Sociology a writing workshop

A literary society. Sociology a writing workshop, Frédéric Chateigner, éditions du Croquant, September 2008

The present book is a monograph, a writing workshop for adults of a large provincial town. The survey was conducted by participant observation in the open, on the basis of two evenings per week, between December 2003 and June 2004. The writing workshops are an integral part of what Claude Poliak1 called the “universe of consolation” to the amateur writing, to the sides of the new contest, self-publishing. But the writing workshop has this peculiarity that write activity is done in common, in a place and time determined, and thus in public. The writing workshop therefore presents itself as an institution supervising and directing the writing process. The book is the opportunity to rest the question of ethical and methodological approach of participant observation2 : how to study in detail a writing workshop without participating ? The advantages of the position of participating observer outweigh the risks of the investment in the game that requires the participation ? But also reflect on the relationship between sociology and literature. The risk is great for the sociologist to take the game of writing and to ” transform into an author “, as noted by Claude Grignon3.

The first chapter is the opportunity for Frédéric Chateigner ask guides on the offer of writing workshops in France. It should be noted that the supply of the writing workshops is very diverse. The author identifies several poles around which organises the offer : workshops that highlight writing for the benefit of other purposes (cure psychological, academic learning, social inclusion, vocational training), those which aim at the practice of literature.

The second chapter looks at the trajectory of the participants analysed in terms of a career. Through the study of a population of nine writerly, the author shows that the writing workshop is part of a sequence of steps forming a career of writing, that begin with the scriptures intimate, adolescent, and extending to adulthood. Frédéric Chateigner, establishes that it is heuristic to describe the writing of the lovers as a ” deviance vénielle “(p 76). The business of writing writers and amateurs is not held socially for entertainment among others, it arouses in all of social environments with a certain astonishment, in particular, of the entourage. Writer amateur is seen as an “original” or anticipates such a feeling of quirk, the judgments of the entourage, a professional, friendly and family-are a function of trades writerly. Irony of the colleagues of the young boss of a company of financial consultancy, unbelief, mockery towards Jacqueline aged over 55 years…the writing appears, in all the social circles and even in the area of journalism in which the activity of writing is customary, such as “a claim that is moved” (p-0). Writing for the one who is not recognized as a writer, as a professional, the writing is abnormal, anomique. It does not appear as a legitimate business as a teenager and beyond writing adult incongruous is required to remain secret. The participants of a writing workshop are deviant, a second time, compared to the standard implied by the secrecy imposed on the “hands-up” (p 84) of writing. Departing from a vocation in the silent and lonely, writers, lovers engage in a writing workshop, where they hope to learn how to write. Frédéric Chateigner then draws a model of career underlying the different course of writerly studied. Proto-scripture alone to the production of writing within the workshop stretches a journey combining remote self-ironic to the scriptures adolescents, passage of scripture, intimate in writing socialized. The first experience of writing workshop is often experienced as a liberation, in relation to the isolation purpose of the writing and the face of the indignity and the self-censorship of the entourage. The workshop, which prints out a constraint in the writing experience of the writerly also offers the expectation of progress in writing, with a backdrop of the publication thought of as a consecration. Among all the writers enthusiasts, the publication is a figure of the distant horizon of course, but still possible. Frédéric Chateigner then there is the question of the reasons to write that animate the writerly and opposes the scriptures of entertainment and the scriptures of salvation. The first are a pleasure to write, the entertainment, on the other hand, the scriptures of salvation are companies of self-transformation, including the writing waits for a rescue. The representatives of the scriptures of salvation are those whose work is closest to the model of the artist (autonomy, creativity, responsibility), while representatives of the writing of leisure have jobs away from this model, the work is most often experienced as a routine.

After having restored the courses of the participants, Frédéric Chateigner analysis of the course of the writing workshop. It attaches to the specifics of the workshop studied : general layout of the workshop according to a logic of curriculum and program, the organization of each session, an evocation of the three “evenings of reading” that punctuate the year. As recalled in the title of this third chapter ” in the school of letters : the conduct of a workshop “, the pervasiveness of the universe school is needed in the workshop of Michele in the environment, material (texts, photocopied textbooks, writing materials), organization of space, time, discussion, exercises, text study, concepts solicited by the years. In the Face of this very school Frédéric Chateigner studying the reactions and interests of the writerly, which are opposed according to their endowments of cultural capital. Provisions in the face of the reading and rendering of text, abilities to appreciate and to criticize the productions of the writerly between the participants. The reactions to the educational offer of the facilitator are largely a function of the position of each in the career of a writer. The clashes and the success of the workshop show the discrepancies of judgments due to the offset or mismatch between the position and the career of the participants within the workshop with their social attributes.

The last chapter of the book is much shorter than the previous wonders about the fate of the writerly workshop. What role the workshop had played in the trajectory of writing of the writers fans ? It is through a second series of interviews conducted a year later, with five of the nine participants in the first, Frédéric Chateigner landmark developments in the career typical traced to the second chapter : progress in career, suspension of the practice of writing, self-restraint or time out of practice. We can regret that the first part of the book, analyzing the career of writing in terms of deviance vénielle, is not more engaged in the description of the workshop of Michele. In total, Frédéric Chateigner through the study of a writing workshop, without pretending to an illusory representation, identifies the logical general workshops, and offers a dynamic description of the trajectories of its participants.

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