WRT and Fictocriticism

Recently WRT received a great question that made us think - “Is fictocriticism the same as writer response theory?” Our response might be interesting to other groups engaging in mixed creative/critical projects.

“Fictocriticism” is a writing practice characterized by a mix of critical and fictive language, including

“self reflexivity, the fragment, intertextuality, the bending of narrative boundaries, crossing of genres, the capacity to adapt literary forms, hybridized writing, moving between fiction (invention/speculation) and criticism (deduction/explication) of subjectivity (interiority) and objectivity (exteriority)”. [Prosser. Text, April 99.]

Much like the terms paracriticism and post-criticism, fictocriticism is a postmodern concept - it explicitly rejects the separation of two genres of writing (analytical criticsm and creative fiction) by combining them.

Unlike the terms para- and post-criticism, fictocriticism is not structuralist, but feminist in conception. According to longtime fictocritic Anna Gibbs, fictocriticism began in the Australian writing community as a response to the essays of feminist critics such as Cixous and Irigaray, who were calling for a more authentically feminine and bodily writing. It later moved into the university system as a pedagogical practice. For more information, see The Space Between - Australian Women Writing Fictocriticism, a collection edited by Heather Kerr and Amanda Nettelbeck. Most web-accessible citations appear in Text: The Journal of the Australian Association of Writing Programs.

So how does “writer response theory” compare to fictocriticism?
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Writer Response Theory is a banner under which a few humanities scholars interested in studying digital text art have gathered, as well as the title of our participatory manifesto for “writers or creators responding to theory; as writers creating theory, a theory which is also a response to writers.”

In addition to responding critically to theories, we rewrite interfaces using theories, and respond to theories by testing them with creative work. Like many blogs, we utilise different techniques in our posts, sometimes telling stories, sometimes reviewing, sometimes reporting, sometimes analysing, sometimes playing games…all as a way of understanding the subject matter (what we refer to and ourselves) better and as a way of expressing ourselves creatively.

WRT has been around scarcely a year, and is a small group, so characterizing it may be premature. It is also not a generally recognized term to describe a field of inquiry, although the name plays off “Reader Response Theory” and Barthes’ “writerly texts,” positing the reader as an interactor, the critic as a creator, and the interface as encouraging both.

Like many areas of contemporary theory, writer response theory proposes a type of practice. Like fictocriticism, WRT was born out of an excitement over new possibilities, and responds by proposing the combination of critical and creative practices. Like fictocriticism, this has many pedagogical implications, and we are passionate not just about practicing but about teaching. This is also partly transgressive, to the extent that it isn’t clear whether or not WRT activities will be condoned by the profession of humanities and art critics as ’serious’ scholarship.

Unlike fictocriticism, writer response theory is inspired by exciting developments in digital technology and the arts - New Media. It is less about a different mode of discourse in which certain kinds of writing can count as critical (ecriture feminine, etc.) and more about different modes of production in which reading and writing mix (interactivity, wreading, Smart Mobs, networked performance, etc.)

Perhaps the biggest aesthetic difference between writer response theory and fictocriticsm is our interest in authoring less as immediacy or testimonial and more as mediation, prototyping, experiment, procedure, abstraction, implementation… software development as the engineering of ideas, along the lines of the TADA sentiment that “real humanists make tools.”




11 Responses to “WRT and Fictocriticism”

  1. 1 Christy Dena

    As a more personal postscript on the pedagogical side of fictocriticism: when I did my postgrad dip in creative writing (in Aus), we were asked to do creative writing responses to literary criticism. This was a wonderfully refreshing way to express yourself! I have never forgotten this method. I felt it helped me express what a theory feels like and how it impacts thought processes.

  2. 2 Mark Marino

    In some ways, though, as we get up above, I cannot help but feel that so many in new media theory also make. We work through simultaneous or alternating cycles of trying, experimenting, and then writing, reflecting, and exegizing. We work through our theoretical demons in code and follow our dreams into media, then we tease out the implications or compose new manifestos. To study new media is to be a practitioner and vice versa, no offense to those who consider themselves to fall on only one side of this imaginary line.

  3. 3 Venetta

    I think the term is loosely connected to the exegetical essay in Creative (Fiction) Writing without regard for academic structures.
    Venetta

  4. 4 Jeremy Douglass

    Certainly, the history of the term fictocriticism indicates that it began outside academia. It would be interesting to see where else it is used today - do you know of some non-academic journals / forums / etc. where it is commonly used?

  5. 5 John O'Donoghue

    I’m a PhD Creative Writing student at Bath Spa in the UK. My creative project is a thriller set amongst the murphoisie of Irish London. I wanted to interrogate the macho conventions of the thriller and hit upon the idea of using a persona, Dr Una O’Symon (an anagram of ‘Anonymous’) to conduct this interrogation in highly threoretical, jargon ridden terms taken from the Theorosphere.

    There’s a real tension between CW & Critical Theory. How can a writer trained to write academically in English Depts be expected to make links with their work and the work of other writers? The Death Of The Author, The Intentional Fallacy, and natural reticence mitigate against one writing abt one’s work in the way lettrists are trained to write.

    ‘What were you trying to do in this text?’ is not a legitimate question in theoretical terms - how do I know? I was just responding to the promptings of my subconscious, my position in the socio-political hierarchy, the dictates of class and gender and race…

    Theory’s project is to read the Context and not just the Text.

    I thought Dr Una O’Symon - for all the parodic hilarity I/she started to generate - would be a - ah - novel way to do this.

    But I came up against a lot of opposition from the Faculty.

    I intend to write a dissertation - 30,000 words - where at least an echo of this approach can still be heard.

    I did give a paper on ‘The Interesting Case Of Dr Una O’Symon’…

    She may still turn up to the Viva!

    I’d be interested to hear what folks Down Under make of this…

    You seem to be a little more relaxed abt this kind of postmodern playfulness….

    Which is actually very Irish (Swift, Sterne, Mangan, Joyce, Flann…)…

    Looking forward to hearing from you,

    John O’D

  6. 6 Jeremy Douglass

    John - sorry about the late reply - this post was co-authored, so the comment notice fell through the cracks.

    Your project sounds quite interesting. I’m not sure whether mocking critical jargon sounds like fascinating fun or like shooting fish in a barrel - probably both. Are you familiar with Christine Brooke-Rose’s “Amalgamemnon” ? A classics take on a similar clever deflating.

  7. 7 stephen muecke

    Fictocriticsim is also a kind of ethnographic project, the anthropologists LKathleen Stewart and Michael Taussig have used the term. I wrote an explanatory essay; ???The Fall: Fictocritical Writing,??? parallax, 25, October ??? December 2002, 108-112. as well as a fictocritical travelogue, No Road (bitumen all the way), Fremantle, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1997.

  8. 8 Christy Dena

    Thanks Stephen, the more approaches/applications we can gather here the better.

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  10. 10 Rosslyn Prosser

    For the record:

    �self reflexivity, the fragment, intertextuality, the bending of narrative boundaries, crossing of genres, the capacity to adapt literary forms, hybridized writing, moving between fiction (invention/speculation) and criticism (deduction/explication) of subjectivity (interiority) and objectivity (exteriority)�. is a quote from amanda Nettelbeck and is used in my review of the book published in Text

    The reproduction of this quote from Amanda Nettelbeck’s introduction in the Space Between Australian Women Writing Fictocriticism leaves out the refernce to her, it appears to be by me - Rosslyn Prosser, whilst I wouldn’t mind writing it, I didn’t.

  11. 11 Vivienne Plumb

    This all sounds great, but can we have some more examples? Titles, please….

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