“Responsive Critical Understanding”: Extending the possibilities in the relationship between English and Creative Writing

Creative Writing, Creative-critical crossover

Brief description

The similarities and differences in critical understanding involved in the study (teaching and learning) of English Literature and the practice and study (teaching and learning) of Creative Writing are not yet fully researched or, indeed, understood.  While there is a general sense of how one area informs the other there is no resource base on which to draw to look at key issues such as:

  1. In what ways do the theoretical positions adopted in the study of English inform or challenge notions founded in the practice and study of Creative Writing?
  2. If “criticism” is seen to be associated with the subject of English and “practice” with the subject of Creative Writing what do we mean by these terms and what are their philosophic and pragmatic dimensions?
  3. Where the subjects of English and Creative Writing are in close proximity (as often they are in English Departments) are there pedagogic developments that occur through “natural interaction” and/or “orchestration” and, if so, are they distinctive enough to be discussed as a group of practices/ideals/intentions;
  4. In what ways does the association of English and Creative Writing produce what might be called “responsive critical understanding” (ie. critical understanding that responds to the needs of the “critic” [ie. those applying critical consideration], in terms of explanation, an approach to truth, personal need or public requirement, and how does this relate to the connections between reader and writer?

Gathering together 1-4 (above), the project explored “responsiveness”, and created a map of current understandings and a close examination of the nodes and modes of contact.

Aims and Objectives


  1. the investigation of similarity and difference in the approach to understanding in the teaching and learning of English via Creative Writing;
  2. the mapping of current discussions and debates and the determination of potential for future development;
  3. the creation of a resource base that includes information drawn from both “theoretical discussion” and “practice”;
  4. the development of the idea of “response”, which includes the application and development of English-Creative Writing and the ways it responds to the changing nature of relationship with knowledge-creation and application in universities and colleges.


  1. to provide a better understanding of teaching and learning in English & Creative Writing so as to better inform both subject groups;
  2. to provide for student-centred pedagogic (andragogic) developments that will, ultimately, add to the sites of knowledge that are English & Creative Writing
  3. to develop a “cross-disciplinary” (English-Creative Writing) resource base through which additional developmental work might be assisted;
  4. to assist in ensuring further development of positive discussions across all sectors of education/educational experience in the UK in relation to the meeting of English and Creative Writing.

Project Outputs

The project’s own website explores the process and conclusions of the project, and includes notes on the series of seminars which formed a central element in the methodology. Presentations represented include Graeme Harper’s own presentation to the 2007 Renewals Conference.

Graeme Harper reflected on the project in ‘Critical Responsive Understanding’ in the autumn 2008 Subject Centre Newsletter.

Project Leader

Prof. Graeme Harper
University of Wales, Bangor

Project partners

  • Prof. Jon Cook, University of East Anglia
  • Prof. Rob Pope. Oxford Brookes University
  • Dr Samantha Rayner, University of Wales, Bangor
  • Ms Pippa Lamberti MSc, University of Portsmouth


Project completed December 2008.