February 23rd, 2009


Barthesian demon

This was received by webmaster (presumably intended for the department that actually does a creative writing course):
I was thinking about doing your creative writing course but can't afford the fees.

However I should be grateful if you could let me know the origin of the word "writerly". When I was at school you took an adjective and added 'ly' to make an adverb. Writer though is a noun.

Have the rules changed?
Well, obviously I was delighted; it's not often my Eng. Lit. background actually becomes directly relevant in answering the enquiries which webmaster receives. So I had a lovely response prepared about how critical theoreticians probably didn't feel themselves bound by the rules one learns at school, and that while you may regard lisible and scriptible as risible neologisms, "readerly" and "writerly" seem entirely reasonable translations of them, and that in any case Barthes was sadly unavailable to debate the point, having ended his discourse of the Death of the Author with uncharacteristically unstructuralist closure by falling fatally under a laundry van in early 1980. But sadly, a) I was discouraged from sending it, and b) on closer inspection it turned out that they were actually using "writerly" in the context of "writerly support", ie "support from writers", so I'm afraid morally I may be forced to side with the pompous have-your-sayer who can't tell the difference between a Creative Writing department and a Computing department.

Anyway, I forwarded the email to the right people.