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Uncreative Writing

Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing seemed boring. And, well, uncreative, in fact in its appearance and design. That being said, the introduction opens up a strong argument for the type of writing he discusses, the language he uses, and the examples provided. I had never heard of taking a course that promoted plagiarism, let alone be rewarded for it. In fact, most universities have general academic integrity rules against it. In the world of academia, if you are found to have plagiarized any work you can be black listed from schools. It is not a risk most are willing to take.


Goldsmith’s argument of adaptation makes sense. The world of literature has not adapted wholly to the new technological world we live in. Aside from having a website or two and electronic copies of books, there haven’t been advancements in the mode of thinking. The world we live in is vastly different in one generation. We now have access to information that would have otherwise taken forever to curate. We now just wait a matter of seconds or milliseconds. This access has changed the way we view the world and interact with it. It stands to reason that our relationship to literature and the world must also change, though I am unsure if the concept of writing “uncreatively” is the answer, it surely does provide a stepping stone to understanding.


The idea of using found language is not new. Many modern writers have been challenging the concept of literary constraints using language found in the world around them. Centos, themselves a marvelous display of curating genius, is created using words and whole lines from other works. Perhaps the concept of what constitutes as found language is what has changed. Do tweets and threads found online count? Can we work outside of the limitation of literature and word-based mediums (news articles, genre works, etc.)? Do museum labels create poetry? Or other social media and dating site captions?


Found language is interesting as it is the basis for curating new work and promoting what he depicts as the “uncreative genius,” taking and reinventing what is already there. It is truly a feat of genius and intelligence to recreate. In the world of technology that is called advancement. Scientists take what is available to us now, upgrade it, and create something new from pieces that were already there, just added to it with a bit of their own research. It is praised to do that. Albeit, literature is not the same as science. Perhaps, though, we can view it with less disdain and more adoration for the ability to create change.


Rainbow Powell’s book Attachments exemplifies, partly, the use of technology in literature. The basis of the majority of the book is on the emails being sent between two colleagues and the ability for a third to read them in private. Though the book is completely fiction and the emails are not real, it opens up the argument that is made through the book about where language can be found.


It has always been important to challenge the limitations of language and meaning within literature. Erasures, centos, and old-school art already have done a lot in getting the idea of found language and “uncreative writing” out in the world. There is still some work to be done to get it in the mainstream environment. And perhaps that will only happen when robots are in charge of curating our art for us. Or maybe, we can curate our own art now, and showcase how human advancement is always human. It is up to us to answer the questions Goldsmith posed in his introduction.


Suddenly, we all find ourselves in the same boat grappling with new

questions concerning authorship, originality, and the way meaning is forged. (13)


It is my opinion that meaning is forged not in the creation or originality of work, but in the emotional response it forms within the reader. So maybe “uncreative writing” is the way to go for some, sometimes it opens up the arena and allows for rules to be broken and the hybridity and evolution of literature to go on. Maybe it isn’t. But meaning, above all else, cannot be derived from form alone.


Perhaps, some people must create a new way of thinking, a new way of writing. Perhaps, this is a risk some must be willing to take.

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