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The Creative Critical Seam


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Steve Willey
  • Assessment: a portfolio consisting of two to three pages of creative writing plus 500 words of critical writing (40%) and 2000-2500 words of creative-critical writing (60%)

Module description

Is Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own a critical essay, a memoir, or a piece of historical fiction and how might you decide? Why is Alexander Pope’s 1709 work ‘An Essay on Criticism’ written in heroic couplets and how does rhyming change his argument? And why would Tristan Tzara declare in his ‘Dada Manifesto’ of 1918 that he is ‘against manifestos’, and if you had to write one what would yours say?

This module explores the flexible boundary between creative and critical writing, cutting across time and genre, to investigate writing that works at the intersection of the critical and creative. Through a combination of lecturers, seminars, workshops and in-class writing exercises we will focus on forms that have been used to produce creative-criticism and in so doing look at writers (and occasionally artists) as different from one another as Claudia Rankine, Gustav Metzger, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, David Antin, Maurice Blanchot, Virginia Woolf, Kathy Acker, Walter Benjamin, and the American Language poets.

We will study and use the methods, approaches, processes and techniques of these writers to develop our own critical-creative writing practice. This might mean one week following in the steps of Jorge Luis Borges, a writer who made creative use of footnotes in his collection of short stories Ficciones, or it might mean taking inspiration from Hélène Cixous's definition of écriture féminine to produce your own body-centric writing. 

All the time we will consider the critical, theoretical and creative implications of such efforts, allowing you to combine intellectually challenging critical and theoretical ideas with a commitment to creative writing. The final assignment of the course asks you to produce a unique synthesis of academic and creative research, combining creative and critical writing in a single hybrid piece that responds to an issue, context or question raised by one or more of the writers studied on the course.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Relationships Between Power and Form
  • Writing through the Archive/History
  • Destruction as a Form of Creation and Critique
  • Creative Paratexts
  • The Twentieth-Century Literary Manifesto
  • Marxism, Post-Colonialism and Creative-Critical Writing
  • Creating and Critiquing Gender

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate a familiarity with a range of critical-creative forms
  • demonstrate a special awareness of the relationship between formal innovation and critiques of power
  • recognise central problems relating to critical-creative writing
  • recognise the worth and pleasure of writing critically and creatively 
  • make connections between the form and content of a critique through practice.