing may sometimes be the distinguishing factor. Writing a critical piece does require entirely different rhetorical skills than writing creatively. This doesn’t mean that I devalue (or that anyone should devalue) creative writing and the role of creative writing in the art of composition.
Nevertheless, I don’t think that the ways in which we distinguish our rhetoric must exist inside the realm of what Hesse would call “Imperialist composition” Creative writing should absolutely be integrated into a composition course for the very reason that composing a piece of writing-any piece of writing- IS a craft, which is the pivotal point for Hesse’s essay. ‘Crafting’ gives students ownership over their work and also, I think, can help students see their analytical work or rhetorical responses as a craft (as an art) as well. (Which is something for which I advocate!) I suppose I would pose the question: are there any negative results for dropping these boundaries or distinctions entirely? For example, if we could break this binary, what would that mean for our profession as such considering the bulk of what we write is actually expository, research based, analysis? Does marrying these two distinctions and ultimately fields, in some ways, reduce the very analytical act of critical theory in literature?