Saturday 24 September 2022

Review by Jon Wilkins of "Critical-Creative Writing: Two Sides of the Same Coin" by Michelene Wandor

In life, as in academia, how often do you think, “if only they had written a book about …?”

Well, I’ve found the one that I’ve been missing all this time and Michelene Wandor’s text would have been ideal for me when I set out upon my PhD. Not only that, it would be perfect at whatever level you are studying. It is that sort of book. It bridges the gap between the Creative Writing how-to handbooks, and the myriad anthologies of Literary and Cultural Theory.

This is wonderful as it divulges the roots of the concepts which determine a critical study of Creative Writing. There is a fascinating introduction to the roots of Creative Writing as an academic subject - an area alongside English that is under threat from our so-called rulers. We need to beware their machinations, too many Universities have suffered because of them, and through them, a generation of students may miss out on what we took for granted.

In this book, we can read up about how images in the Old Testament are echoed in the classical texts of Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus, which then lead us onto Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats and nineteenth-century realism, not forgetting to harvest the thoughts of such eminencies as Sidney, Bacon and Johnson before them. And Shakespeare of course. We read about the development of twentieth-century literary criticism as well as the development of the foundations of Literary and Cultural Theory.

This is a perfect entrée at any level and, once picked up, is truly a book that will be riven with underlining and annotating. The way it is structured gives you a taster of a world of literature that you can follow up in your own time, using the pointers and aide-memoires that Wandor has printed. We can see what each writer is promising us the reader and then from that to us the writer. We learn from the imaginative writing of, amongst others, Bakhtin, Barthes, Browning, Burke, Eliot, James, Kant, Leavis, Montaigne, Milton, Pope, Ruskin, Shelley, Wollstonecraft, Woolf, and many others, providing the reader with a bank of knowledge and sometimes disparate views, that only help to challenge us about what we are writing, as well as reading.

This is a text that can happily be used in lectures, workshops, essay writing, research and seminars, as well as an enjoyable insight into creative writing and critical theory. As Wandor writes, “It is about thinking about writing, and about ways of thinking about thinking about writing.”

This is a must have book for a student of Creative Writing, as well as those looking for inspiration in their own work.

About the reviewer
Jon Wilkins is 66. He is married to the gorgeous Annie with two wonderful sons. He was a teacher for twenty years, a Waterstones bookseller and coached women’s basketball for over thirty years before taking up writing seriously. Nowadays he takes notes for students with Special Needs at Leicester University. He has had a work commissioned by the UK Arts Council and several pieces published traditionally as well as on-line. He has had poems in magazines and anthologies, art galleries, studios, museums and at Huddersfield Railway Station. He loves writing poetry. For his MA, he wrote a crime novel, Utrecht Snow. He followed it up with Utrecht Rain, and is now writing a third part. He is currently writing a crime series, Poppy Knows Best, set at the end of the Great War and into the early 1920s.

You can read more about Critical-Creative Writing by Michelene Wandor on Creative Writing at Leicester here

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