The Collaborative Craft of Creatural Writing

Lockwood, Alex (2015) The Collaborative Craft of Creatural Writing. In: Writing Creatural Lives. Palsgrave McMillan, London. (In Press)

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Abstract

Donald Turner has suggested that “if a non-human animal’s story is to be told or heard, this will require a different type of listening than that to which humans are accustomed.”

What this chapter proposes, in alignment with the call for contributions, is that not only do we require a new type of listening for creaturely life, but also new forms of narrating those stories, and an attentiveness to the very creatureliness of narrative itself.

I am interested in exploring the processes by which writers imagine and narrativize the creaturely nature of human-animal relationships and the place and representation of the nonhuman in their work and lives. I am particularly interested in the affective dimensions of a creaturely writing process—the structures of feeling for writers when they engage with ideas and narratives that are seen as creaturely, which might be directly concerned with the nonhuman, or indirectly approach these subjects. This exploration is most concerned with the creaturely nature of the production of writing, and how responding to scenes of creatureliness can expose for us the affects of writing in relation to how the human and the animal are delineated.

One structure of feeling I am particularly interested in exploring is the injustice felt by those engaged in vegan life practices, animal advocacy and education who, driven by their own emotions and experiences of the nonhuman, their interest and affective responses to extinction, biodiversity loss, animal suffering, and empathy with nonhuman others, explore these issues in their writing production. What are the techniques of craft, the psychological considerations, and the processes of research, that lead writers into creaturely pathways?

In addition, if writing is, as Jose Rivera names it, “the explanation of life to the living” where writers “try to tease apart the conflicting noises of living and make some kind of pattern and order” how does the non-linguistic nature and sense of those being written about impact upon the writers’ processes; those stories being told anew, and listened to? And by who? How do writers avoid didacticism and propaganda in their work? How are affects and emotions from the research processes parsed back through the everyday lives of those engaged with creaturely narrative pursuit?

A particular thread will engage with the belief that fiction creates knowledge differently, and it is a different kind of knowledge created through narrative. Engaging with ideas from Anat Pick’s Creaturely Poetics, with Susan McHugh’s Animal Stories, and with the strands of literary considerations of affect theory, in particular the work of Ann Cvetkovich on utopias of daily habit, Kathy Stewart on worlding, Lauren Berlant on attachment to fantasy, and Thom Van Dooren on care, I will attempt to elucidate a sense of the process of ‘writing the creaturely animal’ in literary works that are an attempt to create a break with the business-as-usual representations of the nonhuman in contemporary culture.

This is important. It is through a sense of new more-than-representational narratives, the something-out-there that we are beginning to become attuned to, perhaps, in what Dierdra Reber calls our move away from rationality towards an “episteme of affect”, that we will become cognizant of other beings in ways that no longer deny them (or us) our creatureliness, and instead build constellations of affect and meaning-making between and becoming-with species, rather than over and against them.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Culture > Creative Writing
Culture > English Language and Literature
Sciences > Environment
Media > Media and Cultural Studies
Social Sciences > Sociology
Divisions: Creative and Cultural Practices Beacon > Media and Cultural Studies Workstream
Faculty of Arts Design and Media > Department of Media
Depositing User: Alex Lockwood
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2016 10:14
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 09:23
URI: http://sure.sunderland.ac.uk/id/eprint/6616

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