Glug glug

Glug glug

Glug glug glug.

Blog May 2018.

The following post is sent from out of the dark and lonely, endless depths of evaluating and examining, that are seemingly synonymous with the month of May (and June?) in the French university system and into which I have sunk and am muckily enmired in.

Coming up for air.

Firstly, if you’re in the Montpellier and Nîmes area next weekend, and interested in creative writing/translation, check out what promises to be the second fabulous edition of the itinerant festival Ecrire en Mouvement which offers workshops with writers, translators and university teachers. The festival’s creed is based on interaction as movement, both corporal and cerebral, dynamic exchange between people, places, words, languages, different genres of writing and artistic expressions.

Last year I animated a workshop with the poet Stephen Page which involved participants taking the tram across Montpellier from the Boutique d’Ecriture to the Maison de la Poesie:

The introduction to the English part of this workshop included the following.

  • We are going to try to open up our writing to include English (or vice versa) and try and think of the idea of a journey not only in a physical sense from one space to another but also from one language towards another. In other words ‘a back and forth movement between languages, voices, different ways of seeing and feeling. A sort of clin d’oeil between languages.
  • There are a myriad, different ways of going about this. It might be based on a single word suggested by the tram journey. A word that resonates and due to its meaning, its sound, or simply its rhythm leads us towards the other language and away from automatic usage. One word which may become several words. It might take the form of the explanations that we have to use when we don’t know a word in the other language. Or echoes of conversation, half-heard dialogues, only partially understood. The expression of the awareness of the gap between what we understand, what we wish to say and what we are able to say, an awareness which will possibly lead us quite astray or at the very least suggest a detour via translating, mixing, echoing or even confronting.

This festival, organised by Lily Robert-Foley, writer and lecturer at Paul-Valeréy University and the writer Claire Musiol, is a good example of how creative writing is gradually becoming more common in French universities. In her book , La création littéraire à l’université, Violaine Houdart-Merot traces the history of creative writing in French universities (relatively recent compared to British and American universities) and analyses its different forms. Creative writing in foreign language teaching has been even slower to take off, as I explain in a recently published article:

Diversity in Creative Writing workshops: the case of undergraduates studying English as a Foreign Language.

However, times are changing as shown, by the up-coming Paul-Valery conference on “Short Fiction as Humble Fiction” (October 17th -19th 2019) organised by EMMA (Etudes Montpelliéraines du Monde Anglophone) with ENSFR (European Network for Short Fiction Research) which includes a short fiction writing competition in English, open to Paul-Valéry students on the themes and figures of the  ‘humble’

Maybe an accredited course in creative writing as part of the degree for students studying English at Paul-Valéry is no longer wishful, pie-in-the-sky thinking?

Breathing deeply now

Currently thinking about material for next year’s creative writing course for LANSOD (undergraduates in other fields of studies eg. Psychology…) I am flirting with the idea of working on and writing colour. This may include studying short, relatively simple extracts from literary texts that use colour effectively for example:

“They sat and drank their pints. The tables in which their faces were dimly reflected were dark brown, the darkest brown, the colour of Bournville chocolate. The walls were a lighter brown, the colour of Dairy Milk. The carpet was brown, with little hexagons of a slightly different brown, if you looked closely. The ceiling was meant to be off-white, but was in fact brown, browned by the nicotine smoke of a million unfiltered cigarettes. Most of the cars in the car park were brown, as were most of the clothes worn by the patrons. Nobody in the pub really noticed the predominance of brown, or if they did thought it worth remarking upon. These were brown times.”

Anyone out there know who wrote this?

And how about organising the attendant writing workshop around groups writing texts inspired by, infused with the seven colours of the rainbow with a multi-coloured reading at the end of the session? (thanks to Lily Robert-Foley for this idea). Any other ideas/ experiences with writing colour would be gratefully accepted.



Just before I do please check out the article by Shona Whyte, Communicative competence in languages for specific purposes. It offers a clear overview and timely update of communicative competence and what it means for teaching and learning languages. Figure 5 is particularly thought-provoking. Where could/should we put creativity, I wonder?

2 Replies to “Glug glug”

  1. Thanks so much Zaza. I’m so sorry there is clearly something wrong with my system…I just found your comment ‘pending’ this morning, Will try and get that sorted when it cools down in my study…
    Lucky or hapless? That remains to be seen. But as I’m sure you will agree with me there is nothing whimsical in trying to implement an approach that aims to encourage and develop creativity to facilitate and enrich foreign language learning. And lots of fun to be had along the way.

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