Amaranth C. Borsuk
Examines the relationships between fact and imagination in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry writing. Offered: AWSpS.
In this workshop, we will explore work by a number of contemporary writers who are invested in working with source texts. These are figures for whom invention is spurred by, and in some cases supplanted by, research and even appropriation. For many of the writers we will look at, these methods give them permission to talk about material otherwise considered off limits, whether it’s sexual taboos in Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, or traumatic history in Zong!. In addition to studying this work, we will map a poetics of contemporary modes where fact and imagination intersect—through documentary poetics and conceptualism, to procedural writing. How do we differentiate between fact and imagination with our 21st-century perspective on the ways the historian is implicated in his or her history? How do you as a writer account for your own situated perspective with relation to your subject? The turn toward documentation and information as a stimulus to imaginative work seems to be bound up in these questions. The texts we look at will blur any comfortable boundaries we might have between poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and visual art. Our goal is to develop a repertoire of techniques for grappling with the slippage between fact and imagination—a starting point from which to create.
Student learning goals
Gain an understanding of a range of strategies for incorporating outside material into one's work.
Build an appreciation for the work of writers whose imaginations are activated by source texts.
Experiment with multiple modes of expression, including visual and textual, that involve collection and curation of sources.
Consider the role of the writer with respect to "factual" material--both the burdens and benefits of working with such material.
Create a supportive workshop environment for examining experiments at the intersection of fact and imagination.
General method of instruction
Our workshop will combine discussion of the work we look at each week with presentation and discussion of your own weekly projects, in-class experiments and collaborations.
Class assignments and grading
• A semester-long journal project of your own devising. This is separate from any writing or art journal you may already keep. Consider it a work in itself rather than a holding place for work in progress. I encourage you to keep a commonplace book, a specimen catalog, a collage notebook, a field journal, or a map of your daily walking habits, for example. The journal should have some theoretical or conceptual underpinning that holds it together, however loosely. This may be a physical artifact or a digital one. • Weekly blog posts in response to the readings. • Weekly creative work. • Attendance and Participation.
Grades will be based on engagement as evinced by reading responses, participation in discussion and workshop, and the conceptual rigor and interest of work submitted. Experimentation and failure are encouraged.