Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday: Waterview Downs: The Invert, the cross-dresser, the fictocritic

I was back at my first 'classroom' today - no, my second, the first was a cafe - sitting on the bench at Waterview Downs. Didn't see any rabbits ... maybe they've been ex-ter-minated!

Today's chapter - Chapter 9, The Writing Experiment - looked at four new types of writing which "transgress generic norms" like poems, plays or storys. They are:
  1. Synoptic novel
  2. Discontinuous prose
  3. Mixed genre writing
  4. Fictocriticism
"Postmodernist writing has played a double game with genre: both paying homage to it and yet pulling the rug from beneath its feet."

The synoptic novel is like a story synopsis (the kind you need to pitch a film script) without the full story. It's a standalone piece of work. It needs to have a strong sense of what the story is, but obviously can't have the details or development of a novel.

Discontinuous prose "breaks up narrative or expository writing: it is the bread and butter of experimental prose writers." This is how we tend to write diaries or notes: "A collection of fragments which circle around a topic, rather than a directional plot-oriented story."

A multi-genre piece combines and "cross-dresses" various types of writing. For instance, a novel-type narrative, then a poem, then an advertisement, then... the possibilities are endless. I kind of enjoyed the examples given of multi-genre writing; I think it suits the information-saturated culture we live in. Visually the equivalent would be film footage that is very rapidly intercut, with different frames appearing on the same screen like in 24. It's overwhelming, but it's a unity at the same time. We search for meaning or we create it.

Sometimes multi-genre includes quotes from other pieces, and the effect is that you see the quote in a different way, in a different context. It's that search for meaning, either finding it or creating it with what's around you.

Lastly (short lesson today!), Fictocriticism is a "fusion and exchange of critical and creative writing", sometimes known as the paraliterary or postcritical.

It makes you realise there's a line between literature and writing about literature, and then crosses that line. There are poems that comment on poetry. There are essays about literature written in a poetic style.

What I wonder is why rap music is not mentioned here. That's one thing I can't get my head around, that despite postmodern academic thinking claiming to have the marginalised in mind, it still divides culture into high and low, with stuff that most people have heard of falling into the low category. Why is that?

Why do I mention rap music? Because you often hear rappers mentioning themselves and the art of hip hop and/or rap in their music. It's a classic example of fictocriticism, I would've thought. Anyway...

Interestingly, fictocriticism uses multi-genre writing, discontinuous prose and linguistic play.

That's it for today. I'm only two chapters away from finishing The Writing Experiment! A great quote in the conclusion from today's chapter:

"The subversion of genre is central to an experimental approach and the textual and cultural norms it questions."

So there it is. I need both these books. With the one - Story - I'm learning the classic genre structure. With the other - The Writing Experiment - I'm learning the newer, more academic genres. What use will this knowledge be to me? Whenever you enter a new country it helps to know the landscape. I'm entering into a creative writing space I haven't actively been in, even though I've been a writer all my life. This is the map.


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