Students use innovative compositional techniques to write extraordinary texts, focusing on new writing methods rather than on traditional lyrical or narrative concerns. Writing experiments, conducted individually, collaboratively and during class meetings, culminate in chapbook-sized projects. Students read, listen to, and create different types of work, including sound poetry, cut-ups, constrained and Oulipian writing, uncreative writing, sticker literature, false translations, artists' books, and digital projects.
Students in 21W.750 completed chapbooks (or similar projects) of experimental writing. Each of these projects are either available in PDF, HTML, or other digital format or are documented to some extent:
This is a creative writing workshop course. Except on days when we have guests to read, present, and work with us, you can expect our class meetings, which will be held on Wednesday evenings, 7pm-10pm, to involve the following:
0) Participants will do assigned reading and writing in preparation for class.
1) At the beginning of our class meeting, at 7pm, one or more published/disseminated pieces ("other people's experimental writing") will be read aloud or otherwise presented by a workshop participant. These readings will typically be from the list of assigned pieces.
2) We will react, discuss the pieces we have heard, discover and admire particular techniques that were evidently used in their composition, and wonder aloud about how these techniques can be extended and used in other ways. (This is "theoretical writing" rather than "experimental writing," but we'll get on to the experimental writing.)
3) We will extend our discussion to cover the assigned reading. How does it change the way we read? Challenge conventional notions of writing? Make us rethink forms, English, and the subjects and themes of the piece? Would it make us think differently if we wrote in this way? During this time, the instructor may give a short presentation about the historical, political, and cultural context in which the texts we have discussed were written. Note, however, that such a presentation will be left for after we have had a chance to give an immediate reaction and to let the writing provoke us in our own context today.
4) Around 8:15pm we will take a ten-minute break.
5) When we reconvene, we will begin with a short in-class writing exercise inspired by the techniques of particular people, literary groups, or movements. We will share what we wrote with each other.
6) We will discuss the exercise - not just the outcomes of it, but also the structure and setup of the activity itself, and how that facilitated or inhibited new types of writing.
7) Work from participants: One or more participants will read their work aloud or otherwise present it to the group. We will pretend that the work offered to us in this way is our own writing, and that the the underlying goals and purposes are our goals and purposes, and we will sincerely try to determine how to revise, reimagine, reconceptualize, add to, or cut the text to better accomplish these purposes. We will not ask (or allow) the writer to interpret or explain what is being expressed in his or her text. Our discussion will be undertaken with complete respect for the writer, the text, and the purposes behind the writing of it, and will not resort to either euphemism or brutality.
8) Initially, specific short writing assignments will be given that will be due the following week. Later in the semester, participants will develop concepts for and work on their main projects. The parameters of these projects are to be determined by the participants themselves.
Nick's regular office hours, beginning after the first class meeting, are tentatively scheduled for Wednesdays 1-2pm (in 14N-233). Nick is also available to meet by appointment, and can conference with you on IM/iChat (screen name coachmontfort) by appointment.
40% - Preparation for and participation in class. This includes the physical presence of your material form in the classroom; reading aloud or otherwise presenting the experimental writing you have done and that done by others; engaging in discussion that is informed by having completed the assigned reading; and doing writing during our in-class writing exercises.
20% - Completion of the short writing assignments in a way that shows an understanding of the constraint, prompt, or concept and which works toward some innovation. Each of the assignments will be valued equally.
40% - The main project. The framework for the project (form, concept, material) should be innovative and appropriate to the author's goals. The scope should be suitable for a project that is the culmination of a semester of writing work. The writing should be innovative. Some aspect of the project should be awesome.
The lists of books, sound pieces, digital works, and shorter texts below are not exhaustive, but are provided to give a sense of what we will read and experience in the course.
Some of these books are out of print or have been printed in limited editions. They will be made available in other ways. For instance, they may be placed on reserve at the Hayden Library or made available for you to read in my office during office hours or by appointment.
Some of these books are to be read completely, from start to finish. We will consider others in different ways. The first on the list, for instance, has too many possible poems for a person to read in a lifetime. Others will also require different sorts of reading strategies that involve understanding a framework or concept, experiencing some of the texture of the work, but not reading the text cover to cover.
A ($) indicates that you should buy the book in question at the Coop or from your favorite online or meatspace bookstore. We will read the two books marked ($) in their entirety. We may also read significant amounts of the short books by Hartman and Kenner (Sentences) and by TakaHashi (Not So Too Much of Much of Everything). It would be a good idea to purchase these if you find affordable copies.
Cent mille milliards de poÃ¨mes [Hundred
Thousand Billion Poems]
Charles O. Hartman and Hugh Kenner
2001 (new edition with additional poems, 2009)
Not So Too Much of Much of Everything
Flowers of Bad
Bombardamento di Adrianopoli [Bombardment of Adrianopolis]
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
The Four Horsemen
What the President Will Say and Do
J. R. Carpenter
Kludge: A Meditation
Brian Kim Stefans
Darren Wershler and Bill Kennedy
Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights
From Finnegans Wake (pages 1 and 2)
Continuidad de los parques [Continuity of Parks]
Carnival: the First Panel
The Situationist International
1968 and surrounding years
From Selected Declarations of Dependence (selected
Via (48 Dante variations)
2002: A Palindrome Story
Nick Montfort and William Gillespie
From Drawn Inward (part I, palindrome poems)
Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg
Writing assignments due Feb 12: (1) Write a good sentence of exactly 100 words. (2) Choose a writing process, constraint, or form inspired by one of our 12 readings from Feb 5 and, using it, write something of no more than one page. Use a different process/constraint/form that we used in class for writing exercises. (3) Choose another writing process, constraint, or form (again, one you have not yet used) inspired by one of our 12 readings from Feb 5 and, using it, write something of no more than one page. (4) Revise your in-class writing exercise from the last class.
Readings for Feb 12: Pataphysics: A Religion in the Making (Asger Jorn), Official-looking page of the Collège de ’Pataphysique, The DADA Manifesto (Tristan Tzara), The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin (William Burroughs).
With some Futurism and some more Dada...
Writing assignments due Feb 19: (1) Cut up three printed texts into three piles of snippets. (2) Assemble three poems, one from each pile, and scan or photograph them. (3) Replace snippets, choose two piles to combine, draw a poem from the combined pile, and scan or photograph it. Print the results; you have four poems to turn in. (4) Create a digital cut-up using only a computer and its text manipulation capabilities.
Additional reading for next time: The Futurist Manifesto, translation by James Joll.
Readings for Feb 19: And the Seventh Dream is the Dream of Isis (David Gascoyne)
Writing assignments due Feb 26: (1) Play several rounds of Question & Answer with friends. Bring what you believe to be the best results (at least 3) to class. (2) Invent a reasonably simple writing game similar to Exquisite Corpse, Question & Answer, and Syllogism. (3) Try this one out as well and bring the best results.
Readings for February 26: Pre-read all five chapters of the title poem in Eunoia (skim quickly through the book to understand what can be understood at a glance) and read chapers A and E closely. Also, the three-page Futurist Manifesto. Bring your copy of Eunoia to class!
Writing assignments due Mar 5: (1) Bring an unusual, innovative text to class that fascinates you (something "experimental," 1 page, copies for everyone in class) (2) Bring a short text or meaninful excerpt from a text that you love (does not have to be "experimental," 1 page, copies for everyone in class) (3) Do a univocalic "translation" of a short text. (4) Fire a probe. (That is, begin an experiment or exploration by actually doing some writing.) In a single page, explore some process, constraint, etc. you may use in your final project.
Readings for Mar 5: Christian Bök's Eunoia. Complete the book. Your focus, and the focus of our discussion, will be the title poem. Bring your copy of Eunoia to class! Also, please watch and listen to Christian's reading at MIT two years ago.
Writing assignments due Mar 13: (1) Write two 20-consonant poems in two distinct voices (2) Write something in a form of your choosing from Table of Forms (3) Select any previous writing of yours for this class and revise it at the level of process, form, or constraint. That is, choose a different writing framework or overall technique and rewrite using that. (4) Select any previous writing of yours for this class and revise it without changing process, form, constraint. You can change anything else.
Readings for Mar 12: Selections on/from the Oulipo. (Reading all of Queneau's Sonnets is not required, since it is impossible.) William Gillespie's Table of Forms. (I don't expect you to read the whole book/site, but you should study it and understand how several different sorts of forms are used in composing poems.) Excerpt from Craig Dworkin's Legion.
Writing assignments due Mar 19: (1) Write in another form of your choosing from Table of Forms (2) Write in yet another form of your choosing from Table of Forms (3) Develop your own form (one that can concisely stated and quickly understood) and write a piece of about a page in that form (4) Complete a second "probe" — another one-page exploration of what may become your final project. This one can be along very similar lines as your first probe, if you were very pleased with the result, or it can be completely different. These are the last "small assignments" — the remaining assignments will be draft work toward your final project.
Readings for Mar 19: Poems by Augusto de Campos, available as image files and PDFs at http://www.ubu.com/historical/decampos_a/index.html. Three untitled poems by Haroldo de Campos, linked from the top of http://www.ubu.com/historical/decampos_h/index.html. Carnival, first panel, by Steve McCaffrey, http://archives.chbooks.com/online_books/carnival/1.html.
Bring your copy of Watt to class!
Writing assignment due Apr 2: Bring some writing toward your main project -- no more than a page; one copy is fine, although we may share and discuss such work. Choose one of "the hard parts" if your project has sections that you can discern as more difficult to complete than others.
Belatedly, here is a link to an (Internet Archive) copy of the Table of Forms.
Readings for Apr 2: All of Watt.
Bring your copy of Watt to class!
Writing assignment due Apr 9: Bring some writing toward your main project -- no more than a page; one copy is fine, although we may share and discuss such work. Choose one of "the hard parts" if your project has sections that you can discern as more difficult to complete than others.
Today we'll continue our attempt to understand Watt and how the more unusual parts of it can be read. We'll also workshop student final project work.
Writing assignment due Apr 16: Bring some writing toward your main project -- no more than a page; one copy is fine, although we may share and discuss such work. Choose one of "the hard parts" if your project has sections that you can discern as more difficult to complete than others.
Take a look at/give a read to these, which we will also read together in class.
Dakota and other works can be found at Y0UNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES.
Jörg Piringer's Unicode.
Selected books written by erasure:
Writing assignment due Apr 23: Bring some writing toward your main project -- no more than a page; one copy is fine, although we may share and discuss such work. Choose one of "the hard parts" if your project has sections that you can discern as more difficult to complete than others.
Several fun selections, some of which are mentioned in the main list above. The selections here are not serially presented, as with April 9, and are typically interactive.
Writing assignment due April 30: Bring some writing toward your main project -- no more than a page; one copy is fine, although we may share and discuss such work. Choose one of "the hard parts" if your project has sections that you can discern as more difficult to complete than others. Also, complete a Web page with your current description of your main project (a short text) on it. This is part of your final project. The page will eventually contain the text of your project and/or documentation of it.
The main project is due May 7 before/at the start of class. You are also assigned to update the Web page you turned in last week with the current description of your project and with either the entire text of the project or some documentation of it.
If possible, I will arrange for some guests who are interested in experimental writing to join us to learn about your projects.
We will build on our experiences this semester to write a collaborative experimental text together, one which we will make available to the public. No assignment due, no readings for May 14.
The Writing and Communication Center (12-132) offers free one-on-one professional advice from lecturers who are published writers and experienced college teachers. They offer advice about all types of academic, creative, and professional writing and about all aspects of oral presentations. They offer advice also about applications, theses, CVs, etc. To register with our online scheduler and to make appointments, go to https://mit.mywconline.com/index.php . To access the Center’s many pages of advice about writing and oral presentations, go to http://cmsw.mit.edu/ writing-and-communic ations-center/. The Center’s core hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; evening hours vary by semester–check the online scheduler for up-to-date hours.
According an official communication sent me, "MIT has a policy of no policy regarding the use of laptops and other electronic devices in classroom." The instructor also has a policy of no policy regarding the use of laptops and other electronic devices in classroom.