Uncreative Writing in American Book Review

Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative WritingAmerican Book Review devoted a recent issue to uncreative writing, which they are offering for free on Project Muse. In his article, Uncreative Writing: What Are You Calling Art, Doug Nufer introduces the issue and defines uncreative writing as a subset of conceptual writing. Nufer writes:

Conceptual writing has been thought of as an afterthought to conceptual art. And yet, writers deployed strategies of appropriation and recontextualization long before Marcel Duchamp exhibited a urinal as sculpture. Centos made up of fragments of other works, poems built on the pure meaninglessness of sight or sound, and procedure-riddled texts where language play trumps sense anticipated and developed this tradition…. I would also like to concentrate on a subset of the genre that is sometimes used interchangeably with the term for the whole: uncreative writing. Uncreative writing is the appropriation of previously produced material, taking something out of its original context and putting it forth as art by reproducing it in another context.

The issue includes a review of Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age by Kenneth Goldsmith, a leading figure in the field. In her review of the book, Andrea Quaid writes,

One of the book’s main strengths is the way it elaborates on [uncreative writing] strategies through a series of compelling close readings. Goldsmith historicizes his survey by locating traditions of appropriation on firm modernist ground. Ezra Pound’s found and assembled language into verse in The Cantos and Walter Benjamin’s catalog of notes in The Arcades Project provide antecedents for the cut, copy, and paste work done today. What becomes of interest here is where Goldsmith clips the then-and-now comparison to differentiate modernism’s appropriated and compiled fragments from uncreative writing’s plagiarized wholes. Today’s books tend to import information in total. Goldsmith’s own Day is a 836-page retyping of a single day’s entire The New York Times

The issue also includes reviews of Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing, edited by Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin and Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century, by Marjorie Perloff. There is also an excellent article by Jen Graves looking at the relationship between conceptual art and conceptual writing.

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