David Shields Way of Making: Creative Manoeuvre or HDR Nightmare?

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Publication Details

This book chapter was originally published as:

Joseph, S. & Rickett, C. (2014). David Shields way of making: Creative manoeuvre or HDR nightmare? In S. Strange, P. Hetherington & J. Webb (Eds.),Creative manoeuvres: Writing, making, being (pp. 127-139). Newcastle Upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars.




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Some people thought I was the anti-christ because I did not genuflect at the twin altars of the novel and intellectual property — David Shields

This paper reflects on some of the issues that American author David Shield’s provocative keynote address at the 2012 Bedells NonfictioNow conference raised for creative arts practitioners within the Australian academy. Using his text Reality Hunger: A Manifesto as an exemplar, Shields enumerated three of the core literary tenets that form the basis of his innovative writing practice: that creativity and plagiarism are synonymous; that the providence of a sentence or phrase or statement does not matter; that appropriation of anything, without citation constitutes a new form of art. In his own words, he has become ‘the poster boy for the death of the novel and the death of copyright’. Essential to the process of creating relevant forms of writing for the 21st century, ‘collage’ and ‘pastiche’ are his literary mainstays, but he is self-effacing enough to admit to plagiarism.

Notwithstanding the irony of his position—that he uses the same texts he claims failed him in order to create his own original art form—this paper explores questions derivative of his reasoning: Would Shields get a project like Reality Hunger: A Manifesto through an HDR application process? How would his model of textual production sit within the academy? Can his way of making have any place in the academy? Is curating in the creative writing strand (fiction and non-fiction) equivalent to creating? Would the academy, like Reality Hunger’s publisher Random House, insist on attribution somewhere within the creative text? How would academics respond to examining a text generated from his mode of creative practice?

Interrogating his notion of ownership (or seeming lack thereof), this paper surveys a range of responses from creative practitioner academics to these questions in a bid to garner some collegial consensus. Mapped against procedural guidelines for both process of application and examination, our ultimate question really is: could Shields’ model of ‘making’ a text like Reality Hunger: A Manifesto fit current academic protocols for a creative thesis within Australian tertiary settings?


Due to copyright restrictions this book chapter is unavailable for download.

This book may be accessed from the publisher here.

Staff and students of Avondale College may access Creative manoeuvres from the Avondale College Library (808.3 St8).