What can we learn from BS Johnson?


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Slides from my PTLLS micro teach on BS Johnson.

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What can we learn from BS Johnson?

  1. 1. What can we learn from BS Johnson?Dave Briggs
  2. 2. Aims• To gain knowledge aboutBS Johnson, his life and hiswork.• To practice skills ofassessing different ways oftelling stories andinnovating in the way workis done.• To reflect on the attitudeswe have towards ourwork, whether we havefixed ideas about how it isdone and the ways wecould innovate ourselves.
  3. 3. Objectives• Understand theconcept of a story, anda novel• Gain an understandingof the life and work ofBS Johnson• To take away ideas onhow Johnson’sapproach to his writingcan help us in our work
  4. 4. What is a novel?• BS Johnson was a novelist.• However, he said that “telling stories wastelling lies”.• He believed that films and TV did made-upstories much better than novels.• Therefore, all novels should be based directlyon the author’s real experience.
  5. 5. Discussion exercise• Think about the books you like to read.• Which would you call novels?• Why would you describe them as novels?• Can you think of a story in a book, that isn’t anovel?
  6. 6. About BS Johnson• Born in 1933 in London• Started work at 16 as aclerk• Learned Latin at nightschool and went touniversity• Became a teacher, andthen a full time writer
  7. 7. BS Johnson’s work• His novels wereincreasinglyexperimental interms of form andtypography• He also wroteplays, films andtelevisionprogrammes
  8. 8. Form• Form is the way the story iswritten. For example:– Traditional ‘realist’ novel– Film scripts– Diaries– Letters– Stream of consciousness– Different perspectivesTypography• Typography is the way thestory is printed. Forinstance:– Use of fonts– Size of writing– Use of white space– Use of colour– The shape of the paper– The way the book is bound
  9. 9. Johnson’s novels• Travelling People (1963)• Albert Angelo (1964)• Trawl (1966)• The Unfortunates (1969)• House MotherNormal (1971)• Christie Malrys OwnDouble-Entry (1973)• See the Old LadyDecently (1975)
  10. 10. Discussion exercise• Look at the worksheet with different storieslisted.• What form could they be written in?– Remember, form is the style of writing, such asletters, diaries or film scripts etc• What typographical innovations might beused?– Remember, typography is things likefonts, paper, binding and so on
  11. 11. About BS Johnson• At the age of 40, in1973, he committedsuicide.• He didn’t feel he wasachieving the criticalor commercialsuccess he shouldhave been.
  12. 12. Summary• Ultimately, Johnsonfailed on his ownterms.• But we are stilltalking about him!• Also, he tried to dosomethingnew, didn’t settle forthe acceptedmethods.
  13. 13. Final exercise• Check yourknowledge with thequiz• Think about the finalquestion – what canwe learn from BSJohnson in our ownlives and practice?
  14. 14. Any final questions?Dave Briggsdave@kindofdigitial.com