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Reinventing Innovation and Experiment for a Decolonizing World


“We have to constantly reinvent our forms and vocabularies so that we don’t lose touch with ourselves and the world we live in. … What’s needed is a transvaluation of the concept of innovation, so that we can think of innovation in a modest and local way, as responses to historical and contemporary particulars—as situational, not universal” (Bernstein 34, 36)

This paper takes up Charles Bernstein’s insight that innovation today is changing its character in response, in part, to democratizing and decolonizing imperatives. I examine this shifting connection between reinvention, innovation, and literary experimentation to explain why I prefer Bernstein’s transvalued “innovation” to “experimentation” for describing the ways in which two contemporary indigenous texts from Australia and Canada—Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria and Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen—are reinventing the forms and vocabularies of contemporary fiction to challenge readerly expectations and alter reading experiences.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Charles. “Invention Follies.” Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011: 33-41.

Highway, Tomson. Kiss of the Fur Queen. Toronto: Doubleday, 1998.

Wright, Alexis. Carpentaria. Sydney: Giromondo, 2006. New York: Atria, 2009.

A paper delivered at the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing July 2 2012

Experimental Writing Across Borders flickr set

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