Magazine article English Drama Media

Transitions and Transformations-Exploring Creativity in Everyday and Literary Language: An AHRC Seminar Series Held at the Open University, Milton Keynes, March-September 2007

Magazine article English Drama Media

Transitions and Transformations-Exploring Creativity in Everyday and Literary Language: An AHRC Seminar Series Held at the Open University, Milton Keynes, March-September 2007

Article excerpt

The theme of this issue of EDM--Language, Literary and Creativity--was prompted by a recent seminar series on the topic at the Open University, to which members of NATE were invited. To introduce the theme of this issue we report below on the content of the series and suggest some implications for English teaching in schools.

This inter-disciplinary seminar series--bringing together research in literature, linguistics, and education, and embracing aspects of cultural studies--set out to explore the borderline between literary studies and linguistics by focusing on the concept of creativity in language, which potentially unites the two disciplines. The convenors of the series--Ron Carter (Nottingham University), Rob Pope (Oxford Brookes University) and Joan Swann (The Open University)--all work on this borderline, and have all recently published influential books about creativity and language (Carter, 2004; Pope, 2005; Maybin & Swann, 2006) which explore the way in which creativity manifests itself in everyday language as well as in literary language.

Implicit in this work on the literature / language borderline is, perhaps, a challenge to Romantic aesthetic notions about literature, and the tendency of literary studies towards isolationism within English Studies. The realm of the aesthetic is, of course, the chief territory of literature--but literature is certainly not bounded by the aesthetic, nor the aesthetic by literature. What kinds of literary behaviour are present in everyday language? What is the debt of literature to everyday language? What happens when the literary and the everyday elide or transform through, say, intertextuality? What are the implications of this continuum, of the interplay between the literary and the everyday, for our attitudes to and values in literature and language? Such questions formed the starting point for these seminars.

Issues for schools

As English teachers in schools, some of these issues manifest themselves at very practical levels in our classrooms, and are particularly germane at present as we are invited to consider creativity as one of the 'four Cs' in the new National Curriculum. What kinds of creative practices from our students' ordinary lives and language can we enlist when encouraging them to write and speak creatively? What are we to do when the literary values enshrined in the curriculum come into conflict with popular cultural values that nevertheless employ the literary--rap and hip-hop, for instance? What are we to make of our students' fluency in the elaborate codes of electronic messaging? When we ask our students to write in literary forms, what kinds of transformations of their everyday language and cultural practice are we actually asking for? What kinds of creativity are acceptable? When we envisage our students as potentially creative, do we see creativity as what Carter suggests is 'a special capacity of all people,' rather than as 'a capacity of special people' to which most are unlikely to aspire?

Further, this work has considerable implications for our subject knowledge in working with students at all levels, and in particular with A Level students doing any of the three English A Levels (possibly to be joined by a fourth in Creative Writing.) The tendency towards divergence between language and literature in school and university English is not always helpful when the school curriculum (at least until KS3) demands a high degree of integration. Increasingly, English teachers will find that knowledge of the relationships between language and literature, and the ability to mobilise creative approaches to both, are essential whichever of the A Level subjects is taught. Such knowledge and approaches have developed in some schools in a particularly interesting way since the advent of the integrated (rather than combined) A Level English Language and Literature course in 2000, with, for instance, a strong emphasis on the study of spoken language in literature, and on the transformation of texts from one genre to another. …

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