WRIT 350: The Theory and Practice of Literary Creation (Memory & Creativity)

Next offered

2023-24 (tentative)

  • second-year standing; or
  • permission of the department (contact the instructor).
Calendar Description

A lecture course surveying the nature of the creative process.

Course Description

Writing 350 is a senior undergraduate lecture/discussion course with a focus on the role and representations of memory in creative writing. We will read and view literary and dramatic works across the genres (and that blur genres), which draw on memory in different forms and/or reflect on the complex nature of memory. We will also discuss secondary sources, including essays, scientific papers and podcasts, and debate how the current understanding of human memory might be integrated into our own creative process and work. Our discussions will focus on how, as writers, we can both tap into the power of memory (voluntary memory, involuntary memory, family memory, traumatic memory, cultural memory, archival memory, ecological memory, technological memory) and represent the complex experiences and impacts of memory in our own writing.

The course will include readings/viewings selected by the instructor; brief oral presentations by students (live or recorded); in-class discussions; short weekly online written exercises and creative prompts submitted to Brightspace; a short reflective essay about the role of memory in the work of one or more writers; and a major creative project (personal essay, short story, script, video, long poem or suite of poems) accompanied by a brief reflective note about how you tried to integrate and demonstrate your thinking about the process and experience of memory.

Course Goals

Upon completion of this third-year writing course, students should be able to:

  • to broaden your reading knowledge across different literary genres;
  • to learn the basics of current scientific and cross-cultural understanding of human memory;
  • to reflect on how artists use memory in their creative processes and practices;
  • to understand how artists represent the experience of memory in their work;
  • to wrestle with artistic and ethical challenges related to memory;
Primary Reading / Viewing
  • Excerpts from Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust, volume 1 of In Search of Lost Time. (Autofiction, memoir-as-novel, bildungsroman.) Excerpt posted on Brightspace.
  • Waltz with Bashir, director Ari Folman. (Animated documentary, war memoir.) Available as a DVD in the UVic and GVPL library collections, or for rent or purchase via various streaming services. We will watch in class the week before.
  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel, Mariner Book. (Graphic novel, family memoir.) Available at UVic Bookstore or on Library Course Reserve.
  • Citizen, by Claudia Rankine, Graywolf Press. (Lyric essay, prose poem, mixed media.) Available at UVic Bookstore.
  • A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, by Alicia Elliott, Anchor Canada. (Memoir, personal essay, lyric essay, participatory essay.) Title essay available online.
  • “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” by Alice Munro. (Short story.) PDF on Brightspace. Also available online.
  • Away From Her, directed by Sarah Polley. (Film adaptation.) Available to rent or borrow, or stream on Prime. We will watch in class the week before.
  • Krapp’s Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett. (Dramatic monologue.) 1990 production, directed by Beckett, available to view/listen online.
  • Burns: A Post-Electric Play, by Anne Washburn. (Dystopian stage drama, musical theatre.) Available in a collection at UVic Bookstore. Available to order in book form, Kindle, or to read online via Scribd. There are some clips and a (so-so) high-school production available on YouTube.
  • The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa, Pantheon Books. (Dystopian fiction.) Available at UVic Bookstore or 3-Day loan on Library Course Reserve.
  • Before I Forget, by 3-Fold Games. (Video game, interactive visual novel.) Available for purchase online. Also available to play on PC in Fine Arts Interactive Media (FAIM) Lab, Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm. Access via your One Card.
  • Thousand Year-Old Vampire, by Tim Hutchings. (Solo role-playing story-game.) Book available online. PDF for free via Brightspace.
  • Field Guide to Memory, by Jeehom Shin and Shin Yin Khor. Available to purchase.
  • Poems, essays and short stories posted on Brightspace
Secondary Reading / Viewing

A variety of secondary background readings as well as extra readings and optional bonus resources will be posted on Brightspace to be read/viewed along with the primary literary readings and productions to give context and widen the scope of our discussions, including essays and research articles from the following anthologies, available online via Brightspace using your NetLink ID.

  • Memory. Edited by Philippe Tortell, Mark Turin and Margot Young.
  • Memory: History, Theories, Debates. Edited by Susannah Radstone and Bill Schwarz.
  • The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Memory. Edited by Sven Ernecker and Kourken Michaelian
Memory Journal

You will be required to bring in a blank or lined notebook of any size (the larger the better) as your Memory Journal, to be used for in-class brainstorming exercises and writing prompts. If you find your mind drifting during lectures/presentations, feel free to doodle or make notes in this journal. A phone or a laptop is NOT a substitute for this journal. I want you to self-monitor how digital distractions can block mental pathways that connect us to memories and how letting the mind drift—while still capturing thoughts on the page through the embodied act of writing by hand—can open creative portals to our memories. Feel free to bring coloured pens or pencils to use for in-class doodling or writing exercises

Course Syllabus 

Official syllabus is subject to change and will be posted online via Brightspace.