Creative writing, or the importance of creativity in an academic environment

As a practice creative writing is, to say the least, under-appreciated in France. It is a discipline that thrives in other countries, though it is largely ignored inside our borders. As if here it were fractured into two different activities: on the one hand, academic writing which is valued for its structure, and on the other: creative writing which is sidelined, and supposedly does not lead to a full-time job. Hopefully, the trend is slowly changing.

The model, or what is happening next door:
In other countries, creative writing has been introduced in schools and universities as a new way to learn and develop oneself. As an Erasmus student I have spent time at an Irish university and participated in two different approaches: a class entitled literary composition and a student group: The Writer’s Society, both based on the concept of creative writing. At the university level, creative writing is encouraged as teachers push their students to learn how to write stories and to expand their vocabulary in a non-academic way while in an academic atmosphere; students also devote some of their (free) time to practicing and discussing writing among themselves. This way, students learn to be creative as well as structured.

French advances towards creative writing:
Inspired by the emergence of creative writing courses abroad, the French have also changed their habits and feelings towards writing at the university level. As of 2016, a few Masters programs have opened their doors, as well as a « Doctorat Pratique et Théorie de la Création littéraire et artistique » being created at the Aix-Marseilles University. Thus creative writing is slowly being developed and accepted in French universities.

Creative but not only:
Creative writing is not only a means to help students unleash their creative side and feel more comfortable when writing in and about everyday life, but has also been proven to improve language learning. At our very own university, creative writing has been used as a new approach to mastering a foreign language. For the past eight years, it has been a part of the English studies, implemented by Sara Greaves and Marie-Laure Schultze, both researchers teaching at Aix-Marseille University. Their workshops are designed to offer an alternative method to learning and practicing English by appealing to the student’s imagination and feelings. The dissociation of form and meaning has a way of “revitalizing language relationships” and thus improving writing skills1. By writing in a creative way instead of an academic one, students have to adjust their skills to make the language their own and open themselves to the otherness of the tongue (2015). The creative writing classes taking place at the AMU operate at the nexus between language, literature and translation classes.

Creative writing at an academic level is more than just an asset: it is a flourishing discipline, helping students with their personal writing as well as academic writing, and has also proven to be very effective in language learning, which still has a long way to go and much more to offer.

1Greaves & Schultze, 2012

Divine interjection

Watching television and listening to podcasts in English has made me aware of something about interjections: a lot of them are references to God or Christianity. Many people casually use interjections such as “oh my God”, or “Jesus”, without thinking too much about it. But is this religious aspect important to those who use them? It doesn’t look that way.
The fact that a person uses terms like “God” or “Jesus” in their daily life could mean that they are more or less Christian, it could also simply mean that they were raised in a Christian environment, or even that the use of those interjections has become part of the English language. It is quite interesting to think hat, about only a few decades ago, such expressions were considered profane language. People supposedly swore so that their words would have impact, but that same impact has lost its force nowadays due to the widespread use of profanity in our modern society.
In the “No Fear Shakespeare” section of SparkNotes1, you can compare original Shakespeare texts with translations into ‘modern English’. There, you will find the interjection “oh my God” being used as a translation for Gertrude’s “oh, me” in act 3, scene 4. An example that shows how such interjections have become more common in English throughout the years. Of course, some religious people still criticize the use of such interjections nowadays, but they do not seem to be as numerous as the people who use them. However, you can still hear more neutral versions of those religious interjections, such as “geez » (for Jesus) or “oh my gosh” (for “oh my God”), which shows that some people are still conscious of the religious aspect of these exclamations. There is also the other end of that spectrum, mostly on the internet, where people are trying to come up with more elaborated versions, often as jokes; my personal favorite being “jumpin’ Jesus on a Pogo Stick”, which shows some creativity, as opposed to others that just sound disgusting or rude even to non-Christians.

« jumpin’ Jesus on a Pogo Stick »

The spread of the acronym “OMG”— oh my God — on the internet also led to other cultures using it. In France, for example, you might even find a text fully written in French with that acronym being used as an interjection2. This Anglicism may seem weird considering that French interjections related to God and religion have more or less disappeared from young people’s language, such as “bon Dieu” or « Jésus, Marie, Joseph”.
Thus, it appears that most people using these interjections, whether they be native English speakers or not, do not use them to call upon God’s name or because they are part of the Christian community, but rather because such divine interjections have become part of modern English and modern usage in general with “oh my God” being used in countries that are not part of the English-speaking world like France.

1http://nfs.sparknotes.com/

2http://sandraelle.com/article-oh-my-god-40693767.html

Other sources:

-Crowther, John, ed. “No Fear Hamlet.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2005. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
-Floyd. « Top 25 Des Interjections Qui Ont Mal Vieilli, Nom D’une Pipe En Bois ! » La vie, du côté top. Topito. 30 May 2015. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
-Sandra. “Oh my God!!!” Sandra, dans tous ses états. sandraelle.com. 8 Dec. 2009. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
SwankSpike. “Jumpin’ Jesus on a Pogo Stick” Urban dictionary is written by you. Urban dictionary. 01 Mar. 2006. Web. 19 Feb. 2016

Picture by Charlotte Khemiri.