NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Edition 32, 2020 – Brave New world: taking the learnings forward

At the time of writing, we find ourselves within a liminal historical moment, floating between what was and what might be. In our shared experience teaching Creative Writing during COVID, we observed common pedagogical challenges across undergraduate programmes at USQ, SCU, and QUT.

*Throwntogetherness – this is the terminology of cultural geographer Doreen Massey. It is a term she used for thinking about (and with) place: as a ‘time-space’ of relational encounters, open and progressive, full of potential, and of the eventfulness of place.

As Chair of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP), the peak academic body representing the discipline of Creative Writing in Australasia, I recently joined colleagues to celebrate the AAWP annual conference. This encouraged me to reflect upon AAWP initiatives that bring us together as writer-researchers, through collaborative and community-minded initiatives.

I want to share a quick lock down story about performance ensemble Split Britches – Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw. Lois and Peggy found themselves at the start of the pandemic this year locked down in London – and as two senior artists (both in their 70’s) lockdown in the UK was very different for them compared to many of us.

In a recent article published in Times Higher Ed, North American scholars working in public health, sociology, and STEM discussed their reshaping of curricula to teach the pandemic … teaching narratives of trauma in a first-year Australian literature course, offered during lockdown, we were cognisant of the importance of connecting with students who not only felt disconnected from their studies during the pandemic but additionally discomfited and perhaps distanced by the challenging nature of the course.

Last summer of 2019-20, at the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic we (once again) witnessed parts of the country go up in flames. Since then many varied viewpoints in regard to climate change, health, economy, politics and identity and so on whirls amongst the interstices of the planet through vernacular news feeds, word of mouth, graffiti, 5G tower arsonist sabotages and other various forms of internet folklore.

With the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic yet to be realised and a recent Australian defence report warning of Australia’s vulnerabilities to overlapping “crises as diverse as cyberwar, climate-induced catastrophe and a pandemic”, is our sector prepared for an unpredictable future?