Academic journal article College English

Beyond the Tipping Point: Creative Writing Comes of Age

Academic journal article College English

Beyond the Tipping Point: Creative Writing Comes of Age

Article excerpt

"As for the future, your task is not to forsee it but to enable it."

Antoine de Saint Exuperay

The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing. Tara Mokhtari. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. 259 pp. ISBN 978-1-4725-7843-3.

Creative Writing in the Digital Age. Michael Dean Clark, Trent Hergenrader and Joseph Rein, eds. London, Bloomsbury, 2015. 198 pp. ISBN 978-1-4725-7408-4.

The Future for Creative Writing. Graeme Harper. Sussex: Wiley, 2014. 151 pp. ISBN 978-0-470-65492-7.

If it is true that in order for a discipline to look toward the future, it must first reach a certain critical mass, then with the publication of The Future for Creative Writing, Creative Writing in the Digital Age, and The Bloomsbury Guide to Creative Writing, a monograph, an edited collection, and a textbookcum-writer's guide respectively, creative writing theory and pedagogy may have finally arrived. Momentum toward this point, however, has been building for years, decades even. After a brief lull following the death of field leader Wendy Bishop in 2003, the stream of scholarship interrogating the discipline has continued more or less unabated since 2005, including important work from Heather Beck, Paul Dawson, Dianne Donnelly, Kate Haake, Jeri Kroll, Graeme Harper, Anna Leahy, Tim Mayers, Kelly Ritter, myself, and many others. At this writing, the Journal of Creative Writing Studies is about to debut, generously hosted by the Rochester Institute of Technology and edited Trent Hergenrader, James Ryan, and myself, as well as numerous talented section editors, and a companion Creative Writing Studies organization and conference (Fall 2016, Ashville, NC, orchestrated by Rachel Haley Himmelheber) are about to launch. The time seems more than ripe, then, to look at three texts that have emerged that take stock of the movement and position the field's trajectory into the twenty-first century.

Graeme Harper's monograph The Future for Creative Writing provides a good place to start. In it he examines creative writing's "future from the point of view of that already in place and now evolving," as well as suggests "where creative writing might be in years to come, if changes in the wider world influence the practice . . . in predictable ways" (1). From there, I will consider the ways in which the work in Creative Writing in the Digital Age fulfills some of Harper's predictions, and then finally look at how The Bloomsbury Guide to Creative Writing, as one of the most current creative writing guides on the market, realizes some of the scholarly imperatives that the preceding two books create.

A leading scholar in the field internationally, the author and editor of numerous books on the subject and the founding editor-in-chief of New Writing: The Journal of Creative Writing Theory and Practice since 2004, Graeme Harper is uniquely situated to consider creative writing from multiple perspectives. From this vantage point, he asserts in no uncertain terms that "key evolutionary developments" at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one have established an understanding of "the distinctiveness of creative writing as [uniquely] human and something that can be taught and researched" (2), especially as it is taught in higher education institutions around the world. At the same time, Harper also recognizes a certain tension regarding who is "best placed to take the lead in the teaching and research of creative writing" (3), a tension that is heightened by the fact that, "globally, over time, different roles envisioned for creative writing in academe reflect different national contexts" (3). Nonetheless, at this point, despite being filtered through different higher educational settings and histories, it is more or less globally understood that creative writing is a "human field of human endeavor with specific modes of creation and critical understanding and a specific knowledge to explore and advance" (3).

From this understanding, Harper traces the influence of other disciplines in the study of creative writing and in the growth and strengthening of the field, noting particularly the influence of literary study (textual analysis), linguistics, psychology (especially the study of creativity), as well as other sciences and social sciences, especially with regard for the study of writing as a cultural practice. …

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