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

Experimental Writing with Momo Wang by Lena Hartsough

Recently, we had a mini-unit with artist-in-residence Momo Wang. Our unit with her was focused on experimental fiction, which is prose that transgresses the usual rules of fictional writing. These transgressions could be anything ranging from grammatical errors or a lack of dialogue to extraordinarily long sentences or an entire piece written without the letter “e.”

We read experimental pieces, including excerpts from The Waves by Virginia Woolf, Brasília by Clarice Lispector, and many others, and wrote our own pieces that broke the rules that we have become used to following in our time in Creative Writing. And yet several of us realized, in writing for Momo’s unit, that we have already written experimental fiction. Some of us write pieces with an excessive use of parentheses, some with run-on sentences that take up entire paragraphs, some using other transgressive elements, but we didn’t realize our work was experimental fiction, when, in fact, it was. I definitely write experimentally, most often when I write works with high emotion in them or which are about my own experiences.

Recently, I’ve taken to writing every night before I go to bed, and it is always a stream of consciousness (a style we discussed with Momo), and often contains oddly structured sentences. Even though I knew that the writing that I do at night in this way was not in the same style as my normal fiction, I didn’t have a name for what it was.  But now those of us who didn’t recognize the genre of our work for what it was will know what we are doing when we write in ways that transgress the boundaries of writing, and we can use that knowledge to continue to expand our writing and learn to expand our writing into something more.

Lena Hartsough, class of 2019