Resisting the straitjacket: reasserting creative writing as a radical practice in the academy

Sweetman, L (2018) Resisting the straitjacket: reasserting creative writing as a radical practice in the academy. In: Creative Writing Studies Organization Conference, 17 - 18 October 2018, Montreat, North Carolina, USA.

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In England and Wales, universities are now accountable through a government-defined system of metrics, for the employment outcomes of their students. Numbers of students in ‘graduate’ positions twelve months after graduation, and their remuneration, form part of the Teaching Excellence Framework (Office for Students, 2018) against which higher education institutions are publicly ranked. (A sidebar: academics’ classroom teaching practice is not assessed by the Teaching Excellence Framework). According to these measures an institution like Bath Spa University, in the west of England - which centres its creative, cultural and business programmes, and from which our students often graduate into entry-level jobs in the creative and cultural industries not known for their high-paying salaries - might look vulnerable to a low ranking. Bath Spa University's creative writing programme at undergraduate and postgraduate level is held up within the institution and beyond as an exemplar in supporting what is referred to as the employability (Morley, 2001) of our students. Our undergraduates choose from a variety of modules beyond simple prose, poetry and script. They devise their own independent projects, work to live briefs and have the opportunity throughout the programme to choose from classes that provide the professional skills that will enable them to make the most of their creative writing abilities in the workplace. We emphasise these employability skills (at the behest of those government interventions) in tandem with our teaching of writing as a craft (Webb, 2017). Postgraduate students on our popular master’s programmes have enormous success, evidenced by the numbers of our writers who go on to be published and win national and international writing awards. But… Are we doing our writers a disservice too? Are we thinking enough and doing enough about the journey to a writing identity for our undergraduate writers (Ivanič, 1994)? Is it enough to provide a broad curriculum of writing for form, genre, style and audience alongside a pathway to employment, or should we do more at undergraduate level to make transparent the connection between the curriculum and writing as research (Harper, 2013) or writing as social action? This paper argues that, in a neoliberal higher education context, the experience of creative writing can and should be a radical act of personal and public transformation that resists the straitjacketing of the creative process onto a pathway of traditional publication in established markets and which reasserts writing in the academy as a tool of experimentation, liberation and confrontation (Retallack, 2003).

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2018 11:29
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 15:39
References: Harper, G. (2013) Creative Writing Research in Harper, G. (ed) A Companion to Creative Writing, pp. 278-290 John WIley & Sons, Ltd: London. Ivanič, R. (1994) I is for Interpersonal: Discoursal Construction of Writer Identities and the Teaching of Writing, Linguistics and Education vol. 6, pp. 3-15. Available at: 0898589894900183/1-s2.0-0898589894900183-main.pdf?_tid=c60d4c5e-1543-491a-932ec5a153173782&acdnat=1525191917_6438e63891bfe326f296e74714f86cc8 [Accessed: 1/5/2018]. Morely, L. (2001) Producing New Workers: Quality, Equality and Employability in Higher Education in Quality in Higher Education, Vol. 7, No. 2 Office for Students (2018) What is the TEF? Accessible at: advice-and-guidance/teaching/what-is-the-tef/ [Accessed: 30/4/2018] Retallack, J. (2003) The Poethical Wager, University of California Press: London. Webb, J. (2017) The Traces of Certain Collisions: Contemporary Writing and Old Tropes in Vanderslice, S. and Manery, R. (eds) Can Creative Writing Really be Taught?, Bloomsbury:London
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