TO THE literary benjamin, creative writing, literary theory, and criticism are worlds apart. The first is a manifestation of the second, and the third the antimatter of the first, existing only to weigh creative writing and perhaps find it wanting. But the three are more related than one would think.

According to literature and philosophy teacher Dr. Florentino Hornedo, since creative writing is based on theory, criticism becomes based on theories as well. Thus, a writer’s work can be judged according to the writer’s personal goals and critic’s notion of what a literary work is and should be.

“All creative writing grows out of and embodies theory. All creative writers, more consciously than others, work from theory. Apart from subject matter and individual talent and skill, what differentiates literary works is the authors’ theories or reality frames,” Hornedo said in the 15th Ustingan held last February 21.

Hornedo discussed how creative writing, theory, and criticism are related and explained the roles portrayed by writers, creative writing professors, and critics in relation to these three, in his lecture, “Theory, Creative Writing and Criticism.”

Theory, or “pananaw,” is simply a mode of seeing things, he said. A writer writes in a particular manner or style in accordance to his perception.

Hornedo explained that in a creative writing class, professors teach the basics of what literature is and what it should be, including the formula or pattern of writing a poem or short story.

Creative writing professors are “instruments of the setting spark, of setting the explosion,” for they inform students of the theories behind what literature is and equip students with guides by which beginners can find their own style and voice.

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But one should not stick to these lessons all the time to avoid becoming a clone of other writers.

“There is nothing wrong with being a clone, except that in literature, clones are boring,” Hornedo said.

He pointed out, tracing the literary movements, that a literary trend cannot exist without being backed by theory. For example, in the classical period, the author of “On the Sublime,” proposed the notion of the ‘sublime’ in literature, or the “transcendental and divine.”

The notion of criticism also changes. Before the 19th century, criticism meant the evaluation of the quality of a literary work. At the end of the 19th century, criticism was redefined as “making known the best that is known to create current, true and fresh ideas.” Now, criticism is considered a creative writing activity attached to literature as a starting point.

“Criticism is a creative writing activity that is a parasite. It depends on the existing literature already. Critics are now creative writers as well,” said Hornedo.

Hornedo traced the landmarks of literary periods from the classical, renaissance, neoclassical, modern, and postmodern periods. He began with the idea of “orature” or the art of word of mouth. He said that before written literature came, orature was already there. Literature only came with the coming of writing and printing. At present, in postructuralism, the author is “absent” or decentralized in his works and because of this, literature becomes a “play of signifiers,” containing no truth or presence.

In the end, Hornedo declared that if people share the same experiences and consciousness, there would always be literature. There is also a need for a return of the author to literature, who has been decentered with the coming of postructuralism.

The way we are

“We can now reclaim our humanity and our meaning, and recognize that words have their own kind of presence in a world that is community,” he said. Bernadette G. Irinco


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