Scott, J. (2020). The Fetch. New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/14790726.2020.1717543.
Scott, J. (2017). Cognitive Poetics and Creative Practice: Beginning the Conversation. New Writing [Online] 15:83-88. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14790726.2017.1376800.
This article sits on the critical-creative boundary and draws upon aspects of the field of cognitive poetics—the principled study of what happens in the mind as readers read—to explore how an understanding of these processes might benefit the creative writer. The paper is pioneering in that it considers the implications of cognitive poetic approaches to the ‘mechanics’ of prose fiction explicitly in terms of creative practice rather than from the perspective of the stylistician or literary critic. It is in providing a principled and rigorous account of the way readers read that cognitive poetics has much to offer the writer. Indeed, the paper will argue that writing and reading, rather than being separate activities, should be seen as interrelated positions along a cline.
Scott, J. (2016). Midlands Cadences: Narrative Voices in the Work of Alan Sillitoe. Language and Literature [Online] 25:312-327. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0963947016645001.
This paper will examine excerpts from a range of Alan Sillitoe’s prose fiction, most notably Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) and short stories from the collection The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1958), via a comparative exploration of the texts’ representations of Midlands English demotic. Both texts enact Bakhtin’s notion of novelistic dialogism and find much expressive capital in the tension between discourses: between the oral and the written. Indeed, it could be argued that much of Sillitoe’s work functions as a direct challenge to dominant notions of the literary. The narrative discourse attempts to trace a link between the quotidian experience of the Midlands English working classes represented and the demotic language which they speak. His technique also explores the link between language and sensibility; i.e. verbal articulacy need not be a limit to expression of a character’s distinctive identity. In contrast to the more radical techniques of novelists like James Kelman and Irvine Welsh, all instances of phonetically-rendered demotic remain imprisoned by what Joyce called ‘perverted commas’ – as direct speech. However, the diegetic narrative discourse itself is redolent of registers rooted in 1950s English working class life. The texts also contain different methods of representing their protagonists’ consciousness through their own idiolect. In Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, this is evidenced by the use of the second person ‘you’. It functions simultaneously as a representation of Seaton’s consciousness in the oral register which he might choose to articulate it, and as a dialogic ‘sideways glance’ at the reader and assumed shared experience. The second is more redolent of internal monologue, using the first-person form (as seen in the homodiegetic narration of the second novel); crucially, though, it remains in Standard English, if explicitly orientated towards oral register.
Sillitoe’s is a novelistic discourse which refuses to normalise itself to accord with the conventions of classic realism, and as such prefigures the ambitions of many contemporary writers who incline their narrative voices towards the oral – asserting the right of a character’s dialect/idiolect to be the principal register of the narrative. The paper will demonstrate this thesis through the ideas of Bakhtin, and through an analytical taxonomy derived from literary stylistics. It aims to propose a model which can be used to analyse and explore any fiction which has been labelled as ‘working class’, and asserts that such an approach leads to a more principled characterisation of working class fiction (based on its use of language) than current literary-critical discussions based simply on cultural/social context and biography.
Scott, J. (2014). Black Shuck (or God’s Windows). International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing [Online] 11:168-181. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14790726.2014.882958.
Scott, J. (2010). Eucharist (or The Lark Ascending). New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing [Online] 7:107-122. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14790721003777766.
The story is told from the point of view of a mysterious ‘other’, who narrates the life of a Church of England Priest encountering a crisis of faith after a calamitous event has disturbed the habitual tranquillity of the Parish. At times, the story becomes a kind of dialogue between the Priest and this mysterious narrator, but for the most part is narrated with a ‘you’ voice. The technique inevitably and inescapably foregrounds the presence of the narrator, and invites the reader to question that narrator's identity to a greater extent than in either the third- or first-person (in the latter case, this identity is usually made explicit). In the case of my own story, this identity is the key to the outcome. If the reader is able to identify imaginatively with this narrator, then the technique can be very effective; if not, the reader can feel disenfranchised from the creative process. In short, if the technique works, the reader takes on the perspective of the character and is ‘invited into’ the text; if it fails, the voice becomes impenetrable and excluding.
Scott, J. (2009). The Gloaming. Stand Magazine [Online] 9:40-46. Available at: http://www.people.vcu.edu/~dlatane/stand-maga/.
A short story.
Scott, J. (2008). England Calling: A Narratological Exploration of Martin Amis’s ’London Fields’. International Journal of the Humanities [Online] 6:59-66. Available at: http://ijh.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.26/prod.1438.
This paper will explore connections between fictional narrative methodology and contemporary conceptions of Englishness by applying aspects of Gerald Prince’s (2005) conceptions of a ‘postcolonial narratology’ to Martin Amis’s “London Fields” (1989). Amis has commented that ‘it’s almost an act of will on my part trying not to be an English writer’. However, this paper will suggest that the novel under consideration here exhibits methodological tendencies which have their roots in a protracted engagement with problematic notions of English identity (principally, instability and disengagement) and that postcolonial approaches to narrative technique can lead to very interesting results, even when applied to the work of writers not typically identified with such constituencies. The central point of investigation will be the novel’s exhibition of metafictional tendencies. In “London Fields”, Amis narrates via an authorial surrogate, Samson Young, who purports to be the author of the text, yet becomes implicated in the events of the novel to the point where his actions, rather than his imagination, determine its outcome. It is interesting also in this connection that the novel is voiced by an ‘outsider’ to England, an American.
Prince is intrigued by the possibility that a postcolonial narrative discourse might emerge ‘free of any narratorial introduction, mediation, or patronage.’ He also points to the significance of narratological features such as hybridity, migrancy, otherness, fragmentation, diversity and power relations. Amis’s novel exhibits all of these features, and takes the ambition of authorial invisibility to a paradoxical extreme. Voices, characters, reliability and even actantial events are brusquely ‘disowned’ by the author, resulting in a textual instability and uncertainty which, it will be demonstrated through close textual analysis, is intimately linked to England’s postcolonial condition.
Scott, J. (2007). Shared and Told Tales: Multiculturalism and Participatory Narrative Identities in Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’. International Journal of the Humanities [Online] 5:207-214. Available at: http://ijhar.cgpublisher.com/.
This paper proposes that Zadie Smith’s novel ‘White Teeth’ enacts an intriguing response to current debates
surrounding multiculturalism and identity in contemporary England through its insistence on the value of shared and participatory narratives. This issue is very much of the moment, given current debates within these islands on globalisation, on the post-devolution climate of the UK and its modern place in the world, and on matters connected to migration and shared identity. Firstly, Salman Rushdie’s views on multiculturalism will be explored; principally, his view of the concept as a ‘cop-out’ and his call for a ‘third way’ which lies somewhere in between laissez-faire multiculturalism and outright assimilation. A paradigm of this vision may be found in the portrayal of Delhi in Midnight’s Children, and there are parallels to be drawn between Rushdie’s Delhi and Smith’s London. Following this, Homi Bhabha’s theories on the relationship between identity and narrative form will be discussed and applied, i.e. of pedagogic (passively received) notions of national history versus performative (shared constructions) of it. ‘White Teeth’ illustrates both the potentialities and pitfalls of multiculturalism, and sees a resolution in a Bhabha-like sharing of stories. Samad’s and Archie’s lives criss-cross, part and reunite, until at the end Samad remarks: ‘This … will keep us two boys going for the next forty years. It’s the story to end all stories. It is the gift that keeps on giving.’ The two protagonists have completed a shared re-telling of their life stories, and thus a joint construction through narrative of shared history and, perhaps, shared identity.
Scott, J. (2005). Talking Back at the Centre: Demotic Language in Contemporary Scottish Fiction. Literature Compass [Online] 2:1-26. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-4113.2005.00148.x.
This article attempts a survey of a common trend in contemporary Scottish fiction(1994–2003): a unifying concern with issues of ‘voice’ in narrative. The survey
proceeds from an assumption that many Scottish writers make use of so-called demotic voices within their work (i.e. sociolects and dialects from everyday situations, or ‘street language’). Very often, this concern with the demotic arises
out of ideological standpoints peculiar (arguably) to Scotland: attempts to create a distance from Standard English, a nationalist position, or the ambition to reassert
the primacy (or, at least, the equivalency) of oral over written forms of language. The conclusion must be that choices made with regard to narrative technique are
ideological choices, and that the demotic method is not without its pitfalls. This assertion is demonstrated through an exploration of three writers: James Kelman, Alan Warner and Anne Donovan. All of these demotic techniques are aided and abetted by the writer’s intense identification with place, with Glasgow (for Kelman and Donovan) or with Scotland as a whole, and the intrinsically ‘polyphonic’
conditions which exist there, i.e. a range of dialects and voices standing as ‘other’ to Standard (colonial?) English. The writers’ goal is to exploit the particular cultural
and linguistic conditions peculiar to the country in order to produce a narrative art form which could adequately aspire to represent them; in other words, to create a
distinctive literary voice the better to represent a particular regional or national constituency. The pitfalls need to be addressed too: a tendency towards the mundane
and repetitive in demotic narratives, a certain belligerence which can alienate readers and the essential question of who this writing is written for. Can it be read with
true engagement outside of its target constituency? If not, is such writing open to the charge of parochialism?
Scott, J. (2019). Building a World from the Day’s Remains: Showing, Telling, Re-presenting. In: Sorlin, S. ed. Stylistic Manipulation of the Reader in Contemporary Fiction. London, UK: Bloomsbury. Available at: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/stylistic-manipulation-of-the-reader-in-contemporary-fiction-9781350062979/.
In the meta-discourses of creative writing, the terms ‘showing’ and ‘telling’ are often used to distinguish between different kinds of narrative effect. The distinction can be taken literally: in the former, the narrative creates the impression that the reader is being ‘shown’ the events that unfold, as if present in or witnessing the storyworld. In the latter, the reader will feel that they are being told about the events once removed. However, it is difficult to define, distinguish between and analyse the two terms in a principled manner. This is especially true in the case of first-person (homodiegetic) narration which takes place simultaneously with the events being mediated. In such narrative situations, the effects are blended more overtly, and foregrounded, because a homodiegetic narrator must both ‘show’ and ‘tell’ at the same time. This chapter will augment and extend a model outlined in Scott (2013) by arguing that the classical terms mimesis and diegesis together with taxonomies drawn from stylistic descriptions of discourse presentation (Short 2007) and Text World Theory (Werth 1999, Gavins 2007) can provide a robust means of exploring the difference between the two techniques of representation and their differing effects on the reader’s processes of world-building. Examples are drawn from Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day (1989) to illustrate the distinction, and it will be argued that more nuanced understanding of the processes involved at a stylistic and cognitive poetic level will be of benefit to both creative practitioners and critics.
Scott, J. (2018). The Experimental Short Story. In: Delaney, P. and Hunter, A. eds. The Edinburgh Companion to the Short Story in English. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. Available at: https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-the-edinburgh-companion-to-the-short-story-in-english.html.
This chapter investigates the expressive and methodological possibilities inherent in writing ‘short’ through close analysis of the narrative structure and prose style of a sample of what can be classified variously as ‘postmodern’, experimental and anti-realist short stories. It achieves this through the use of theoretical frameworks rooted in narratology and stylistics. First, the paper proposes briefly some narratological and stylistic ‘norms’ against which the deviations characteristic of experimental short fiction can be measured: the linear plot, unity of point of view, a standard narrative discourse in linguistic terms and so on. Subsequently, the discussion explores the work of writers whose work pulls against these norms, investigating how their writing does so and to what end and effect. It will draw on brief examples from the anti-narrative and negation of Beckett to the graphological and typographical experimentation of Donald Barthelme, Ronald Sukenick and Gabriel Josipovici, the psychogeography and explicit ‘urbanism’ of Iain Sinclair, the demotic vernacular of James Kelman, to the use of myth and folktale in the work of Robert Coover and A.S. Byatt. The paper’s thesis is that the experimental short story genre can thus be defined and delineated in a principled manner with reference to concepts drawn from stylistics, and that such definition has useful implications and lessons for creative practice in general.
Scott, J. (2018). The Language of Creative Writing. In: The Routledge Handbook of English Language Studies. London, UK: Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Handbook-of-English-Language-Studies-1st-Edition/Seargeant-Hewings-Pihlaja/p/book/9781138913455.
This chapter takes a somewhat unorthodox approach to the discussion of creative writing practice by asserting that the discipline can be approached from the perspective of language studies as well as, as is more usual, within the context of literary studies (hence accounting for the chapter’s position in this volume). It will justify this assertion by using a critical framework drawn from literary stylistics (sometimes referred to as literary linguistics): the analysis of literary discourse using frameworks drawn from linguistics. It will proceed from the premise that an understanding of stylistics has a great deal to offer the creative writer; the discussion and suggestions for practice are not intended to relate to creative writing pedagogy (although they may of course have applications in the classroom), but rather to the act of creative writing ‘at the coalface’. A summarising ambition of the chapter, then, is to reverse the usual stylistic paradigm of post-event textual analysis and to instil ‘stylistic awareness’ at the forefront of the writing mind: in the act of creative writing.
In the introductory section, the fundamental paradigms of the chapter will be set out: first, stylistics’s posing of the question of whether or not there is such a thing as a ‘literary language’, and, second, the dichotomy between mimesis and diegesis (loosely characterised in the Aristotelian sense as ‘showing’ versus ‘telling’). The second section will centre around the proposition that in literary discourse, the reader is ‘seeing through language’ (in both senses of that phrase), and that it will benefit the writer to take account of the processes involved in practice. A cline exists between ‘standard’ discourse, which aspires towards transparency, to more self-conscious, linguistically deviant modes of expression, often considered to be somehow more ‘literary’. The writer may situate their ‘voice’, whether in poetry or narrative fiction, at either end of this cline, or, much more commonly, at a point somewhere along it, or even fluctuating back and forth across it. The position of the voice on this cline is also a characteristic of literary genre (i.e. poetry versus prose). Thirdly, the chapter will draw on narratology to discuss story structure and the relationship between ‘discourse’ and ‘plot’. Next, there will be a section with suggestions for practice, which will include discussion of the following stylistic ‘tropes’ in direct relation to creative practice, and exercises through which the various topics can be explored: point of view and focalisation, figurative language, presenting speech and thought, metaphor, and, finally, prosody: rhythm, metre, sound and sense. The final section will speculate on further possible connections between developing areas of stylistics and English Language Studies more broadly and creative writing, e.g. cognitive metaphor theory, possible world theory, text-world theory and deictic shift theory.
Scott, J. (2016). Worlds from Words: Theories of World-building as Creative Writing Toolbox. In: Gavins, J. and Lahey, E. eds. World Building: Discourse in the Mind. London: Bloomsbury.
This chapter sits on the critical-creative boundary and draws upon aspects of the field of cognitive poetics to explore what happens when readers read, and asks how an understanding of these processes can benefit the creative writer. The work is pioneering in that it considers the implications of cognitive poetic approaches to the ‘mechanics’ of prose fiction explicitly in terms of creative practice rather than from the perspective of the stylistician or literary critic. The central (and simple) proposal is this: there is a remarkable facility in the mind of the reader which enables her or him to be transported to fictional worlds which may or may not bear relation to his or her ‘actual world’, for example to modern Bangkok, ancient Greece, Victorian London, the mountains of Tolkien’s Middle Earth or the surface of Mars. Traditionally referred to as a process of ‘suspension of disbelief’, this remarkable facility is something which creative writers should understand thoroughly and aim to exploit – and, crucially, should also be wary of disrupting unnecessarily (or, at least, be aware of what happens when it is disrupted). It is in providing a principled and rigorous account of the way readers read that cognitive poetics has much to offer the writer. Indeed, the paper will argue that writing and reading, rather than being separate activities, should be seen as interrelated positions along a cline.
Using terminology drawn from narratology, cognitive linguistics, Text-World Theory and Possible Worlds Theory, the chapter explores how writers build and manipulate worlds and, second, how an understanding of this theoretical infrastructure can invigorate creative practice. The various methodological issues to be discussed include overwriting, de-familiarisation, effective description (through creative exploitation of schema), ‘trusting’ the reader and the use of narrative voices. In short, it will be proposed that an understanding of cognitive poetics cans give the creative writer a sophisticated and nuanced appreciation of the ways in which language creates and builds imaginary worlds that exist at different ‘levels’ and in different relationships to one another.
Scott, J. (2014). Creative Writing and Stylistics. In: Burke, M. ed. The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics. London: Routledge, pp. 423-439. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Handbook-of-Stylistics/Burke/p/book/9780415527903.
This chapter will explore a selection of the many potential interfaces between stylistics and creative writing, and will proceed from the premise that these interfaces have been underexplored to date. The observations are intended to relate not just to the pedagogy of the two disciplines, but also to the act of writing ‘at the coalface’.
In the introductory section, the fundamental paradigms of the chapter will be set out: first, stylistics’ posing of the question of whether or not there is such a thing as a ‘literary language’, and, second, the dichotomy between mimesis and diegesis (loosely characterised in the Aristotelian sense as ‘showing’ versus ‘telling’). In ‘Historical Perspectives’, a short discussion of connections between structuralist narratology and the act of writing will be combined with observations about the historical relationship between rhetoric and composition. The two paradigms come together in a ‘Critical Issues and Topics’ section, with the proposition that in literary discourse, the reader is ‘seeing through language’ (in both senses of that phrase), and that it will benefit the writer to take account of the processes involved in practice. A cline exists between ‘standard’ discourse, which aspires towards transparency, to more self-conscious, linguistically deviant modes of expression, often considered to be somehow more ‘literary’. The writer may situate their ‘voice’, whether in poetry or narrative fiction, at either end of this cline, or, much more commonly, at a point somewhere along it, or even fluctuating back and forth across it. The position of the voice on this cline is also a characteristic of literary genre (i.e. poetry versus prose). The ‘Recommendations for Practice’ section is the most substantial, and will include discussion of the following stylistic ‘tropes’ in direct relation to creative practice, and exercises through which the various topics can be explored: linguistic deviation and figurative language, point of view and focalisation, representing speech and thought, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and, finally, rhythm and metre, sound and sense. ‘Future Directions’ will speculate on further possible connections between developing areas of stylistics and creative writing, e.g. cognitive stylistics, text-world theory and deictic shift theory.
Scott, J. (2012). Creative Writing: a Stylistics Approach. In: Burke, M., Csabi, S., Week, L. and Zerkowitz, J. eds. Pedagogical Stylistics: Current Trends in Language, Literature and ELT. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 96-112. Available at: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/pedagogical-stylistics-9781441140104/.
This chapter presents an overview of a relatively new approach to creative writing, complementing more ‘traditional’ methods of teaching, by focusing on stylistic and narratological approaches to the discipline. The method proceeds from the premise that the ambition to write creatively presupposes an interest in the ‘expressive mechanics’ of language. A more in-depth understanding of these processes will benefit the writer in many ways, for example by providing them with a precise taxonomy with which to describe various fictional, poetic and dramatic techniques. This will aid detailed analysis of their own and others’ creative work.
Stylistics-based modules have often taught the subject by presenting theory in conjunction with textual examples. This approach to the practice of creative writing takes such a process one step further, by encouraging practioners subsequently to produce creative work in the form of short exercises which exemplify and creatively explore the theory. A ‘two-pronged’ approach is adopted, then, whereby writers are at first introduced to various stylistic and narratological concepts and models (e.g. plot versus narrative, linguistic deviation, deixis, register, focalization, ways of representing thought/speech, and metaphor), then asked to respond to them creatively; for example, an exercise might ask writers to use linguistic deviation to foreground themes and images; another might get them to deploy varying focalizations to tell the same story from different perspectives.
This chapter discusses the rationale behind this approach to the discipline, and its intended content in some detail. A brief selection of exercises for further practice is also presented.
Scott, J. (2007). The Soul of the Eye and the Words on the Page: Ruskin’s Literary Vision and The King of the Golden River. In: March-Russell, P. and Casaliggi, C. eds. Ruskin in Perspective: Contemporary Essays. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Available at: http://www.c-s-p.org/Flyers/Ruskin-in-Perspective--Contemporary-Essays.htm.
The study begins with an analysis of the essay ‘Fiction, Fair and Foul’ (1880-1) and the idealised ‘word picture’ of Croxted Lane near Dulwich, fondly remembered from Ruskin’s childhood, with which Ruskin begins that piece. He goes to some lengths to describe the natural beauty of the place, and then compares this bucolic vision with the state of the same area in 1880, when it has become blighted by new housing, light industry and the growth of the railways. Ruskin’s reminiscences here form more than a simple reactionary tirade, though. Certainly, Ruskin mourns the plight of the children growing up in the area now, bemoaning their loss of innocence in a way with which Blake would have greatly sympathised, and the fact that they will no longer be able to explore and learn to understand the natural world as Ruskin himself was able to when growing up in the area. Crucially, however, he connects the dearth of this kind of experience amongst the children of contemporary London to a stunting or even truncation of imaginative growth, further reinforcing a perennial theme of his work: that exercising the young imagination is one of the most valuable purposes of all art. Secondly, he goes on to contend that much modern fiction, with the notable exception of Scott, limits itself to an ugliness of the subject-matter, to sensationalism and to a willingness to deal with ‘low’ subjects. He appears to suggest that this trend is, in part, the result of the erosion of natural landscapes. Industrialisation and urban creep become linked with a paucity of the creative spirit. Conversely, to develop the human imagination is also to develop the human mind.
The second half of the study, accordingly, explores Ruskin’s own literary response to this challenge and the palliative he appears to find in the ‘literary fairy tale’. In a lecture entitled ‘Fairy Land’ (in The Art of England, 1884), he praises ‘the art which intends to address only childish imagination, and whose subject is primarily to entertain with grace’. In other words, Ruskin finds a solution in a marriage between the childlike, innocent imagination and the unsullied pastoral. His views on visual arts which achieve this are well known, but in ‘Fiction, Fair and Foul’ he also alludes to the potential of the written word to achieve similar aims, and laments its failure so to do:
Often, both in those days and since, I have put myself hard to it, vainly, to find words wherewith to tell of beautiful things; but beauty has been in the world since the world was made, and human language can make a shift, somehow, to give account of it.
His own attempt to coerce language and the literary form into this ‘shift’ can be found in The King of the Golden River (1851). In this literary fairy tale, Ruskin shallowly buries a clear moral didacticism; when the Treasure Valley of the story is corrupted and made barren by the evil of the two brothers, the direct comparison between ‘all that is good and true’ and the unsullied pastoral is made clear and unequivocal. Further, the lush and vivid descriptions of the Treasure Valley are an example of Ruskin’s own (and only fictional) attempt to ‘paint’ a vision of the pastoral in words, and at times bear a resemblance to the depiction of Croxted Lane in ‘Fiction, Fair and Foul’. Further, by using the genre of the fairy tale, Ruskin appeals directly to the childlike imagination in which he places such faith and responsibility for the future of the arts and, further, human culture.
This study, then, will attempt to demonstrate how Ruskin’s particularly moral vision of beauty finds expression in The King of the Golden River by examining the ‘word painting’ of landscape in it and by comparing this portrayal directly to the ideas expressed in the essay ‘Fiction, Fair and Foul’(1880-1). It will also draw on Ruskin’s ideas about the literary fairy tale as an expression of the childlike imagination, and the importance he attached to this facility.