Coming in from the cold moving creative writing from the margins to the mainstream
Coming in from the cold: moving creativewriting from the margins to the mainstream:Carol-Anne Croker PhD candidate.
What possible use is “creative writing”?How often have we had colleagues and other critics hurl this accusationat us?The paper proposes a response, based on the idea that the verycreativity that fuels our writing is identical to the innovative impulse ournational leaders endorse when they call for policy moves towards“knowledge economies”.Equally, in the academy, demands for novel approaches to bothteaching and research are in essence seeking to elicit the same creativedrive.
Yet, as we know all too well, creative writing isoften marginalised.This paper is a manifesto for moving our discipline towards themainstream. It argues that government and university pressurefor increased innovation requires the same fresh thinking weexpress in writing.We’re in a position to help colleagues not only to harness thisthinking but also to capture it in effective communicative formsthat support the need for originality in problem-solving, whether itbe in policy or in academic contexts.On this basis, our place in the mainstream is not only desirable.It’s essential if our countries are to compete successfully in theglobal marketplace of ideas.
Kureishi slams creative writing courses Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent guardian.co.uk, Monday 26 May 2008"The celebrated novelist, screenwriter and playwright Hanif Kureishi has launched a withering attack on university creative writing courses, calling them "the new mental hospitals".Kureishi, himself a research associate on the creative writing course at Kingston University in London said, "One of the things you notice is that when you switch on the television and a student has gone mad with a machine gun on a campus in America, its always a writing student."The writing courses, particularly when they have the word creative in them, are the new mental hospitals. But the people are very nice."
Kureishi - whose most famous work includes The Buddha of Suburbia, My Beautiful Laundrette and The Black Album - was speaking at the Guardian Hay festival about his latest novel, Something To Tell You. He said that he was impelled to start teaching writing by the example of his children, who have tennis lessons, piano lessons and the like. He became convinced that teaching a skill was an honourable calling: "I felt if I knew something, I should pass it on."But he said of his students, "When I teach them, they are always better at the end - and more unhappy."He said that creative writing courses set up false expectations among students that a literary career will inevitably follow. "The fantasy is that all the students will become successful writers - and no one will disabuse them of that."When you use the word creative and the word course there is something deceptive about it."
And in creative writing? What’s the constraint? Language? The history of the poem? Margaret Soltan.com Accessed November 2009.Again, it’s not the object that’s the central reality of these courses, in the way the piano is the object in music courses; what they [creative writing courses] tend to be about is the student in all her creative glory, in all her raw subjectivity.Kureishi’s remarks are scattered and intentionally provocative, but if you look beyond his particular complaints, I think it’s easy to see the basic bad faith of creative writing — There’s a sentimental/cynical lie in the use of the word creative here, promising everyone, in a seductively flattering way, creative talents that very few people in fact have.But is there more to the concept of creativity surrounding our educational debates? I contend that there is.
A quick scan of policy initiatives under the Rudd Government inAustralia shows signs that we are being integrated into the broadercreativity and innovation agenda.
Luke Jaaniste from QUT argues that arts-based disciplines be re-valued more broadly…> “If the arts are to be valued as an integral part of Australia’s national innovation system, we must:> Develop an understanding of arts-based knowledge that connects it to innovation> Broaden commercialisation of the arts and creative outputs> Develop the argument for the arts as social inclusion> Educate an innovative workforce> Meeting these challenges requires further research, sector-wide coordination and leadership.” (Jaaniste 2008:p.5)Jaaniste, L. (2008) Response to Venturous Australia: comments on the Review into the National Innovation System. QUT Digital Repository
In a paper presented in Barcelona in 2004, Masayuki Sasaki referred to thefollowing diagram to position the Creative Industries as drivers of culturaldevelopment and innovative thinking, which in turn drives the ‘hard’innovations needed for turning ideas to practice. Sasaki, M. (2004) The Role of Culture in Urban Regeneration. Paper presented at the Diàlegs - Fòrum Universal de les Cultures – Barcelona 2004. The Concentric Model of Creative Industries. http://www.barcelona2004.org/esp/banco_del_conocimiento/docs/PO_22_E N_SASAKI.pdf Originally accessed August 2007.
As Hecq identified in her 2008, paper ‘Banking on Creativity’, she spoke of the need to place creativity at the centre of the discourse and indeed education practice within our university sector. “Creativity in universities is offered up as a generic skill, no longer limited to practices involving the arts. It has espoused the political agenda that drives the economy to renaissance heights. It is tied in with development, new ideas and, above all, innovation. Productivity, output, cost effectiveness are here buzz-words, not creativity. Thus neo-liberal globalisation remains a significant challenge facing universities and the creative industries increasingly need to play the game of economics in order to be included in the system.”Hecq, D. Banking on Creativity. Conference Paper presented at the Australian Association of Writing Programs Annual Conference: Creativity and Uncertainty at the University of Technology, Sydney. November 2008. http://www.aawp.org.au/files/Hecq_2008.pdf
Dimensions of Innovation. Based on P Stoneman (2007). An Introduction to the definition and measurement of soft innovation, NESTA Working Paper, London.Howard, J.H. (2008) Between a hard rock and a soft space: design, creative practice andinnovation. CHASS Occasional Paper Number 5.www.chass.org.au/papers/pdf/PAP20080521JH.pdf Accessed August 2009 Originally published by: NESTA National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. U.K.
The ‘Creativity Market’.The Australian higher education sector, with particular reference to the Creative industries, goes a long way to solving the dualist dilemma faced by universities. What can be ‘sold’ in the education market as a ‘quality innovative research paradigm’ is also able to meet the needs of the local education market, identified by the Bradley Report. If we allow students to study where their interest and indeed skills lie, we can address the predicted shortage of skilled labour for the knowledge workforce in the twenty-first century, whilst maintaining competitive rankings on the global quality scales of measurement.Bradley, D. (2008) Review of Australian Higher Education.http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Review/Pages/ReviewofAustralianHigherEducationRe port.aspx Accessed July 17, 2009.
Sale of the Century!By noting the student-demand and interests shown by Australian Government’s own statistical data, the Creative Arts disciplines in Australian Universities has experienced growth over a number of years. Looking at the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations publication; Selected Higher Education Statistics: Award Course Completions between 1996 and 2007 (the most recent complete data set) the 5 change in domestic student numbers in Creative Arts fields of study has increased at 3.9%, the second largest increase apart from in the Health fields of study with 7.7% . If we include the field of study classified as Society and Culture there has been a further 2.2% increase in domestic student numbers across the decade.The increase is not confined to only domestic students with a smaller but still substantial increase in the number of overseas students completing awards in the Creative Arts field of study
(a) Data for 1996–2000 have been mapped from field of study classification to field of education classification.(b) The data take into account the coding of combined courses to two fields of education. As a consequence, countingboth fields of education for combined courses means that the totals may be less than the sum across all broad fields ofeducation.
Student driven demandBy noting the student-demand and interests shown by Australian Government’s own statistical data, the Creative Arts disciplines in Australian Universities has experienced growth over a number of years. Looking at the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations publication; Selected Higher Education Statistics: Award Course Completions between 1996 and 2007 (the most recent complete data set) the 5 change in domestic student numbers in Creative Arts fields of study has increased at 3.9%, the second largest rise apart from in the Health fields of study with 7.7% . If we include the field of study classified as Society and Culture there has been a further 2.2% growth in domestic student numbers across the decade.The increases are not confined to only domestic students. There has also been a smaller but still significant rise in enrolments by overseas students completing awards in the Creative Arts field of study
The rise and rise of Creative theses…With Creative Arts courses proving popular with students and demonstrating consistent annual increased enrolments and award completions, it has been inevitable that there has been a student driven demand for higher degree programs in the Creative Arts disciplines across the decade.In the paper, Describing the creative writing thesis : a census of creative writing doctorates, 2001 -2007, Boyd (Boyd 2009) has determined that the aggregate of award course completions for creative arts doctorates by research has increased over the period from 80 in 2001 to 202 in 2007. The number considered ‘creative theses’ is 199. Thus we can extrapolate that there is an increasing demand for student places within Creative Writing higher degrees which is most probably replicated across the broader fields of creative arts research and practice in Australian Universities. More research is being done in this area particularly by Dr Paul Thomas at Curtin University and Ms Giselle Kett at the Victorian College of the Arts, but no definitive data is currently available.
A cynical perspective?“In Australia, over the past decade there has been a steady increase in both the number of PhD programs in the creative arts and also in the number of candidates enrolled”.(Creative Arts PhD Projects Roundtable 2008: p.8)Given the consensus within the Creative Arts Disciplines it seems that the Creative Arts are driving a substantial increase in student demand within our Universities, and if we accept the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s imperative in his closing speech at the 2020 summit; ‘to put to bed the false dichotomy between the arts and sciences” it is increasingly important for Australian Universities to recognise the contributions to knowledge made in the Creative Arts disciplines. The Government reinforces this new alignment or strategic direction for our Universities but as yet few have taken this on board in any systematic and meaningful way. There are some attempts to position the discourse within the various University strategic plans but at this stage I would contend that it is merely ‘window dressing’ to camouflage the lack of administrative will to cater for the HCA disciplines, other than as a source of “bums on seats” and EFTS dollars.
Regulatory bite necessary.Our Universities are slow to respond to institutional change, particularly when it is not tied to additional sources of Government funding. We may have regulatory authorities to audit the practices of our Universities but in the case of the Creative Arts (particularly Creative Writing), where is the policy imperative to recognise academic staff’s creative work as research output or research equivalency? Some Universities have moved their bibliometrics to include these works but some have not. There still exists no formal sanctions for non-compliance in this area under the new Excellence in Research Australia introductory period..
Academic activism required.If academic –practitioners creative work in the Creative Arts remainunrecognised and undervalued, how can the disciplines ensure thatstudents are taken seriously, despite Cutler’s determination that“Australia’s innovation policy needs to acknowledge and incorporate therole of the creative and liberal arts” (Cutler 2008: p.48) for the Nationalbenefit?As Luke Jaaniste Research Fellow in Queensland University ofTechnology’s Creative Industries Faculty, states, “This response holdsthe perspective that the creative arts and broader humanities (HASSsector) can drive, produce, apply and diffuse innovation, in different butequally useful ways to the STEM sector... it does not adequately followthis through in the substance of its discussions and recommendations.”(Jaaniste 2008)
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