Formal Transgressions by Ren Weber

In light of CW’s most recent unit on Experimental Writing with Momo Wang, I’ve been interested in what defines and limits transgressive and experimental writing. In her unit, Momo juxtaposed two literary transgressions: writing bound by set limitations and constraints, and writing with very little or no literary constraints that may use stream-of-consciousness and interiority. The examples she brought in on writing with limits and restrictions (restraining word choice, structure, or verse form) intrigued me the most.

Momo showed us many pieces that included elements of constrained writing, such as A Void by Georges Perec, a novel that entirely excludes the letter “e.” Perec is a self-proclaimed Oulipian, belonging to a group of artists who define themselves as “rats who must build the labyrinth from which they propose to escape.” They essentially attempt to use constrained writing methods to create works of art. A Void is particularly interesting to me because of the sheer amount of time and dedication it must have required; it’s difficult to imagine composing a few paragraphs of an “e”-less narrative, nonetheless a 300-page novel!

I often find myself trying to avoid limitations and constraints in creative writing. I like writing pieces that are sometimes incoherent and not bound to proper formatting, line spacing, or narrative structures. This being said, I think it would be a very interesting experience to try and write a piece in which I am limited by a vowel or verse form, and I think experimenting with this might help me hone in on the actual content of the piece. I am grateful for Momo Wang’s guidance over the week and hope to explore experimental writing in the future!

Ren Weber, class of 2020

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