Wending artifice: Creative noniction

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Creative nonfiction is a form of uncommon colloquy, resistant to easy answers, to information mongering, and to definition itself. No wonder, then, that both the practice of creative nonfiction and the thought inspired by it are sites of envy-producing jouissance. As the essay is to the article, so creative nonfiction is to journalism. If conventional journalism transcribes, then creative nonfiction transforms; where one recounts, the other remakes. Rather than take experience as its orienting, originating ground, creative nonfiction turns to language first and last. It does not know what happened without recourse to the narratives available for saying so. It knows that words and their interpretations are everything (nothing neutral in its variegated land), that experience has a syntax, that feelings have a grammar, that rhetoric is not confined to politics, and that the self is equivalent to the set of questions that preoccupies it – sentences to which it has first habituated, and later inured itself (life sentences). It hopes to rewrite those, and the “real” to which such tendencies cling. It believes in such a thing as vital words, and might even be writing for its subject’s life. It can afford to fancy (as a verb) runic words, and the sense that language is our salvation.

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The Cambridge Companion to Autobiography