The literature of the unpublished : student conceptions of creative writing in higher education
This study develops a non textual theory of creative writing in terms of critical issues of student learning, writing and literature. It does so from a dialogical or intersubjective perspective, grounding both 'learning' and 'literature' in student conception or active understanding of the practice of writing. In this respect, it relates to research in student learning which has established the importance of contrasting (reproducing/transforming) conceptions of and (deep/surface) approaches to learning, and to research on the socio-cultural character of writing and literature. The study employs qualitative methods, focusing on 40 in-depth interviews with students studying and practising creative writing at three different institutions of higher education. Despite the rather unique nature of the discipline, a detailed examination and analysis of the interview transcripts disclosed a typology of six differing conceptions of student understanding and practice of creative writing which parallel, to a large degree, the conceptions of learning in other more traditional academic disciplines. It presents this typology from three accumulating perspectives, compositional, structural and situational. The first two describe the nature of the main transcribing and composing categories of conception and the third grounds conception within the socioacademic encounter between student and course. These findings show, moreover, that student conceptions of creative writing are not stable, independent cognitive entities, but are, rather, characterised by the complex myriad of socio-cultural and institutional issues describing the individual and the writing course; issues governed and defined by an authoritative 'literary' discourse or paradigm. In addition the very distinctive nature of creative writing (often drawing, in the first instance, on personal sources) sheds new light on the nature of conception and suggests an extended, more unified model of student learning.