On Ficto-/Critical/Poetic Practices

Oliver BelasMCRf

In Languages of Art, Nelson Goodman demonstrates that whatever “style” is, it outruns our tools of analysis and reason. What he doesn’t consider is whether style is necessarily always beyond the grasp of all modes of analysis (Phil Ford has argued, for example, that “style” should itself be understood as a mode of analysis). “Standard academic practice” (whatever that might mean) is neither a non- nor a-poetic stance; but its pretensions to a certain kind of “objectivity,” and the familiarity of this gesture, may in effect hide its poetic workings in plain sight. Through critical and ficto-critical contributions, our panel explores the affordance and limitations of critical and creative poetics.

Aleister Crowley, Weird Fiction, and Occult Poetics
James Machin (Visiting Lecturer (Critical and Historical Studies), Royal College of Art)

Aleister Crowley is well-known for his peerless contribution to the development of occult theory and practice during his own lifetime and after. He was also, however, a prolific writer and critic, and began his adult life as a poet. This paper explores this side of his output, in particular his engagement with contemporary writers of weird fiction, such as Arthur Machen and Lord Dunsany. Crowley’s occult practice both shapes his own poetics and informs his responses to other weird texts and writers. Examining his approach to questions of authorial intentionality can cast light on wider critical and poetic practice today.

Formation Through Style
Dr. Gareth Farmer (Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Bedfordshire)

Writing of the development of styles during particular eras, and among specific clusters of artists, Raymond Williams outlines what he terms “formations of form.” Formal practices are one product of much broader “structures of feeling” in the evolution of particular cultures and styles. I will discuss Williams’ contentions in relation to how critical and creative writers key into the formal dynamics of specific texts or groups of texts in ways enabling the formation of their own writing practices. Drawing on work by John Wilkinson, Peter Manson and Christine Brooke-Rose, I aim to trace how becoming intimate with the formal processes and specific styles of particular texts is formational to both critical and creative textual practices.

“The Artist Must Also Be the Artificer”: Hermitics, Hermeneutics, & Hieroglyphics
Dr. Timothy Jarvis (Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Bedfordshire)
Dr. Oliver Belas (Lecturer in Education, University of Bedfordshire)

Arthur Machen’s Hieroglyphics (1902) is a long essay framed as a record of the disquisition, on the ecstatic in literature, of a hermit in his rooms in a mouldering house in London’s Barnsbury. A work of poetics in a mode we might now call ficto-criticism. Or so we thought till, one grey autumn afternoon, Jarvis by chance made the acquaintance of a man in a damp basement flat in an obscure little square off the Caledonian Road, who was, or claimed to be, that self-same literary hermit Machen had spoken with so long ago. Our first paper is a record of their conversation – a discussion (perhaps ironically) of the value to criticism of practices drawn from fiction.

Shortly after the rediscovery of “Machen’s Hermit,” Jarvis and Belas were contacted by Sandys Hocombe, a Bedford-based writer who, having heard about Jarvis’s encounter, wondered whether the Hermit might be persuaded to contribute something to the inaugural issue of Hocombe’s forthcoming journal, dedicated to ficto-criticism. Surprisingly, the Hermit agreed, proposing that Hocombe record a series of conversations the two of them would have while walking about Barsnsbury. Hocombe has given us his notes, along with permission to “look for any scraps of food among the garbage” of his now abandoned project. In our second paper, we attempt a recuperation of sorts, suggesting that what Hocombe took as failure might be a poetic success.

Sun 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm