Fictocriticism and the Futures of Writing

Anna Gibbs

Once upon a time the novel was an instantiation of the house of fiction, an architectonics of story, or, as described by Henry James, an impossible, dreamlike architecture that provided innumerable apertures each with its particular lens through which to focus an affective apprehension of the world.

Once upon a time critique could rely on the capacity of expertise for distinction – especially between subjects and objects - to construct a framework of authority supporting its arguments.

Once upon a time fictocriticism challenged the pretensions of writing in the Humanities to unsituated and passionless objectivity, insisting on the key role played by the affective investments of story – curiosity and excitement as indices of what mattered  – in Humanities research.

If the hyphen attempts to join the ‘ficto’ with the ‘critical’ it also inevitably severs them and holds them apart. In this tense and quivering gap between them arises the possibility of a writing otherwise: a writing in which the confident authority of argument gives way to hesitation and doubt, and the house of fiction begins to fall apart. Here place is displaced; setting becomes unstable; site gives way to constantly shifting situation. We are in the middle of something, immersed in the materiality of writing as doing and making, a thinking taking shape in action, and then shifting that shape again at the very moment it forms. It is in this process that writing takes place.

To explore fictocritical and other experimental ways of writing towards the dissertation component of a practice-led research project; to find new forms of writing that might comprise an analog of practices in other media and which could also work as a mode of practice in their own right; to carry out a series of practical experiments in writing beyond genre, crossing the ficto- with theory and the critical; poetry with prose; and/or art with text. 

Day 1 Fictocriticism and its Friends: feminism; affect theory, performativity, and composition

10.00 – 12.00: Introduction to course parameters, aims and ethos; discussion of student needs and practical ways of working.

Lecture and discussion: We will explore fictocritical writing as a way of staging and demonstrating theoretical concerns and concepts, understanding writing as a practice in its own right, that’s to say conceiving writing as research rather than a ‘writing up’ and ‘reporting on’ coming after the main event deemed to have taken place elsewhere (the studio, the field, the archive and so on). We will situate the rise of this kind of writing in relation to the broader affective turn in the arts, in relation to its feminist history, and to the renewed ethos of experimentalism and composition in the arts.

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-1600: Practical exercises and experiments in writing and/as making. 

Day 2 Writing Takes Place: from site to situation

10.00 – 12.30: Lecture and discussion: Exploring form and structure in writing as a literary  architecture guiding our movement through the passages and spaces of the poem, from room to room in the house of fiction, or through the force field of the essay, we will focus on the way writing turns space into place and site into situation. Here we will also discover writing and typography as image to be looked at and space to be inhabited, as well as animate forms exhibiting their own behaviours in the context of the new vitalism and a re-enchantment of the world.

Lunch 12.00-1300


Practical exercises and experiments in writing and/as making. 

Day 3 Writing Makes Time: memory, documents, and archives

Lecture and discussion: Writing is not simply a support for memory and a way to stave off loss, but an active way of bringing memory into being, a calling as much as a recalling. In this light we will consider the relationship of personal memory to cultural memory through the writerly conversation constituted by work of Joe Brainard, Georges Perec and Harry Mathews and various feminist responses to it. We will also explore the different forms archives might take: the document, the photograph, museum objects, and the city itself.

Lunch 12.00-13.300

Practical exercises and experiments in writing and/as making.


Required Readings
Day 1: Fictocriticism and its Friends: feminism; affect theory, performativity, and composition

Anna Gibbs, ‘Fictocriticism, Affect, Mimesis: Engendering Differences

Katrina Schlunke, ‘In-between the memorial, the library and the lesbian: Moments in Postcolonial Community’ 

Day 2: Writing Takes Place: from site to situation

Robyn Ferrell: ‘Pinjarra 1970: Shame and the Country Town

Katrina Schlunke, ‘Burnt houses and the haunted home Reconfiguring the ruin in Australia

Stewart, Kathleen. (2011) ‘Atmospheric attunements’. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 29: 445-453

Day 3: Writing Makes Time: memory, documents, and archives

Carolyn Steedman: ‘Something She Called a Fever: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust’ 

Rosslyn Prosser (2008) ‘Inventory Of Childhood’, Australian Feminist Studies, 23:57, 417-422, DOI: 10.1080/08164640802233328 


Suggested reading/materials list.
Some Suggested Additional Readings (others will be recommended during the course):  

Day 1

Hélène Cixous, ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ [1975], trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 1:4 (1976)

Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989)

The Space Between: Australian women writing fictocriticism (eds Amanda Nettelbeck and Heather Kerr, Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1998)

bell hooks, “Coming to Voice” from Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black

Melissa Gregg and Greg Seigworth, eds The Affect Theory Reader

Katrina Schlunke: Bluff Rock, the autobiography of a massacre

Christine Wertheim and Matias Viegener, eds The Noulipian Analepts

Taussig, M. (1993) Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. New York: Routledge.

Lingis, Alphonso. Sensation: Intelligibility in Sensibility. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1996.

Serres, Michel (2009). The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies, trans. Margaret Sankey and Peter Cowley. London: Continuum

Abrams, David. (1996) The Spell of the Sensuous, New York: Vintage

Day 2

Stewart, Kathleen. (2007). Ordinary affects. Durham: Duke University Press.

Walter Benjamin, ‘One Way Street’

Bachelard, G. (1964) The poetics of space, New York: Beacon Books.

Gannon, S. (2009) Writing poetry in/to place. In C. Leggo, M. Prendergast & P. Sameshima. (Eds) Poetic inquiry: Vibrant voices in the social sciences. (209-218) Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Ingold, T. (2011). Being alive: Essays on movement, knowledge and description. Abingdon: Routledge.

Certeau,  Michel  (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Solnit, Rebecca. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. New York: Viking, 2000. 

Caroline Bergval, Laynie Browne, Teresa Carmody, Vanessa Place: I’ll Drown My Book: conceptual writing by women

Fred Wahl & Amy De’ath eds Toward. Some. Air. (Remarks on Poetics…)

Rotman, Brian, (2002). ‘The Alphabetic Body’, parallax, 2002, vol. 8, no. 1, 92–104.

Ong, Walter. J. (1982). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen.

Benjamin, Walter (2002). “The Knowledge That the First Material on which the Mimetic Faculty Tested Itself’ [1936] , Selected Writings vol. 3, 1935-1938, eds Howard Eiland and Michael W Jennings. Cambridge, Mass and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Noland, Carrie (2009). Agency and Embodiment: performing gestures/producing culture. Harvard U Press

Beyond the Screen: Transformations of Literary Structures, Genres and Interfaces. Eds Jörgen Schäfer and Peter Gendolla. Bielefeld: Transcript. 365-390.

Day 3

Joe Brainard I Remember

George Perec I Remember

Harry Mathews ‘The Orchard’

Joanne Burns, ‘Autobiography’ in On A Clear Day

Pam Brown, “I remember dexedrine”

Templeton, Fiona (1997) Cells of Release, New York: Roof Books

John Frow, “Toute la mémoire du monde: Repetition and Forgetting” in Time and Commodity Culture (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 218-46.

Jacques Derrida,  “Archive Fever” 

Meera Atkinson and Michael Richardson eds, Traumatic Affect

Pierre Nora, Realms of Memory

M NourbeSe Philip, Zong! (2008) 

Eileen Myles, Inferno (A Poet’s Novel) (2010)

Natalie Harkin, Dirty Words

Theresa Hak Yung Cha, Dictée

Gail Scott, The Obituary (2012)

Susan Schultz, Dementia Blog (2008)

Susan Howe, The Midnight (2003)

David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration (1992)

Samuel R. Delany Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999)

Patrick Modiano, Dora Bruder (1997)

Matias Viegener, 2,500 Random Things About Me Too


Materials students should bring to class
Depending on the orientation of their own work students might need to bring:
- camera or cell phone camera
- notebook/sketchbook
- laptop/tablet
- bring photocopies of a selection of texts sourced from a variety of different genres of any kind, including fiction, poetry, theoretical and critical writing but possible also newspapers, magazines, travel writing etc. to cut up and work on. 


Fictocriticism, Experimental writing, Text objects, Feminist theory and poetics