UNCREATIVE WRITING: MANAGING LANGUAGE IN THE DIGITAL AGE

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  • Can the techniques we traditionally think to be outside the scope of literature, such as word processing, databasing, appropriation, identity ciphering, collaboration, and intensive programming, inspire a reinvention of writing? In Uncreative Writing, Kenneth Goldsmith believes writers now face a situation similar to that of painters in the nineteenth century. As photography forced artists to alter their approach to their medium, the Internet presents new challenges and opportunities for writers to reconceive ideas about creativity, authorship, and their relationship to language. Confronted with an unprecedented amount of available text and language, writers need to move beyond the creation of new texts to manage, parse, appropriate, and reconstruct those that already exist. Goldsmith talks of writers who are already taking up this challenge. He discusses a wide range of works and techniques, including the use of Google searches to create poetry, the appropriation of courtroom testimony, and the possibility of robo-poetics. Goldsmith also shows that while the advent of the Web presents new opportunities for writers, many of the seemingly new techniques it represents date back to the early part of the twentieth century. Writers and artists such as Walter Benjamin, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Andy Warhol embodied an ethos in which the construction or conception of a text is as important as what the text says or does. Yet more than just reconfiguring texts, uncreative writing, as Goldsmith shows, can also be suffused with emotion, offering new ways of thinking about identity, the ways in which meaning is forged, and the ethos of our time.

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