TEXT review

The role of creative practice in the formation of knowledge


review by Craig Garrett


Macintosh HD:Users:lindaweste:Desktop:CM Cover.jpg
Shane Strange, Paul Hetherington, Jen Webb (eds)
Creative Manoeuvres: writing, making, being
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge 2014
ISBN 9781443860369
Hb, 180pp, GBP41.99


Creative Manoeuvres: writing, making, being is an important recent publication theorising Australian Creative Writing (CW) practice and research approaches. Its intention is to ‘move the study of creative writing towards broader issues of how knowledge is addressed by, or incorporated into, or embodied in, art’ (Strange, Hetherington & Webb, back cover).

For over thirty years – Australia’s first Doctor of Creative Arts was awarded in 1988 (Shepherd 1988) – the combined effort of various scholars has driven the development of a body of Australian creative writing research. The political and economic imperatives for, and outcomes of this change are well-documented [1].

As both a reflection on and an example of the study of CW, Creative Manoeuvres takes its place with the likes of Explorations in Creative Writing (Brophy 2003); Creative Writing and the New Humanities (Dawson 2005); Creative Writing: Theory beyond practice (Krauth & Brady 2006); Creative Writing Studies: Practice, research and pedagogy (Harper & Kroll 2008); and Patterns of Creativity: Investigations into the sources and methods of creativity (Brophy 2009).

Theories of Creative Writing research, from Brady’s ‘bowerbirds’ (1998: 29) onwards, all grapple with resolving the ‘informality’ of the arts practitioner’s creative research and the ‘formality’ of the academic context. Historically almost all regulations governing academic research are tailored to orthodox forms of scientific-rationalist inquiry (Marshall & Newton 2000: 2). Where one paradigm commands power and influence, its ‘ideological position of dominance’ gives that methodology the authority to define future research (Lefebvre cited in Smith 2012: 50-51). More recently, sophisticated self-reflection including the likes found in Creative Manoeuvres, has led creative writing scholars beyond only using orthodox methods of research, in search of theories, practices and axiologies that better suit their concerns. Creative Writing is interdisciplinary, taking on approaches from cultural studies, traditions of art practice, genre studies, sociology, psychology or ethnography – to name a few. Yet creative writing scholars also do research when ‘chatting’ in informal contexts, when they contemplate and reflect on snippets of information, peruse websites, and find intriguing books.

Creative Manoeuvres is not the type of book to read cover to cover. In Shane Strange’s introduction, he says of the first chapter: ‘How can seemingly unrelated but resonant texts work together … into making something at once engaged and personal, but aligned with an apparently amorphous “tradition”?’ (Strange, Hetherington & Webb 2014: 2). The same can be said of Creative Manoeuvres. Each chapter covers a vast territory, and while some chapters converge, others don’t. Its disparate set of essays encompass various aspects of Creative Writing practice, research and pedagogy, and form complex, covert and interactive relationships with each other and with the reader. The overall argument presented – via examples and representations of both critical analysis and creative practice – gives rise to an inquiry into what it means to create a written object, and sketches the role creative practice plays in the formation of knowledge. It calls for a ‘deeper understanding of CW’s historical context and its future possibilities’ (Mitchell 2006: 4); adds to the discipline’s growing set of research methods, theories and approaches, and illuminates some of the strategies creative writers use to function within both creative and critical domains. As Dawson says:

[I]t is unproductive to dramatise the presence of Creative Writing in universities as a struggle between writers and critics over the integrity of literature or the importance of aesthetic value. The history of Creative Writing demands that it be seen as a flexible and continually developing set of pedagogical strategies… (Dawson 2005: 160, cited in Mitchell 2006: 2)

Creative Manoeuvres’ authority comes from its refusal to limit itself to only one research approach or to submit to a research hierarchy where orthodox forms of methodology and inquiry dominate. It spans broad topics and explores both the act of (creative) writing and research into the (creative) writing process. It critiques the traditional view of writing as a purely cognitive process, critiques nonfiction writing, poetry, and the ethics of practice and research, discusses the issue of creative pedagogy, investigates how practice and lived experience effect both writing and research, and it explores the gaps between writer and subject. As a living document it is retrospective and thoughtful, contemporary and extant, but it’s not a set of answers – nor does it claim to be. It is part of an accumulating body of literature that is forming the framework for argument, discussion and future CW research. It is a text to keep coming back to.



[1] For excellent accounts of this history see Webb 2012; Krauth 2011; Brady & Krauth 2006; Dawson 2005. return to text


Works cited

Brady, T 1998 ‘An Exegesis Concerning the Novel: Fragments of a Map’, PhD submission, Deakin University, Melbourne return to text




Craig Garrett is a Brisbane-based writer whose work has appeared in Voiceworks, Meanjin, Sleepers Almanac, Strange4, The Big Issue, Wet Ink, West of the West and Visible Ink. He works as an editor, journalist and communications consultant, and edited Voiceworks. literary journal (1998–2000). In 2008 he completed a Masters in Creative Writing by research at RMIT. He’s currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing at Griffith University, and writing two more novels: Magpie and A Country of Second-Hand?


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Vol 18 No 2 October 2014
General editor: Nigel Krauth. Editors: Kevin Brophy, Enza Gandolfo & Linda Weste
Reviews editor: Linda Weste