“A stranger comes to town” is often called one of the only stories of great literature, and in this introductory module we explore ideas of strangers and strangeness in creative writing and creative writers. How do creative writers make language strange? How do they make the extraordinary ordinary, and the ordinary extraordinary? Isn’t the need to avoid cliché another way in which writing – whether realistic or experimental – needs to be somehow strange? Drawing upon a range of genres, forms, and narrative and poetic strategies, we will also consider the art of writing and the creative process as well as writers themselves. If writers must become, as Henry James put it, “one of those on whom nothing is lost,” maybe they, too, are the strangers who come to town.
The module will tap into many forms of writing to look at these concerns, from realistic fiction and sonnets to experimental poetry and the graphic novel, reading work by writers such as Zadie Smith, Alison Bechdel, Lorrie Moore, Danez Smith, and Raymond Carver. We will hone the practice of looking closely, using ekphrasis (writing inspired by other art forms) to develop that vital writerly skill. Emphasising that writing draws from many disciplines, we will ask you explore a subject outside the classroom (the environment, archaeology, architecture, etc.) and respond to that in a piece of creative writing.
In seminars, you will do writing exercises in fiction, poetry, script, narrative non-fiction and hybrid forms. Your assessment will be a portfolio of work which includes two polished versions of these early drafts. You will write a critical commentary, an essay which looks at an element of craft, drawing upon your reading of primary and secondary set texts and a visit from a published writer to discuss how it influenced your own work.