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Exactly Wrong: The Art of Writing Badly

ENGL 111.301
instructor(s):
R 1:30-4:30

I wanted to do a "bad book," just the way I'd done "bad movies" and "bad art," because when you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something. — Andy Warhol

Over the past century, much of the innovation in language has occurred through error—think of the 4,391 word run-on sentence of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy which, by breaking every grammatical rule, forged an entirely new way of writing. Or the Beat Generation, whose works such as Howl and Naked Lunch, rendered “shocking” sexual material in such common vernacular, that it was the focus of landmark obscenity trials. Or hip hop, whose unadulterated stew of mashed-up languages—from everyday speech to dub to patois to jazz and beyond—which sounded so “wrong” at first, ultimately found its way into the mainstream in everything from advertising campaigns to hashtags, while challenging racial hierarchies of linguistic structures. 

This course will embrace and exploit error as ways of inspiring new creative writing. In particular, we will be focusing on online and digital error as the basis for our poetry and prose. Our raw material will be glitches, emojis, computer languages, twitter misspellings, SMS acronyms, and a panoply of other grammatical devices which have been  long frowned upon as being “wrong.” We will examine what it means to write “exactly wrong,” as opposed to simply writing “incorrectly,” with an end goal of emerging with a poetics of precise error.