Babelfish Babylon: teaching creative writing in a multi-literate community

Brayfield, C (2009) 'Babelfish Babylon: teaching creative writing in a multi-literate community.' New Writing, 6 (3). pp. 201-214. ISSN 1479-0726

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A multi-literate community presents unique challenges in the teaching of Creative Writing, a practice-based discipline in which cultural awareness, identity and language skills are of central importance. Creative Writing also offers unique benefits in terms of social cohesion and personal development, by providing students with a forum in which to express their experiences, share their perspectives and discuss the issues that confront them in their lives. Situated in West London and drawing students from areas that have been transformed by immigration in the past decades, such as Southall, Heathrow and Slough, Brunel University has one of the most diverse campus communities in Britain. The complexity of our students' racial, national and cultural backgrounds is so great that broad concepts of race or nationality cannot be applied to them. In this community, new approaches to teaching practice and curriculum design have been adopted in developing a creative writing programme. Celia Brayfield also co-edited, with Professor Graeme Harper and Dr Andrew Green, this special edition of New Writing.

Item Type: Article

Perhaps because Creative Writing is predominantly established as a discipline in Higher Education only in the anglosphere, the particular issues relating to teaching the subject in a multi-literate community are still rarely addressed, even though writing is increasingly used in diverse communities to promote social cohesion.

The paper was based on the findings of a three-year study of students at Brunel University, which has one of the most diverse campuses in the UK, with students from over 100 different countries. In Year 1, students were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing their understanding of the English language including grammar and creative concepts such as metaphor. Their workshop writing was then reviewed in the succeeding two years, with the addition of focus group discussion, to observe the students’ learning and elicit their attitudes and beliefs. Much of the data collected was “soft,” which is to say attitudinal, but valuable in sensitising teaching staff and workshop leaders to the implications of each student’s linguistic heritage for their own learning.

Keywords: writing, teaching, identity, ethnicity, community, workshops
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
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Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2013 13:51
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 17:03
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