Creative Writing: Oulipo and the Avant Garde

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
16 February 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module explores the theory and practice of creative writing with particular emphasis on the unique work of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de litterature potentielle) or Workshop of Potential Literature founded in Paris in 1960 by Raymond Queneau.

While there are many aspects to the work of the Oulipo three principal strands stand out: the search for new literary structures or constraints as a way of generating new texts; research into methods of transforming existing texts to create new ones; the use of mathematical concepts in writing as in what the Oulipo call "combinatory literature". The group's insistence on language as play, which has strong connections with surrealism and with traditions of theatre improvisation, links its work directly to all aspects of creative writing practice and creativity in general. Teaching will combine a study of key Oulipian texts across a range of genres with practical workshop exercises. Alongside study of recognised Oulipian practitioners, the course will broaden out to study non-Oulipian contemporary and postmodern writers whose work is similarly constructed. In like manner the ways in which Oulipian methods can be applied to and overlap with more conventional concerns of creative writing such as plotting, rewriting, poetic form and developing character will be explored.

Module aims

1. To familiarise students with Oulipian techniques and methods and approaches applicable to a range of creative writing across different modes and genres.
2. To introduce students to a range of key Oulipian texts by a variety of writers both inside and outside Oulipo.
3. To enable students to combine different Oulipian methods in new ways and to create similar methods of their own invention applicable to their own creative writing.
4. To enable students to understand critically the theories and practices expolred by Oulipo and related writing groups.

Module learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students will:

  1. be able to apply a range of Oulipian methods of writing to develop their own writing practice.

  2. be able to critically evaluate theories and practices of the Oulipo both in published texts and in their own writing.

  3. have a broad knowledge of a range of Oulipian and related texts, and an understanding of the constraints underpinning their creation.

  4. be able to use and combine different Oulipian methods and apply these to their own writing.

  5. have the tool kit that enables them to create constraints and writing methods of their own invention and apply this to their own writing practice.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery: Weekly 2-hour seminar.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Workshop Project (1,000 words)    25% 
Coursework   Independent Project (2,000 words plus 1,000 word Critical Commentary)    70% 
Coursework   Participation mark    5% 

Additional coursework information

The Independent Project will involve a piece of extended creative writing using some of the techniques studied in the module, alongside a critical reflection.

The Workshop will be a piece of writing developed outside class from one of the class workshops.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Philip Terry, email:



External examiner

Dr Eleanor Perry
University of Kent
Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry)
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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