Exercises in Potential Literature: Transreading Oulipo

Exercises in Potential Literature: Transreading Oulipo

Explore Oulipean constraints to shake up your writing practice.

‘Oulipo is not into theory, it is a place of creation.’ – Paul Fournel  

In 1960 a group of writers and mathematicians formed the Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle to explore constrained writing techniques as a means of creating innovative new work. The members of the group were mostly focused in Paris, which will form a key part of our exploration – in words, music, photographs, and film – of their diverse output. 

Throughout this course, using Philip Terry’s Penguin Book of Oulipo as a key text, we’ll explore Oulipean style games to turn our poetry into words of chance. Queneau will teach us how to stretch the concept of style to its limits and how to write problems and their inventive solutions into our poems, using Zazie dans le metro as our template. Across different assignments, we’ll explore how Oulipo can be playful and challenging, and how Oulipean writing constraints and mathematical methods – such as N+7 and P+7 – can be surprisingly elastic, generative, and freeing, despite their rigid rules.  

We will have a strong focus on the work of Georges Perec, who explored absence and loss through innovative wordplay; our investigation of his work will also touch on the parallels between poetry and cinema – looking at Perec’s own film, Un Homme Qui Dort, alongside some other relevant works, including Amelie and Rear Window – and using these ideas to freshen up the poetic interplay of black and white space on the page. We will also touch on the work of Sophie Calle, seeing how her flâneuse persona worked to redefine the masculine flâneur from a feminist perspective, offering women an alternative creative approach for occupying, exploring, and writing urban space. 

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here. 

If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected] For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image credit: Miikka Luotio 

About Sue Burge View Profile

Sue Burge is a poet, freelance creative writing tutor, mentor and editor based in North Norfolk.  Her poems appear in a range of publications including The North, Mslexia, Magma, Under the Radar, Strix, Tears in the Fence, The Interpreter’s House, The Ekphrastic Review, Lighthouse and Poetry News as well as in themed anthologies on science fiction, modern Gothic, illness, Britishness, endangered birds, WWI, and the pandemic. Sue’s four poetry collections are: In the Kingdom of Shadows (Live Canon 2018), Lumière (Hedgehog Poetry Press 2018), The Saltwater Diaries (Hedgehog Poetry Press 2020) and Confetti Dancers (Live Canon 2021). She is currently working on a new collection which explores the alter ego she left in Paris three decades ago. 

‘The biggest strength for me is the cultural and international enrichment offered by being part of a large and varied poet community. The instructors are wonderful and workshops reasonably priced to make it affordable and exciting to learn and connect with others across the world.’

— Spring 2021 survey

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