Outsider Writing

Autumn 2018-2019

28650

John Wilkinson

A kinship between poetry and mental illness is a commonplace in myth, received opinion, and literary history, whether formulated as divine inspiration or bipolar disorder. Similarly the pejorative ascription of insanity to poets has been a commonplace of literary review and criticism. ‘My vocabulary did this to me’ are the reputed dying words of the poet Jack Spicer who claimed to respond to dictation as though himself a radio tuning to messages. Language’s dictation, however experienced, unites mental disorder and the literary arts – the pressure of language that might become unhinged. What of the reader? Aesthetic response also is both formally contained and threatens to become unhinged. This class will read 20th and 21st century works of Outsider poetry and fiction in English, and consider how best to respond. Outsider writing will be related to Outsider visual art, and to the emergent field of Outsider theory. (Theory)