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Book review of Creative Writing Studies: Practice, Research and Pedagogy

Book review of Creative Writing Studies: Practice, Research and Pedagogy

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Book review of Graeme Harper and Jeri Kroll (2008) Creative Writing Studies: Practice, Research and Pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters
Book review of Graeme Harper and Jeri Kroll (2008) Creative Writing Studies: Practice, Research and Pedagogy. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters

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Published by: Margaret Anne Clarke on May 26, 2009
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Graeme Harper and Jeri Kroll ( 2008)
Creative Writing Studies: Practice,Research and Pedagogy 
. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.ISBN-13: 978-1-84769-020-3 (hbk)ISBN-13: 978-1-84769-019-7 (pbk)Margaret Anne Clarke
Creative writing, both as a practice and discipline, occupies a somewhatambiguous position within the context of higher education. It is a boom subject interms of student recruitment, but one that has yet to be completely defined as anacademic discipline, and establish its full tenure in the academy. There havetraditionally even been doubts as to whether the discipline can be ‘taught’ at all.The edited collection of essays,
Creative Writing Studies: Research and Pedagogy 
 addresses as comprehensively as possible the questions, dilemmas and ideasregarding the ongoing establishment of creative writing as an academic field, andfocussing specifically on the university sector.The editors present in the introduction an overview of the field of creativewriting, and the two fundamental dilemmas which inform present considerations onits current position within higher education. Firstly, creative writing is a practice-ledand process-based discipline, the fundamental characteristic that differentiates itfrom the study of literature oriented towards the study of finished artefacts with(usually) a named author, and belonging to a specific genre. As such, the disciplinegenerates multiple meanings and interpretations concerning its definition, and inparticular, the relation between practice, pedagogy and theory.Secondly, as the editors point out, up till now, the establishment of creativewriting at higher education level, as both taught course and degree programme, hasprincipally focussed on provision at undergraduate level. The strength of creativewriting within the academy derives from its popularity with students and its capacityto recruit. Thus the agenda for creative writing has been principally driven byconsiderations which are primarily pedagogical in nature: innovations in teaching andworkshop-based practice have been the principal focus of the discipline. Theagenda for research is less clear, or has yet to be fully established in certainaspects. This is especially the case at doctoral level, where the balance of theoryand practice has yet to be fully defined, and also the related questions of appropriatebenchmarks and methodologies for assessing both creative artefacts andresearched study produced by post-graduate students.
The main body of the volume consists of contributions from individuals basedin universities in the UK, the United States and Australia, all of whom are bothpractitioners of creative writing, and tutors in the university sector. Using concreteexamples drawn from their own first-hand experiences as tutors, students of creativewriting, authors, and translators and administrators, the contributors reflect on theirpractice, testing the epistemological validity of their evolving theories and ideasagainst their actual experiences in the classroom and workshop. The contributorsalso consider both the process of creative writing and the final written artefact, and inwhat ways this process sheds further light on the nature of composition, the specificformal genres of the novel and poetry, and engagement with an already establishedliterary tradition and canon. All these considerations are components of the materialpedagogical practice which enable the students to undertake the long and frequentlyarduous process of creating a finished artefact which must then be assessed andbenchmarked within the formal assessment requirements of the university degreeprogramme. This is not a straightforward process; it may engender frequent tensionsbetween creative and critical practices, and within departments and institutions,given that any creative writing programme must demand a high degree of personalautonomy and originality on the part of students. Of particular interest in the volume,therefore, are those chapters which integrate accounts of the student experience ofundertaking a formally assessed creative writing programme and the perspectivethey themselves may bring to the process. Some innovative approaches aresuggested by Nat Hardy in the chapter ‘Gonzo-Formalism: A Creative Writing Meta-Pedagogy for Non-Traditional Students, which also explores the nature of thestudent cohort, and the role of the student in the formation of ‘theoretical praxis’. Ofinterest also is Nessa O’Mahony’s chapter, ‘That was the Answer: Now What Wasthe Question? The PhD in Creative and Critical Writing: A Case Study’. The chaptergives an account of her experience both of undertaking a Master’s programme andthe ongoing process of creating an imaginative written piece within the formaleducational contexts of a PhD programme, ‘elucidating the process of writing’ whileshe does so. While the volume does not pretend to provide a definitive answer tothe numerous challenges facing those seeking to embed the discipline further withinhigher education it defines what those challenges are in a lucid and readable way,and is recommended for any tutor and administrator in the sector seeking to definetheir theoretical practice further within the field.

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