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The University of Southampton

ENGL2076 Creative Writing after Modernism

Module Overview

What happens when writing positions itself against communication or expression? How can the form and content of a literary text be determined by chance, constraint or the operations of the unconscious? Can a text ‘perform’ on the page? How might oral performance or digital inscription activate writing? How can literary form reflect developments in our understanding of cognition and perception? What happens if meaning is not the only measure of literary value? Where do the borders between genres break down? These questions have fascinated many modernist and postmodernist writers over the past hundred years. In this period, all forms of language art—including novels, poetry and theatre— have been marked by a consistent and thorough-going experimentalism. Poetic collage, stream of consciousness, conceptual writing, metafiction, concrete poetry, constructivist writing, performance writing, and other such strategies became practical investigations of the relations between language, signification, subjectivity and society. These innovations were often instigated, or influenced by, technological, scientific, economic and political change. The drive to develop radical modes of writing continues to provoke writers to experiment with how they conceive of, create and disseminate their writing. This module encourages students to explore—and, through creative practice, to extend—the implications of Creative Writing After Modernism.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • A wide range of modernist and postmodernist literary experiments in prose and poetry in Anglophone writing of the past hundred years;
  • How to work with constructivist frameworks, found materials, chance, free writing, performance, and visual display, to produce literary works;
  • Techniques that explore the possibilities of reflexive narrative strategies;
  • How to manipulate bibliographic codes in order to create different reception effects.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Contextualise creative writing within English studies;
  • “Deconstruct” narrative practices;
  • Explain how different textual practices create their effects.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Assess the effect of a text performed for a live audience;
  • Understand how different kinds of textuality work, and how to emulate them;
  • Take further your potential as a writer;
  • Review, paraphrase, redact and otherwise process existing texts.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Develop an intuitive grasp of the potential of different compositional techniques;
  • Choose appropriate methods for a writing project;
  • Write a well-structured text exploring the workings of language, or textuality, or poetics, or narrative time, that is internally coherent.


This module will give you the chance to create innovative texts that go beyond realist writing. It will introduce you to a wide range of innovative practices developed by prose writers and poets who have experimented with the textual strategies on which all literature is founded. You will try setting yourself tight compositional constraints and removing them altogether, using chance, or visual elements, or sound, as the primary axis of composition. This experimental approach will also look at the components of narrative, and test what happens when they are removed or transformed. Your goal will be to produce a piece of writing that demonstrates an understanding of the possibilities of innovation, and achieves a coherent, meaningful result. Some texts are written for oral performance, and we will use the group as an audience to test different performance tactics. We will also investigate the potential impact of digital processing and internet distribution on compositional practice. Throughout the module we will be exploring the history of modernist and postmodernist writing to investigate what remains of use today.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be taught mainly through a series of formative creative writing exercises that will be begun in lectures and seminars and continued in your own time. In addition, the lectures and reading will provide history and context for these creative writing projects. Teaching methods include • Lecture workshops in which short exercises are carried out and reviewed; • Seminar discussion of student work; • Set exercises that give you a chance to try out new ideas; • Use of a website to distribute your work Learning activities include • Studying a spectrum of modernist and postmodernist writing practices; • Producing short written exercises; • Performing texts to the group; • Collaborative projects; • Writing and revising an extended piece of writing; • Use of online publishing methods that are increasingly becoming the norm in the literary world; • Training in advanced writing skills at the level of the textual components of all writing Employability • You will develop advanced and specialist writing skills, learn how to critique the draft creative work of others in constructive and enabling ways, and will acquire some basic knowledge of how writing is now disseminated through the internet, all of which will be of value for future employment. Activities: Creative and Critical writing, group discussion, analysis of each other’s work, advanced reading.

Follow-up work12
Completion of assessment task52
Wider reading or practice12
Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Julia Bell and Paul Magrs (2003). The Creative Writing Coursebook. 

Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, eds. (1995). Poems for the Millennium, Volume I: From Fin-de-siècle to Negritude. 

Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, eds. (1998). Poems for the Millenium- Volume Two- Postwar to Millenium. 

John D’Agata (2003). The Next American Essay. 

The online magazine Jacket is a good source of poetic texts and discussions of new writing.

Marjorie Perloff (2002). 21st Century Modernism: The “New” Poetics. 

Susan Sellers (1991). Taking Reality by Surprise. 

Gertrude Stein (1975). How to Write. 

Jon Cook (2004). Poetry in Theory: An Anthology 1900-2000. 

Maggie O’Sullivan (1996). Out of Everywhere: linguistically innovative writing by women in North America & the UK. 

Charles Bernstein (1992). A Poetics. 

Pennsound has an extensive collection of readings and performances.

Hazel Smith (2005). The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing. 

How2 is a good source of new women’s writing.

Ubuweb has a large archive of innovative texts from the past century.


Assessment Strategy

You will be expected to write at least one exercise per week, which will then be peer-reviewed and may also be read and critiqued by the module tutor. Assessment Method Writing Exercises (




MethodPercentage contribution
Project  (3500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Total costs associated with this module will not exceed £80 Core texts for purchase: Rothenberg, Jerome, and Pierre Joris eds., Poems for the Millennium Volume Two: From Postwar to Millenium (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998) c. £25 Smith, Hazel, The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing (Crows Nest, N.S.W: Allen & Unwin, 2005) c.£25

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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