Outsider Literature: Writing from the Urgent Edges

*Enrollment for this class opens December 6. Please register then at this link.

Class Meetings: Six consecutive Monday evenings, February 13 to March 27 (excluding March 13), in the Poetry Center Conference Room 207.

“Outsider Art” or “Art Brut” entered Western cultural consciousness in the early 70s to value works of visual art produced in isolation, or in environments (often institutions) unlikely or hostile to the arts. These works profoundly challenged pre-conceived notions of tradition, training, and audience, yet also reflected many similar aesthetic and ethical impulses of the Avant-Garde. The works expressed subversive and deeply innovative representations of everyday life, often from a radically humble, deprived, or oppressed source.

In this dual workshop-seminar we will explore this tradition specifically in literature, including fiction, poetry, song, and text-based visual art. We will expand the notion of “Outsider Art” to incorporate those who must alter what art is and what art is for in order to make it within their inherited environments and burdens. Through our own original prompted writing, and through discussion of a survey of “outsider literature,” we will consider the relationships between innovation, limitation, and censorship. Works among laborers, traditional healers, the incarcerated, genocided, disabled, and gender queer will prompt ethical and aesthetic conversations, as well as open opportunities for participants to begin writing projects that might reconsider the stakes and methods of composition and distribution. It will be our job not to imitate, but rather to learn from and take seriously what “outsider” practices mean to the writing life.