6 February 2013
Michael Jauchen Reviews Kenneth Goldsmith's Uncreative Writing
This review of Uncreative Writing at HTMLGiant gave me a lot to think about when it comes to creating art, teaching it, and everything that happens in between. Teaching someone how to be technically good isn't that hard. Teaching someone how to make something good is very hard.
Invariably, it's the uncreative exercises I assign that lead to a class's moments of best language, the moments when words get renewed, where surprise happens, those moments when my students put words together in ways that would be unlikely (or impossible) outside the confines of the assignment.
But most of my students remain most doggedly invested in their creative assignments (i.e. "Write any story you want"). When they read these to the class--the domestic drama narrated by the family cat, the child as secret serial killer, the priest revealed as a pedophile in the story's last line--they read them seriously, passionately.
In these kinds of exercises, the students own the words. Or at least they think they do. And it's that ownership, that authorship, they think, that makes the words good.
Even teaching what "good" is is tricky. Jauchen reminded me of a dialogue Jerry Saltz and David Edelstein, two critics I admire, had last July about Christian Marclay's The Clock. Saltz loved it, Edelstein thought it was a gimmick. But, more fundamentally, Edelstein wanted a narrative, while Saltz was fine with the imaginary connections he saw between the short clips that make up the piece.