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 Tuesday, August 26, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


In Print
Publications of CU-Boulder Faculty
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Introducing “In Print,” Inside CU’s new feature highlighting the published works of our faculty. “In Print” features current fictional and nonfictional published works, including books, journal and magazine articles, authored by current faculty and researchers.

If you would like to have your work highlighted, please email Inside CU with the title, publication date, name of the written work and a description of the topic, as well as your title, contact information and a short biography. Jpeg photographs of book jackets and/or authors, as well as website links to more information about the publication, are encouraged.

Selected works will be chosen to feature in an article, and all submissions will be acknowledged.

Wifeshopping, the fictional work of writing and rhetoric instructor Steven Wingate launches our new feature.

Wifeshopping is Wingate’s debut fiction collection. The stories explore the search for companionship, love and connection from the male perspective. In 2007 the collection won the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize, given out annually to first time authors at the Bread Loaf Conference, founded in 1926. Said Wingate: “The Bakeless Prizes launch new literary authors, which is hard to do in today’s highly commercial marketplace. It’s a great introduction to the literary community, and I feel welcomed in a way that I’ve never been before. I hope to live up to the prize and make Bread Loaf proud they gave it to me.”

Wingate is signing his book today, Sept. 9, at the Boulder Book Store at 7:30 p.m. More information, including other signings and appearances, can be found on Wingate’s website.

Your book explores a broad cross-section of men and their approaches to love and life – what is the commonality between them? In other words, is there an overall arc that connects them or speaks to general truths about relationships, or are all of them representative of the chaos of the human heart?

I think that everyone alive is representative of the chaos of the human heart. What makes us different are the ways we make ourselves aware of that chaos in ourselves and others, as well as the ways we choose to quell and/or diffuse that chaos. There’s not a strict progression in the book, but I do feel that the characters at the end of it—men and women both—are more prepared for the work marriage requires than those at the beginning. There’s sort of a metamorphosis across the characters from lack of awareness to some glimmerings of it; so in a way the book mirrors the path people take when they decide to take on a lifelong commitment like marriage and then to what’s necessary to make sure it sticks. I wouldn’t recommend reading the book for that kind of linear progression, but it’s there.

You have written and published poetry and experimental prose – please talk about the differences between these genres as you see it, what attracts you to each and whether or not your writing style in Wifeshopping reflects these.

Fundamentally, there’s no difference for me. Fiction, poetry, and formally experimental pieces all have to go through the same process. Fiction, because it has such a strong narrative component and is generally much longer, requires a different sense of audience. You’re asking someone to stick with you for two hundred pages or more, rather than a poem or a two-page experiment. I hope that Wifeshopping, in the way its sentences unfold and the way its characters are rendered, reflects the time I’ve spent with other genres. I make sure that I keep working in them because they’re really closer to the “primal center” of the literary experience than long-form fiction is. The poem far preceded the novel, and the experimental tradition in fiction is just about as old as the classical novel itself. I keep that connection because it gives me constant access to a kind of writing freedom that I might not have if all I ever worked on were traditional narratives.

From a scholarly perspective, what are your views on the future of literature – the delivery method is sure to shift from paper to an electronic medium, and with that comes ways of easily comparing books, exploring facts and finding in-depth information. Do you think this will change how literature is approached or what might draw public interest?

My perspective is more creative than scholarly, but I see the two main trends in contemporary literature to be nonfiction and what I call “diasporic fiction.” There’s a huge amount of writing, some of it truly brilliant, coming from writers with a deep connection to former colonial territories of Western powers. The interaction between these cultures and the West is incredibly dynamic, and I believe that will define the literature of our era for some time to come. We also, especially in America, seem more interested right now in nonfiction (“the truth that sometimes lies”) vs. fiction (“the lie that tells the truth.”) To some extent we’re culturally avoiding fiction in favor of nonfiction because we don’t necessarily want to see the truth about who we are right now. We’re much more interested in The Other, and I can’t help but think that’s because we’re afraid of the mirror on our culture that fiction provides. We’d rather look at someone’s experience and say “See, that really happened.” But that can dispel the power of narrative, because it reduces the drama to the individual who experience it. In fiction, what you read can happen to you. The pendulum will swing again, though.

In terms of the Internet, it’s far too early to tell how the landscape will change because of it; speculation is overabundant. Our ways of conveying information and connecting people are changing thanks to technology, but the fundamental experience of literature probably isn’t. If you take a reader, and a writer, and a text—regardless of its physical/electronic nature—things will take their course from that point in the same way they have since human beings started hearing stories. It’s important to not confuse the politics and economics of distribution systems with the relatively simple aesthetic exchange that stands at the center of the literary experience. I focus on that more primal reader/writer relationship and let the technology take care of itself. But seventy-five years from now I’ll probably come across as an idiot for saying that, as will most of the people who say the Internet is changing literature. It’s just too early to tell.

podcastTo hear a podcast featuring Steven Wingate reading from and discussing his book, visit the News Center Podcasts website.

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