Experimental Writing ::

What is Experimental Fiction?


Experimental fiction is hard to define. 


By experimental writing, I mean anything weird or different. Writing that refuses to stay inside the borders drawn by traditional, realistic fiction. In this course we're going to talk about the playfulness of experimentation, and the importance of artistic exploration. 

Experimental fiction can be built up as a complicated game, a labyrinthine puzzle, leading the reader (who would rather be told what to believe) through a carnival of illusions and deceptions, distorting mirrors and trapdoors that open suddenly under your feet, leaving you not with a message, but with a paradox. Devoted to radical risk-taking in both form and technique, many readers find experimental writing to be ridiculous, time consuming, pointless, academic, and dumb. Others, love it, can't get enough of it, find that experimentation opens unforeseen doors of communication and understanding.


Experimental fiction is not escapist literature. It doesn’t seek to seduce its readers into a dreamy forgetfulness. It is fiction, instead, that often unsettles, that makes one feel uncomfortable or liberated, because it breaks rules and invents new ones. 

But like it or lump it, experimental fiction is at the forefront of literary innovation. It's fun, exciting, and takes you and your readers out of routine ways of thinking. Perhaps it even has the potential to change social constructs by changing readers' concepts of reality? At the very least, this course aims to show you various ways you can expand your prose patterns and think outside of your box. We'll walk through some of the most famous experimental texts and play with some writing exercises to expand any traditional palette. Get in on the craze and find out what all the fuss is about!

Sunday, September 29th :: 6 - 8pm


About this teaching artist:

Cathy Borders is the founder and Program Director of The Republic of Letters. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School in New York and a Bachelor’s in English literature and critical theory from the University of Iowa. She’s the author of A Suburb of Monogamy, an experimental novel about the invention, withdrawal, and body of a liaison. She also founded the micropress, Omnia Vanitas Review, and has been a professional editor for over a decade. She thinks of writing differently, as something much more interesting, much more important than a thing you produce for money. She’s been published in Madhatter’s Review, Ampersand Review, Green Lantern Press, and Reconfigurations, among others. She’s now working on her second novel, a young adult fantasy whose raison d'être is emotional clarity and connection, as well as a comprehensive book on using the tarot to write fiction. Her chapbook, Robin Williams Is My Uncle, is forthcoming from Analog Books. 

About the art:

Venus de Milo with Drawers

Salvador Dalí

From the Art Institute's webpage ::

"Among Salvador Dalí’s many memorable works, perhaps none is more deeply embedded in the popular imagination than Venus de Milo with Drawers, a half-size plaster reproduction of the famous marble statue (130 /120 BC; Musée du Louvre, Paris), altered with pompon-decorated drawers in the figure’s forehead, breasts, stomach, abdomen, and left knee. The combination of cool painted plaster and silky mink tufts illustrates the Surrealist interest in uniting different elements to spark a new reality. For the Surrealists, the best means of provoking this revolution of consciousness was a special kind of sculpture that, as Dalí explained in a 1931 essay, was “absolutely useless … and created wholly for the purpose of materializing in a fetishistic way, with maximum tangible reality, ideas and fantasies of a delirious character.” Dalí’s essay, which drew upon the ideas of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, inaugurated object making as an integral part of Surrealist activities.

Influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud, Dalì envisioned the idea of a cabinet transformed into a female figure, which he called an “anthropomorphic cabinet.” Venus de Milo with Drawers is the culmination of his explorations into the deep, psychological mysteries of sexual desire, which are symbolized in the figure of the ancient goddess of love."

The Republic of Letters NFP

RoL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

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Geneva, Illinois 60134