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?
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.”