Introduction: The challenge of constraint

Jan Baetens, Jean Jacques Poucel

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This introductory essay defines the background terms and context of constraint-based writing and then situates each essay included in this double issue of Poetics Today. Taking the example of the Oulipo (Workshop of Potential Literature) as the foundational reference of contemporary intentional experiments with formal literary creation, we delineate the shifting boundaries of constrained literature, both in terms of its various practitioners (the genres, techniques, intentions they inscribe into their work) and the increasingly wider audiences to which it appeals. Recapping a brief history of constrained contemporary writing, this introduction argues for a conception of constrained writing that emphasizes intelligent freedom, the potentials opened by new forms of media, and the effects of an extended community based on formal approaches to both the composition and the appreciation of literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-634
Number of pages24
JournalPoetics Today
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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  • Constrained Writing (I)

    Baetens, J. (Editor) & Poucel, J.-J. F. (Editor), 2009, In: Poetics Today. 30, 4, 127 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review

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