Creative Criticism: Notes from an interview with Camelia Elias

14 Nov

Keep it simple.

Write elegantly.

Create correspondences.

If you must write textbooks or introductions to this or that concept –  à la what is most commercially valuable for Oxford and Harvard – then make sure that you won’t be afraid to say ‘fuck’  a few times, provoke the establishment, or show what an idiotic idea the idea the that the democratization of writing means adopting a non-offensive stance is.

Allow yourself to move with ease between beliefs.

Create improbable scenarios, and the sillier the better. We need more laughter.

‘Know thyself.’ Write for yourself and strangers. Don’t write for peers.

Presume nothing. Assume nothing.

Write for the occasion, even if the occasion means that you will be read by no more that 2 people.

Value ‘nothing’, silence, and the usefulness of the useless in creative academic writing.

Think with the heart and the gut.

Fly.

B: EyeCorner emphasizes creative criticism. What is “creative criticism”? Why is it important in the current lit-crit landscape?

CE: The importance of creative criticism is also politically determined and linked to the need to counter the illegitimate act of measuring, quantifying, and weighing academic discourse in the age of ‘open source.’ The whole idea with peer-reviewing and gate-keeping is becoming more and more abhorring, and of course impossible to maintain, especially when we can all agree that, if there is knowledge in the world, we need to let it flow, rather than barricade it behind concrete walls. Sure, the ones against the ‘everything goes’ philosophy will do anything to hang on to the moribund tradition of ‘we must not let errors into the world,’ but the way I see it, that merely emphasizes the general stupidity that informs such endeavors. To give you an example, I like to read esoteric and hermetic texts, and what amazes me the most is that it is almost always the case, than not the case, that what we come to appreciate in them is the ‘creative errors’ connected to their reception. For instance, people believed that the Zohar originated with the mystic rabbi Simeon bar Yohai some 2000 years ago. The Kabbalist texts have been greatly inspired by the Zohar, and a good deal of brilliant writing and wisdom has been produced throughout the following centuries. The fact that the historian Gershom Scholem proved that the Zohar was written around 1100 did little to remove the Kabbalists’ enthusiasm for the now ‘fake’ text. The same goes for other texts. The Emerald Tablet and the Golden DawnOrder, all claiming mysterious origins for their foundations, have not suffered from dismissal either, when it was proved that they based their claims on inauthentic sources. What we still appreciate is the ingenuity associated with their building up systems of thought that were not imagined before. In other words, such texts and contexts can be said to have produced a lot of creative criticism, which means rigorous thinking that is not deterred by factual knowledge.

EyeCorner Press is interested in another kind of potency, namely, that which leads to a form of insightful criticism that leaves us in a state of astonishment, open-hearted, and in awe of open ends. In other words, to answer your question, we use creative criticism in the same way that Raymond Federman used to talk about what he termed ‘critifiction.’ We follow his ideas to legitimize our own condition for being in the world, the world of a myriad of texts published by all sorts. Here’s what he says:

“The term critifiction is used because the discourse that follows is critical as well as fictitious; imagination is used in the sense that it is essential in the formulation of a discourse; plagiarism [read play-giarism] because the writing of a discourse always implies bringing together pieces of other discourses; an unfinished endless discourse because what is presented here is open at both ends, and as such more could be added endlessly.” (Critifiction, 1993: 49, author’s emphasis)

B: Do you perceive any hostility toward post-structuralist writing/methods/philosophy, and, if so, how do such hostilities manifest?

CE: I like this question, though, I have to make an effort not to answer it without disclosing general dismay at all rationalists, literalists, and positivists who are convinced that what makes their academic life worth living is the idea of exactitude and promptitude in relation to all things ‘fuzzy.’ The reason why there is hostility towards post-structuralist writing is because such writing allows itself to be imprecise. Of course, and as a general rule, all those against it, don’t bother to ask or look for the motivation behind such ‘imprecision’. And why, well, because one takes one’s name at face value, for you see, if you are a rationalist, a positivist, and a literalist, then, you, by definition, are exempted from having to really engage with all that which does not bear your name. But then, also by definition, if you are a realist, a positivist, and a literalist, then, you will also be self-righteous, and see it as your duty to denounce that which you don’t understand. And so it goes. People have been burnt for having contrary ideas. I myself prefer it when precision interacts with how it manifests itself in some higher order, higher even than itself, and then I like to see how this precision relates to a dynamic system of thought that is ever changing. And that’s all, but mind you, people have been burnt for even less.

See: Original Interview of Camelia Elias with Biblioklept

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