Category Archives: Second Year

Lucy and Christopher have
set up the following new blog:

looking for creative work
for the inaugural upload!

– poetry
– fiction (of varying length)
– non-fiction
– sound pieces
– illustration
– photography

Follow the links for more information…




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95 Cent Skool

The 95 Cent Skool is a 6 day long experimental seminar that will be offered in Oakland, California, July 26-31, 2010. It is convened by Joshua Clover and Juliana Spahr. It will explore the possibilities of poetry writing as part of a larger social practice, at a distance from the economic and professional expectations of institutions. We believe a dozen people sitting around a table can’t ruin poetry, but that costs, professional context, mythologies of individual genius, and client/service-based models can — and in our own experiences teaching in pay-to-play writing programs, often do.

Our concerns in these six days begin with the assumption that poetry has a role to play in the larger political and intellectual sphere of contemporary culture, and that any poetry which subtracts itself from such engagements is no longer of interest. “Social poetics” is not a settled category, and does not necessarily refer to poetry espousing a social vision. It simply assumes that the basis of poetry is not personal expression or the truth of any given individual, but shared social struggle.

The 6 days will feature:
• Morning discussion groups lead by Juliana and Joshua
• Two guest speakers: one on the political economy and one on ecology
• Afternoon group and/or collaborative writing sessions
• Dinners and drinks at a nearby bar

The 6 days will not feature:
• Workshops led by a “master poet”
• Agents or editors who will advise your work into publication
• A Richard Wilbur Celebration Night
• Instruction in reciting poetry to bring out the emotional content of the poem

The final program will be available later in the Spring.

Each participant will be asked to contribute up to 1% of annual gross income as their 95 cents exclusively towards operating expenses. The workshop leaders and as many other organizers as possible will donate their time. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Email us if you’ve got questions about how much you can pay. We will also help in finding free housing for any participants in need.

The program is open to any interested participant with any level of prior engagement with poetry. This program is not affiliated with any institution of higher education and no transferrable institutional credit will be offered. There is no application fee, but space is limited. Please send a note indicating interest and experience to

Please feel encouraged to re/post this listing to your blog or otherwise redistribute. If you would like to receive further information about the 95 Cent Skool, please email the address above, or join the 95 Cent Skool facebook group:
The 95 Cent Skool will happen with the support of Small Press Traffic and ‘A ‘A Arts.

Thank you very much,

the 95¢ Skoolers —

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Star Wars Retold

You’ll remember what we said about fabula and sjuzhet, I trust. Well here’s a concrete example of what I mean. Take the fabula of the original Star Wars trilogy. One treatment of that sjuzhet is George Lucas’s series of films. Here is another treatment; same fabula, different sjuzhet (a guy gets his friend, who has seen bits and pieces of the films but not seen any of them all the way through, to recount the story). Actually I prefer this version. The animation helps. [AR]

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Three sentences from the second years

I think whole stories are embedded, in nascent form, in these three sentences, generated by one group of 2nd-years in seminar today [AR]:

The French lady wore a blue sequinned purse.

Observing the blue sky, she decided to smile.

There was a dragon that didn’t like princesses.

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Fabula and Sjuzhet

You can, if you prefer, talk about ‘story’ and ‘plot’; but I prefer the Russian Formalist critical terminology because (a) you score more with those words in Scrabble, and (b) I love the way you can spell sjuzhet various different ways without being wrong: siuzhet; sjuzet; siužet; sjužet and Dolores. You’ll see all of those in print in critical discussion. Well, maybe not the last one there.

What’s the difference? Well, ‘fabula’ means the story and ‘sjužet’ means the particular way that story gets narrated–the plot, in other words. Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe and Michel Tournier‘s Friday both tell the same story (the story of Robinson Crusoe on the island); but from quite different perspectives and in quite different ways (they are narrated and plotted differently). Here’s Jeremy Hawthorn’s perspective:

We are concerned with an essentially very simple distinction surrounded by minefields of confusing vocabulary … the simple distinction is between a series of real or fictitious events connected by a certain logic or chronology and involving certain actors, and the narration of this series of events. Thus were one asked to give the story of Wuthering Heights a suitable response would be to start with the first arrival of the child Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights and then proceed to recount the events of the novel in chronological order until the death of Heathcliff. But the plot of Wuthering Heights is these events as they are actually presented in Emily Bronte’s novel. The same story can thus give rise to many different plots. [p.227]

Mieke Bal actually distintinguishes between three levels: story, plot and narration. Similarly, for Gérard Genette the ‘events in chronological order’ are the histoire, the ‘events ordered artistically’ the discours or the recit, and the text on the page is the ‘narration’.

As writers, we need to have the skill to work out which sjuzhet is the best way to articulate whatever fabula we’re interesting in communicating: what order the events need to be related, which point or points of view are going to do it justice, to what extent we trim or expand, where we linger and where we hurry past. But there are plenty of theorists who find th every distinction between ‘story’ and ‘plot’ to be problematic. The Wikipedia article on ‘sjuzhet’ has a good summary of a couple of those, from which I snip the following:

Jonathan Culler‘s (The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 1981) 170-172) critique of Sjuzhet and Fabula is that they constitute a double move. The first move is to set Sjuzhet (narrative) in hierarchical domination over Fabula (story). Story becomes relegated in the first move to a mere chronology of event. In the second move, narrative self-deconstructs its initial duality, in order to double back to efface the order of event (Culler, 1981: 171).

Jacques Derrida (‘Living On – Border Lines’ in Deconstruction and Criticism (NY: Seabury Press, edited by Harold Bloom et. al, 1979)) is also critical of the logocentric hierarchic ordering of Sjuzhet and Fabula. He raises the question, “What if there are story ways of telling as well as narrative ways of telling? And if so, how is it that narrative in the American-European tradition has become privileged over story?” One answer is that narrative is both Sjuzhet (emplotment) and a subjection of Fabula (the stuff of story, represented through narrative). For example, Derrida views narrative as having a terrible secret, in its way of oppressing story:

… The question-of-narrative covers with a certain modesty a demand for narrative, a violent putting-to-the-question an instrument of torture working to wring out the narrative as if it were a terrible secret in ways that can go from the most archaic police methods to refinements for making (and even letting) one talk unsurpassed in neutrality and politeness, most respectfully medical, psychiatric, and even psychoanalytic. (Derrida, 1979: 94).

If story is more than Fabula, dominated by narrative, it could have its own manner of discourse, rather than being subordinate to narrative. Derrida plays with just such an idea as follows in setting story in relation to its homonym: ‘Each “story” (and each occurrence of the word “story,” (of itself), each story in the story) is part of the other, makes the other part (of itself), is at once larger and smaller than itself, includes itself without including (or comprehending) itself, identifies itself with itself even as it remains utterly different from its homonym.’ (Derrida, 1979: 99-100).

How separate, do you think, are the categories of fabula and sjuzhet? [AR]

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Two CW2020 Stories

The two stories below are from today’s class: each seminar member wrote one sentence, one after the other, and the final result got a quick and minimal polish.  One of these stories is considerably better than the other, I think; although I leave it to you to decide which is which. The first story is 180 words long, and is called ‘The Terrible Magic Spider’. 

His name was Adam; he had been blind since the age of twelve. He was spending the evening of his twentieth birthday in the bath. He felt something crawling down his arm. A spider—it bit him and paralysed him and he was stuck in the bath. And then the doorbell rang. But all he could do was smell his lavender-scented candles. The water around him was cooling rapidly, but he couldn’t move to take the plug out. The doorbell rang again. He attempted to scream, but the poison had spread to his larynx. In a last effort to escape from the bath he concentrated all his power in moving his toe. He was shrinking. Suddenly eight legs unsheathed from his sides. He could see with eight eyes. He spun a web from his thorax. Clicking his fangs together he eyed-up a fly. The numbing paralysis was replaced by a new sense of agility. His mother knocked on the bathroom door. Thinking he was an average spider, she bunged him down the plughole and he tumbled to a merciless death.

The second story is 250-words long and is called ‘Bath.’

He had been blind since the age of twelve, and now he was spending the evening of his twentieth birthday in the bath. Steam inhabited the room. He breathed it in, cloying moist air. His legs were out of the water, and he was resting his feet on the shoulders of the bath. He had been able to lie flat in the bath a long time ago, when he’d still been able to see the bubbles. Now he could only feel the bubbles fizzing gently on his skin. It had been a hard day; slowly he slid down until he was fully submerged and a stream of air escaped his lips. Drips and drops fell from the tap, like it had something to cry about. The water was warm. He could still hear the radio in the kitchen, its music muffled. Elvis Presley’s voice smeared and clumped.
There was a knock on the bathroom door.
I’ll move in a moment, he thought. I’ll get out in a moment.
It was all very tiresome. His mother was cooking his favorite meal, but he wanted nothing more than to sit in his room and listen to an audiobook. He hated the kitchen. A pan shuddering on the hob with its freight of boiling water. He resurfaced, sat upright. His mother was knocking on the door again. He could no longer smell the lavender. The scented candles must have gone out. He must be sitting in darkness.


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CW2020 Seminar Group A

Group A: a photocopy of some short stories will be in the English Departmental Office for you to collect later today.  Please pick one up and read the stories before next Friday’s session (10-12)  [AR]

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