Writing and Form

This unit examines literary experiments that break with convention in two different ways: by appealing to the resources of the unconscious and by inventing new systems of rules. We will begin with the Surrealists and their adoption of automatic writing techniques in the aftermath of the First World War. Then we will look briefly at the work of certain surrealist dissidents, whose work could only flourish outside the group. Raymond Queneau's Odile will interest us both as a critique of surrealism and as an example of a consciously elaborated "technique of the novel." A very different work by Queneau, Exercises in Style , will lead us to reflect on the place of variation and rhetoric in modern literature. Short stories by Jorge Luis Borges and Georges Perec will raise complex questions concerning originality, influence and plagiarism. Finally, we will investigate the new writing rules proposed by the Oulipo, a group of experimental writers founded in 1960 and still going strong.

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