Theory and the Creative Writing Classroom

On the teaching practices of American writer Gordon Lish

gordon-lish“[Gordon] Lish’s engagement with theory was every bit as revisionary as his editing of Carver and others. As he readily admits, ‘if I read a philosopher, and he’s not interested in what I’m interested in, I’ll revise what he’s said… bend it and change it, to make it come out my way’. In the classroom, Lish revised theoretical concepts into provisional models for literary composition. True to the spirit of the program era, his teaching prioritized practical over propositional knowledge, converting conceptual ‘knowing that’ into the creative know-how of craft.”

More at David Winters.


  1. Ye Godz, the blog this excerpt of an excerpt links to is without a comment section and the complete article that the comment-free blog links to, in turn, is behind a pay wall… the Literary world is slowly slipping back into the demagogic hands of Unilateralists and Capitalizers, from whence it had briefly escaped! Laugh. What I *would* have commented on that blog, had I been able: Lish is too smart for these times. He’s thought too much, and cares too deeply, about Words and how/why they congregate. What he does is the opposite of Marketing (which excels at flattering the half-assed, to sell to the distracted).. it’s almost poignant how he goes on, in such dynamic language, lecturing the ghosts of students who no longer exist! Lish (who first came to my attention as Ray Carver’s autotune) is like a Polaroid of a dorm room full great-looking young people, in vintage styles, horsing around, bringing a smile to my otherwise resigned-looking face. Long may he Signify!

    PS I salute you… not only for the consistently interesting posts but for keeping a comment section (and no pay wall)! Which is what The Literary Conversation is all about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, and for your kind remarks about the site. Regarding your observations about paywalls, there’s some good news: research in academic journals is increasingly required to make itself freely available to the public. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Winters’ piece is made freely available in the not-too-distant future.

      Liked by 1 person

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