The Creative Writing & Research Interviews: Jen Webb

Niyousha writes: To celebrate the publication of Researching Creative Writing by Jen Webb, we’ve decided to interview writer-researchers around the world and pick their brains on the topic of creative writing research. We’re kicking off the interview series today with the first segment of an interview with Jen Webb herself.

Dr. Jen webb is Distinguished Professor, Creative Practice, at the University of Canberra. Her research focuses on the politics and social location of art, and on the process and practice of creative writing.

Jen, can you use six words to tell us a bit about who you are?

Writer; scholar; often bewildered; constantly curious.

How did you become interested in the relationship between creative writing & research?

It was purely pragmatic, at first. I had kept my creative writing and my research (cultural theory, focusing on the relationship between art and society) quite separate. Then I started a new job and discovered a little to my surprise that it involved being the director of the creative writing program.

I had never studied creative writing – just literary studies and cultural theory – so I felt a bit of a fraud.

And then it seemed a good idea for my university to extend our undergraduate and postgraduate writing courses to include doctoral level studies. Now I really felt a fraud, so I wrote the documentation for my university’s creative PhD, and promptly enrolled in the same course at a different university.

I blithely thought it would be easy, since I had already completed a very rigorous PhD; it wasn’t easy; and I learned an enormous amount: about the field, about the importance of practice in developing the sort of cognitive tools to build knowledge, and about what research in and through practice affords.

How has the relationship between creative writing & research played out in your own experience?

The flow of making between my creative and my critical investigations is two-way. Although I rarely (okay let’s be honest – I never) designed a research project around creative practice, the two sorts of work are utterly intertwined.

My scholarly and cultural research triggers creative work; my creative work triggers questions that can only be properly answered by cultural research.

I see the two modes of practice as being tools and mechanisms that result in different outputs (a poem; a scholarly book), but more importantly, result in the same outcomes: new knowledge, new ways of seeing and thinking, new understandings.

This is the first of multiple segments in the interview with Jen Webb. In the next segment, Jen Webb discusses why she wrote Researching creative writing, the creative process, and more.

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About Anthony Haynes

Director, Frontinus Ltd Communications Associate, FJWilson Talent Services

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