BC EDITIONS: BEYOND CRITICISM
BC Editions discovers new forms for new thinking about literature; a literary criticism that is itself literary, speaking to anyone who thinks that reading matters. We want to break down false divisions between scholarship and imagination, accountability and adventure. To think critically is to think creatively; to think creatively is to think critically.
BUILDING ON THE PAST
Many of the greatest works of literature have also been great acts of reading: Homer’s Iliad is rewritten in Virgil’s Aeneid, his Odyssey in Joyce’s Ulysses. Milton’s Paradise Lost extends the Book of Genesis, and is itself refashioned in works as varied as Pope’s Rape of the Lock, Richardson’s Clarissa, Wordsworth’s Prelude, and Pullman’s Dark Materials. Even Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear are in part responses to earlier plays of the same name, themselves of course rewritten or adapted in countless artistic forms – each such re-imagining itself being a work of criticism. Keats composed his visions less from the outside world than from poems, old and new, that he loved.
Historically many of the most important works of theory and philosophy have taken literary forms. The pre-Socratic Parmenides is known only through a single fragmentary poem; Plato wrote in imaginative dialogues; More’s Utopia, Campanella’s City of the Sun, and Bacon’s New Atlantis offer political philosophy in narrative fiction; Leibniz’s Theodicy is encapsulated in a dizzying fable that is itself parodied in Voltaire’s satiric philosophic fiction, Candide; Kierkegaard’s vision is expressed through ironic surrogate personae, and Nietzsche’s through poetic or polemical aphorism. Renaissance humanism developed a rich tradition of imitation, parody, and re-writing; the German Romantics Schlegel and Novalis modelled a fragmentary criticism, richly developed by Benjamin, Adorno, and others; Oscar Wilde knew that criticism is always an act of fancy, of imaginative larceny; Virginia Woolf read her characters’ minds like she read the journal of Dorothy Wordsworth.
The tradition continues, well-beyond the post-structuralist adventures of Barthes, Cixous, Irigiray and Derrida. Contemporary writers such as Anne Carson, Geoff Dyer, Benjamin Friedlander, Peter Gizzi, Susan Howe, Maureen McClane, Denise Riley, Ali Smith collapse the supposed binary of creative and critical forms and thinking. Avery Gordon has initiated an emboldened and activist sociological practice through creative reading and writing. Various kinds of hybrid writing are increasingly popular, blurring divisions between criticism, gender theory, and memoir (Maggie Nelson) or literary/art criticism and poetry (Max Porter).
BC Editions builds on these traditions. In particular, it seeks to revivify such work within the academy – where so much of the most exciting thinking is now taking place – and in doing so to reach out to communities of readers beyond the cloister. There is a hunger among wider reading publics for ideas, argument, experiment, for fearless thinking and theorising that does not simplify or condescend. In both practice and spirit, the division between academic and non-academic humanities is a fiction. We communicate as teachers; we wish also to communicate as writers to worlds outside the academy.
Inside universities much is already changing. The teaching of creative writing is expanding swiftly. Creative writers are ensconced within university departments, their work becoming classified and evaluated as research. Innovative new programmes focus on the ‘creative-critical’, raising questions such as: What might it mean for a novel, a poem, or a play, to be ‘practice-based research’, or to form part of a PhD asking critical or intellectual questions? And how does the act of critical understanding feed creative writing? How can students at all levels be taught criticism in a way that enriches and is enriched by creative practice, so that the two sides of departments of literature are drawn together?
Crucial here is the written form that our thinking takes. Our mission is a positive one, designed to inspire new writers and new readers, new readings and new writings. We are not interested in pouring thoughts into standard templates. We want to liberate critical thinking and writing from obedience to dominant models – depending upon the work, this might be at the level of sentence, syntax, argument, vocabulary, mood, mode, technology, medium. We ask that our writers discover the form that best embodies their ideas, and that best communicates the life in reading – which also means the life in the works they are reading.
SUBMIT FOR THE BOOK SERIES
If you have something you feel might be a fit for BC Editions, please contact one of the editors. We look forward to hearing from you!
Katharine Craik firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Karshan T.Karshan@uea.ac.uk
Simon Palfrey email@example.com