Real Criticism

Thomas Karshan 1MCRh

‘If so large a part of creation is really criticism, is not a large part of what is called “critical writing” really creative?’, asked T. S. Eliot in ‘The Function of Criticism’. The last decade or so has seen a steady erosion of any sharp distinction between the ‘creative’ and the ‘critical’, and of the borders marked out by each of these not wholly satisfactory terms: partly because of dissatisfaction with existing protocols of academic critical writing; partly because of an interest in the critical force of ‘creative writing’; and partly because the rapid expansion of creative writing in universities raises fundamental questions about its relationship with criticism and scholarship.

In response to this, the Institute of English Studies and the University of East Anglia have begun a collaboration ‘On the Creative-Critical’ which encompasses a series of conferences and workshops: a summit ‘On the Creative-Critical’ took place at UEA on June 1, 2019, following a sequence of workshops at IES.

IES and UEA are offering two interlinked workshops on aspects of creative-critical writing and teaching for English Shared Futures 2020:

1. Real Criticism

This session focusses on the relationships between criticism, critic, and the wider world in a collaborative and practice-based manner. It begins with three short position papers by Dr Tim Beasley-Murray (UCL), Prof Tim Mathews (UCL) and Dr Mathelinda Nabugodi (Cambridge) in which they draw on their current creative critical writing. This will set the scene for the main part of the panel, which is a practical workshop in which participants will be invited to do a set of exercises in pairs or small groups. These are designed to raise questions such as:

  • Is literary criticism real (like a tree) or fictional (like literature)?
  • How does your critical persona relate to your private self?
  • How do you as critic relate to the person whose work you’re criticising?
  • Do you make compromises between emotional response and critical reasoning?
  • What is the relationship between (academic) criticism and the (real) world?

The aim is to let participants reflect on their own critical practices and experiment with modes of writing that challenge unspoken assumptions about critical objectivity. The final part of the panel will be devoted to reporting back from the small groups and a general discussion of the above questions.

The second workshop is 'Creative Imitation in the Classroom'

Sun 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm