2008-09 Catalog

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Program Description

Creativity and Constraint: Hard Boiled Wonderland

NEW! Last Updated: 11/25/2008

Fall and Winter quarters

Faculty: Steven Hendricks creative writing, Nancy Allen (F) literature, Brian Walter (W) improvisational theater

Faculty Signature Required: Winter quarter

Major areas of study include literature, improvisational theater and creative writing.

Class Standing: This Core program is designed for freshmen.

Accepts Winter Enrollment: This program will accept new students who have appropriate background (experience with careful study of literary texts). Contact faculty at Academic Fair or by email. New students should expect to complete some catch-up work during the December break.

We take Hard Boiled to refer to the firm, fatty, yolk-centered work that writers and performers are capable of when they take constraints as an invitation to experiment with form, to work against social and political restrictions, and to unite the dangers of literary writing or performance with conceptual or thematic concerns: we defy the soft, the poached, and the sunny-side-up. We take Wonderland to mean everything after.

Indeed, when an egg works hard, rigorously confronts its limitations, its environment, scrupulously studies its material and the conditions in which it works, when it approaches the capacity to even defy its eggyness, to say, I am a chicken!—that's a tough egg. It's the same with art.

The creation of any art is constrained by socio-cultural factors both visible and invisible, by aesthetic traditions and generic structures of meaning, by overpowering allegories the elaboration of which creates a stark, windowless shell around life’s protein-rich center; constraints can also be chosen structures or rules that challenge artists to work with their medium in a new way. In literary works, chosen constraints range from the strict formal conventions of sonnets to the constraint of Perec's La Disparition, an entire novel written without using the letter e. Performers of improvisational theater are constrained by audience suggestions and by predetermined rules or themes that nonetheless leave a great deal of room for invention and creative expression. In both art forms, constraint can serve as the method by which we enter into a balance of structure and freedom, sometimes leading us to create adventurous works of surprising depth and genius, works we might otherwise not even have been able to imagine.

In the fall, we'll study exceptional cases of constrained literature and examine the notion of constraint in general as a feature of all creative work. We'll also emphasize the art of interpreting literature, which requires a balance of the close formal analysis of a text with the exploration of a variety of contexts within which to view the text as relevant, historically grounded, and part of a biographical and cultural landscape. We’ll pursue careful study of writers who have responded to the constraints of social and political oppression and those who have fused their formal, literary play with an ethical and political will.

In the winter, we will explore the creative potential of constraint systems in writing and performance, specifically literary writing and improvisational theater. Constraints - whether formal, conceptual, procedural or material - temper and shape creative artists' freedom. Readings will introduce students to numerous examples of writing that exhibit uses of constraint as well as relevant historical and philosophical ideas. Students will work in groups throughout the winter quarter to produce a substantial final project that integrates fiction writing and improvisational performance.

The regular work of this program will include book seminars, short papers, and workshops in writing and improvisational theater. Coursework will emphasize foundations and skill development in literature, creative writing, critical reading, argumentative writing and improvisational theater.

Credits: 16 per quarter

Enrollment: 46

Books: www.tescbookstore.com

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in literature, performance and writing.

Planning Units: Programs for Freshmen

Program Revisions

Date Revision
May 1st, 2008 This is a new program, not printed in the catalog.
September 18th, 2008 Corrections made to faculty information
November 17th, 2008 Winter quarter enrollment details added.
November 25th, 2008 Winter quarter enrollment field utilized.