Laurie Taylor

April 4, 2013

‘This is how I really feel’

“Quite frankly, we welcome anyone on to our Creative Writing course who fancies writing a novel about themselves and their deep-down hitherto unexpressed feelings.”

This was how Janet Fluellen, our Director of Curriculum Development, responded to the assertion in Times Higher Education by Nicholas Royle, professor of English at the University of Sussex, that the dramatic rise in the number of creative writing courses at British universities might be threatening the future of critical literary studies as well as pandering to the modern culture of the self.

Ms Fluellen dismissed Professor Royle’s concerns as “regrettably elitist” and “thoroughly out of touch” with contemporary university curriculum strategy in which courses were designed primarily “in order to take proper account of students’ misguided beliefs about themselves and their career possibilities”.

It was for this reason that Poppleton was even now thinking of introducing new courses in Creative History and Creative Chemistry, in which students would no longer have tiresome limits placed on their imagination and freedom of self-expression by the constraints of “events” or the “periodic table of elements”.

In response to questions by our reporter Keith Ponting (30), Ms Fluellen said she also believed that a strong commitment to Creative Writing was an essential component of a university like Poppleton, where creativity already played such a vital role in everyday accounting practices, the compilation of the research excellence framework submission, and the preparation of documents for Quality Assurance Agency review teams.

Being elsewhere: theory and practice

Serious questions have been raised about the physical existence of some of our leading academics following the startling revelation that Durham University had been unknowingly employing a professor of English who simultaneously held a very similar post at the University of Alberta.

This alarming news immediately prompted the corporate director of our ever-expanding Human Resources team, Louise Bimpson, to ask all departmental secretaries to provide her with details of the precise current location of their leading scholars.

One of the most significant responses came from Maureen, departmental secretary in Media and Cultural Studies, who admitted that one of her department’s top academics, Dr Piercemüller, was nearly always “elsewhere”, though she felt unable to say with any certainty where “elsewhere” might be at any particular point in time.

In an accompanying letter of explanation, Dr Piercemüller maintained that “elsewhereness” was an important feature of life for senior academics charged primarily with research duties. “After all,” he wrote, “one would hardly expect someone with their mind focused on their next peer-reviewed journal article to be hanging around the sorts of places where they might accidentally bump into students.”

Ms Fluellen conceded that “being elsewhere” might indeed be an appropriate place for the modern highly paid non-teaching research academic, but still insisted that there was an important point of principle at stake when, as seemed to be the case in the Durham example, some academics chose to be “elsewhere” from more than one university at a time.

Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Next week’s Building Resilience Seminar is titled ‘Coping with Uncertainty’. But don’t count on it happening.

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