Starting from the end or where we left our gaze hanging on a cliff or a horizon that has not yet been made into a sign that can be read, indeed, may take one into a road of writing that begins and may never end. This time I plunged into it without wondering about the … I punctuate here.
In Other words, it is to the extent that the signifying structure interposes itself between perception and consciousness that the unconscious intervenes. Yet, it is no longer in the form of a Gleichbesetzung or the function of the maintenance of a certain investment, but insofar as it concerns the Bahnungen (Lacan 1992, p.61).
I shall diverge from the usual explication, and leave these lines hanging. I pretend to rebel against the master, whom I have just invented. An infinite number of inscriptions touching upon the combinations of roots that “be” once you expand their ex-istence/insistence. This entry took some uncertain time to become certain of its desired focus – a focus that does not desire to be the focal point but rather an opening – not a hole (Ettinger, 2006).
The greedy exit from my previous discourse in the first entry aims to briefly present the connection that has been made between the act and pedagogy of writing and psychoanalytic theory. The text that follows simply sketches how the use of some concepts from Lacanian psychoanalytic theory might “help”/ produce a useful lens to explore issues in the act of writing – or to manage to articulate some inherent complexities that confound the analysis and study of writing. The text that follows is a struggle.
(Parenthesis: a thesis up to par with what one is thinking/feeling? I live and work in Greece. I moved back from the U.K. eight months ago. I found a job. Can the author’s country die whilst they are writing about another subject?). One can never realize in how many ways a sentence may tell the truth. Oh NO, one can. Can you spot the unconscious revelations in my writing against my superego academic will? I gladly invite you to monitor how my writing cannot resist but succumb to the law of the Father. Unless, you won’t understand what shall follow, or you might understand by not understanding…unless I have made friends with my father.
Conceptual Uncertainty, “The root of All Evil?” or “The creative Ally of the Psyche” –*not all of these draft titles will be used below
I plunge abruptly (not so abruptly actually) into explaining how some aspects of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory might be used to help us understand the study of creative writing, what one (or I) might openly define as any writing. I begin with a rationale that supposedly justifies the methodological nature of creative writing and its link to Lacanian theory. Then, I follow with a brief introduction of ways in which Lacanian theory has been used to conceptualize the act of writing. This is only the beginning, which may never end. The next entries shall play with the certainties and certain T’s…
Conceptual uncertainty, that is not having a standard compass of terms that might be followed in the act of writing, teaching writing and researching writing, has been the cause for much debate in the field. In the next entries, along with this one, I want to pinpoint that it is exactly this conceptual uncertainty that lends itself to a fruitful connection to Lacanian theory.
For some, the problem stems from the mode of production of creative research, and the indivisible link to the subjectivity of the researcher[…] the defining characteristic of creative writing research would appear to be its conceptual uncertainty and, perhaps ironically, this incoherency has proved to be the feature around which the debates have found common ground (Hecq, 2015, p.2)
[Hecq’s recent publication “Towards a poetics of Creative Writing” (2015) is a thorough complex effort to relate the study of writing with concepts from Lacanian theory so as to indicate how one study might benefit from the other. It is impossible to describe the density of Hecq’s connections in one sentence in this particular entry; the book is almost like another “Revolution in Poetic Language” by Kristeva… and I shall enjoy to dedicate a whole entry to this exciting book later on…]
The following shall explicate and beg for your understanding.
The continuously evolving and multi-faceted conception of Creative Writing both as a practice and as a subject in Higher Education is evident in the different ways in which major proponents in the field have defined it. For example, Harper (2008, p.1) has likened Creative Writing to its sibling arts: studio art, music, drama, dance, visual arts implying that, like the other arts, it can be taught. Dawson (2005), in proposing a rethinking of Creative Writing pedagogy, has also been concerned with legitimising Creative Writing as a discipline with establishing a method of teaching that is more engaged with social problems, rather than art for art’s sake. Wandor (2008, p.7) has proposed that ‘Creative Writing is a mode of imaginative thought,’ in line with her argument that Creative Writing must be paired with the study of literature and should not just be practice-based. Finally, Morley and Brophy refer to Creative Writing as:
“a pursuit of creativity,” which can free writers from the traditional and established genres of the “recent modernist literary canon” – novels, plays and poems – and thus from concepts of authorship as an elitist and solitary practice (Brophy 1998, p.34).
Both authors suggest there is an aim to go beyond what is already established: ‘an act of stripping familiarity from the world about us, allowing us to see what custom has blinded us to’ (Morley 2007, p.9).
This perspective is supported by Pelletier and Jarvis’ analysis of the ‘paradoxical pedagogy of Creative Writing’ (2013, p.1-4). They have argued that Creative Writing, in principle, can be an emancipating practice, as it is based on the knowledge of the students, not on what the teacher knows, but that the current pedagogies used to teach it have inherent assumptions, which ‘stultify’ the potency of emancipatory potential of Creative Writing (ibid).
As a writer, I have been interested in practicing and teaching Creative Writing in all of the above ways. However, I am mostly interested in the definition provided by Morley and Brophy, and the “critique” provided by Pelletier and Jarvis. As a writer-teacher and writer-student I think it allows the possibility for an expanded horizon of conceptions of Creative Writing. Their definitions of the study, practice and act of Creative Writing acquire a political tone, in terms of art effecting a shift in ways of thinking about the world, the society and ourselves. Consequently, then, if an art is supposed to go beyond established traditions, and help us question and be “aware” of our being in the day-to-day society, its pedagogy must allow for such art to emerge.
Some Thing that makes Sense-
In my previous entry some energy/words/phrases was/were spent about not writing what has been written about writing and Lacanian psychoanalytic theory in the bibliography. The next part aims to compensate for the lack created on the birth of this blog. Žižek (2005) expands on Lacan’s theorization of how one’s subjectivity is undeniably constituted by one’s relation to the Other.
My very status as a subject depends on its links to the substantial Other: not only the regulative-symbolic Other of the tradition in which I am embedded, but also the bodily-desiring substance of the Other, the fact that in the core of my being, I am irreducibly vulnerable exposed to the Other(s). (ibid, p136).
One’s status as a subject, Žižek (2005) highlights, is not merely relevant to the Other via symbolization but also has a very Real (beyond words/description/articulation) existential affect that ties one’s subjectivity via desire for the Other in a corporeal relation and potentially inducing a vulnerability through this very corporeal, physical relation. In other words, we feel it in our body literally. Žižek, then in his chapter “Neighbours and Other Monsters” uses this aspect of the constitution of one’s subjectivity to draft the argument that acceptance of this vulnerability of ourselves and of Others is what might constitute a properly ethical relation to Others.
Anchoring our subject of desire in relation to the Other, like a paragraph that must relate to the previous one…, must be the first task in the game of constructing a fantasy of liberation… Taking this thought further, we may go beyond the idea that one must refer to the Others’ work previously done in order to craft some further scaffold into one’s domain… We might wonder how this constitutive relation to the Other “lies” within our processes of inscription, within a writer’s writing, within a writer’s crafting of one’s narrative, and if I may, within a country’s narrative of spending…/paying… Can we allow for a deficit when attempting to construct collective meaning? In writing ourselves ourselves…
Lacanian Conceptions of Creative Writing Pedagogy
A specific mode of awareness is produced in the symbolic space of a Lacanian psychoanalytic session in a way that can also be productive for thinking about writing and its pedagogies. Lacanian theory has been used to explore writing and its pedagogies in in terms of: a) its common stance with Surrealism as a practice of creativity (Brophy 1998); and b) its model of subjectivity as a platform for teaching writing that is emancipatory or ethical (Bracher 1999; Harris 2003, Hecq 2009, 2013, Charalambous 2014). The former way of thinking about Creative Writing constructs an argument that Creative Writing constitutes a form of study or social activity that goes against intellectual complacency (Brophy 1998, p.207). It seeks to construct a re-conceptualization of creativity as resistance in relation Creative Writing as a practice (ibid, p.206-239). The latter way of using Lacanian theory and pedagogies of writing is focused more on the ways in which a shift of self and/or practice of writing might emerge though use of Lacanian theory in the pedagogy of writing.
Brophy (1998) in his exploration of notions of creativity and their relation to particular influential discourses has traced common ground between principles of Surrealism and Lacanian theory. He has argued that there are resonances between the ways in which the Surrealists conceptualized the writer and the process of writing and the way Lacan conceptualized the analysand and the process of free-association in analysis (ibid, p.99 and p.169). ‘Free-association’ is defined in Brophy (1998, p.99) as ‘thoughts [spoken] […] in an uncritical flow’ (Freud 1900 in Brophy, p.169). Lacanian analysis, in particular, foregrounds the significance of the analyst’s focus on ambiguities in the analysand’s speech, to support the production of free associations. Brophy (ibid, p.169) argues that the experience of language produced in this approach to psychoanalysis is similar to the experience of automatic writing invented by the Surrealist movement in Literature. Automatic writing in the Surrealist movement constituted one of the main anchors to produce “surrealist writing” (ibid, p.143) as it was based on producing an artwork on an ‘arbitrary impetus’ – something that would initiate the production of something ‘surreal’ or ‘outlandish’ (ibid, p.143-4). Both of these processes, free-association, facilitated through a focus on ambiguity, and automatic writing, facilitated by an arbitrary impetus, might be understood as ‘a Creative Writing exercise’ that supports the production of spontaneous associations (ibid, p.168). In a similar way, my doctoral research emerged from my interest in the ambiguity of the instructions of Creative Writing exercises and what might be produced out of it. The crux of my struggle is making meaning all the while dwelling in the unknown consequences of our enunciated desire to deny the Other…
–Can a pedagogy of Creative Writing, can an enigmatic pedagogy of any subject bring about a shift in one’s learner subjectivity opening up pathways to create new knowledge? Ah, yes, the answer must be yes…
– The “mystery” lies in the unique individuality of how it happens for each one of us… the “mystery” lies in the inadequacy of writing… impossible to say so many things at once and yet when one does not, it dies…it does (slip of cursor tongue)…
Lacanian theory has also been used to inform pedagogical endeavours in writing. It has been employed in attempts to conceptualize a pedagogy that does not suppress students’ desires and is emancipating (e.g. Bracher 1999, Berman 1996; Felman 1982; Hecq 2009; 2013, Charalambous 2014). For example, Bracher (1999) has constructed a possible articulation of a Lacanian psychoanalytic pedagogy for writing at college or graduate level (in the US). He has suggested that a psychoanalytic understanding of the writing subject (referring to the “person” as a construct here) may help in identifying ‘writing problems’ related to ‘unconscious hidden forces,’ suggesting the sources of these problems and ways in which these conflicts of identity may be resolved (1999, p1). Bracher (ibid, p.25) bases this explanation of the writing subject on a model of the ‘conflicted subject.’ His basic proposition drawn from Lacanian theory is that the subject is divided. The country is divided. The chora is divided. He explains that what we think are our “own” intentions and how we relate to the intentions that we ‘misrecognize’ and consider Other (ibid, p.24) represents an invisible discrepancy between what we “truly desire” and what we think we desire.
Based on this model of subjectivity, there is an incongruence between what we truly desire and what we “do.” Put simply, Bracher (ibid, p.24) argues that we can identify in students’ texts ways in which these conflicts of identity may produce problems in writing assignments. He has suggested, in line with rules for composition writing, a series of forms of defenses that might appear in the writings of students (p.68-124). Bracher extends a model of ‘writing cure’ drawn from the model of ‘talking cure’ in psychoanalysis (ibid, p.188). The model’s main principle is promoting an ‘avowal of unconscious desire’ (ibid, p.188) using aspects from a Lacanian psychoanalyst’s stance towards the person in analysis. An understanding of these unacknowledged elements of identity may bring about new ways of writing about a subject.
Partially drawing on some aspects of Bracher’s Lacanian inspired pedagogy and Lacanian theory more broadly, Dominique Hecq (2009; 2013; 2015) has also suggested a model of pedagogy and a particular use of psychoanalytic theory to enhance students’ Creative Writing practice. She reviews, for instance, Bracher’s suggestions for an ethical pedagogy (2009). This pedagogy is not based on providing ‘master signifiers,’ key identifications for the student to use (ibid). She has proposed, instead, a model of ‘interactive narrative pedagogy’ (2009) – promoting ‘a methodology of active consciousness’ (2013a, p.185), highlighting an active engagement with being reflexive about one’s writing practice. This pedagogy is linked to the ‘discourse of the analyst’– a stance that aims not to impose the teacher’s (the analyst’s) desire on the student (analysand) (2009). In her course ‘Writing the Unconscious’ she explored ‘immersion’ in theory about the unconscious and subjectivity along with speed-writing exercises to explore students’ assumptions about writing and subjectivity (2013, p.187). Hecq (2013) has found that this method of free-association through ‘speed-writing’ along with an active engagement with theory, and ‘the conscious analysis of the creative process’ has shifted the style of some students, ‘sometimes in quite dramatic ways’ (Ibid, p.190). Her analysis of this pedagogic approach resonates with my own experience with my creative writing students in Thessaloniki, and thus with the focus of my doctoral research, investigating the enigmatic instructions of some creative writing exercises and their effect on student-writers’ writer subjectivity.
All of the above authors have taken up the metaphor of the Lacanian analytic space and considered its productivity in relation to thinking about the process of writing and its pedagogies. Brophy (1998) has considered the similarity of the experience of language by the analysand in the case of free-association in analysis and in free-associating in automatic writing. Bracher (1999) has suggested the use of a Lacanian psychoanalytic pedagogy, which draws its potential of emancipating influence from an analyst’s stance (p.152, and p.192) in order to help writing students recognize and overcome obstacles in their writing. Hecq (2009; 2013; 2015) has extended Bracher’s ideas into the pedagogy of Creative Writing both on undergraduate and postgraduate teaching by suggesting ‘an interactive narrative model of pedagogy’ and ‘active consciousness’ of the teacher-writer in order to help students learn ethically, trying to avoid eliciting in them the desire to please their writer-teachers.
My doctoral research (Charalambous 2014) explored the ambiguity of the aesthetic experiences produced by Creative Writing exercises, their relation to an enigmatic setting such as the space of Lacanian analysis, and the possibility that they might bring about shifts in students’ writer subjectivities in the context of an enigmatic setting of pedagogy overall. Aesthetics, how we feel things, to freely translate from the Greek word “αισθητική” coming from the word “αίσθημα” (feeling), saliently continuously affect the way in which we relate to the Other, how we produce meaning. In this ambiguity, how might we articulate our shamed Otherness?
I have also been interested in exploring these exercises to attempt to conceptualize moments of Otherness, (what I consider “not me”) or repudiated elements in students’ writing practice, relevant to Bracher’s work (1999). Furthermore, my hope is that this on-going exploration will contribute to the new space that Hecq has opened up (2009; 2013; 2014; 2015) of an ethical pedagogy of writing. An ethical pedagogy matters beyond creative writing…
The Ethics of this blog cannot be resisted…but who cares about the Ethics when the interest rates are rising?
I would be adopting a hysteric’s discourse if I stated here that an ethical pedagogy of creative writing is a naïve act in the world of capitalism. Can anything that does not sell be of (any literary merit) or of value? What does it matter if I help open up a student to new pathways of writing if they are never to be published? What does it matter if I help open up a citizen to new pathways of thinking if they are never to be materialized since they do not belong to the system?
This question is pointless, you must understand by not understanding. What happens if we go against the factory of knowledge all the while not going against it but merely constructing a new fantasy of liberation?
As you row against the tide the ripples in the water are still made, even if your boat does not move… As we deny the Other, as not me, it does not matter if the “No” is an empty signifier… because we have chosen to believe in our symptom… This maze is universal and collective and will take some decades of psychoanalysis to resolve its issues…
Let’s go onto a hiking trip on Mount Olympus and peripatically wonder why we left in the first place from the place that birthed our “No’s…” The best pictures are taken from the edge, even if those who view the picture have no idea you are one step away from the chaos…
Lacan (1992) in “Ethics of Psychoanalysis” (repeating my master here) finishes with the following:
This Law makes my neighbor’s jouissance the point on which, in bearing witness in this case, the meaning of my duty is balanced. Must I go toward my duty of truth insofar as it preserves the authentic place of my jouissance, even if it is empty? Or must I resign myself to this lie, which, by making me substitute forcefully the good for the principle of my jouissance, commands me to blow alternatively hot and cold? Either I refrain from betraying my neighbor so as to spare my fellow or I shelter my fellow man so as to give up my jouissance.” 1992, p.234)
What is jouissance…, who makes the Law, what is my Truth and who is my neighbor and fellow (woe)man? All of these questions are answered in your/my/their writing. Our myths. We constantly create—— and—— recreate our masters, our enjoyment, our symbolic guarantees of meaning and the Other standing next to us… crippled or not, monstrous or an idol, a nightmare or a daydream…
At this point, I leave you hanging, nagging, projecting onto you my current state of mind…
My duty to the Others has now been fulfilled in my fantasy of being. In my fantasy, I have momentarily escaped from the collective melancholy of the trauma that the Greeks are currently experiencing into the beautiful world-net I have created out of love for what I do, that holds the free-fall into the maze of contradictions. One thing is for sure, believing in one’s symptom, sinthome… can be our only certainty all the while making meaning carrying the weight of our self-imposed trauma onto our fingers… In other words, it feels good to post this incomplete entry as I have defeated the resistance to remain silent.
Next time, a collaboration shall follow; a fusion that I desire so much in an attempt to scratch out the Things that matter corporeally to our collective jouissance in writing, in making meaning in the unknown all the while tirelessly loving our neighbor… A dialogue with my fathers…
In this entry, I have un-followed my master, Lacan, in this entry I am certain of my symptom. Or have I or am I?
The end is near but there is always something left unsaid or something more to write… it never ends…chimera of a chora…
There is something missing here; something that I cannot help but sketch in my inability to name or tweak. A writing on the sand that will now slowly be erased by the next wave…
Are you shamed by my crippled hand, neighbour?
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