Practice-based Research to Understand How Creative Writing Methods Can Defamiliarize our Experience: A Case Study of Re-Writing Xi Xi’s Fiction on Hong Kong

Project: Research project

Project Details


This practice-based research project explores how the process of creative writing can change perceptions of a place and people’s relationship to it. By focusing on the important literary concept of “defamiliarization,” the Principal Investigator will identify writing strategies and techniques inspired by works of a prominent Hong Kong writer, Xi Xi (西西), and apply them in a practice-based research project on writing Hong Kong today.

The term “defamiliarization” was first coined by the Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky to identify the purpose of art, which is to liberate our sensations against becoming habitual and automatic. (Shklovsky 1994) Xi Xi is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent writers: her insightful and avant-garde writing about Hong Kong as a city is a prime example of “defamiliarizing” everyday life and has been an important subject of literary scholarship (Dung 2002; Cheung 2012). However, rather than studying Xi Xi’s works in relation to Hong Kong’s past, this project questions how literary techniques inspired by her work can change our perception of Hong Kong and our relationship to the city today.

The PI will write three fictional works and three critical papers in relation to “defamiliarizing” writing strategies derived from three key works by Xi Xi: The Merry Building (1977), The Marvels of a Floating City (1986), and The Elegy of the Breast (1992). These techniques namely, “slow-motion narration,” “active reading,” and the “use of bodily experience” will foster new knowledge of a place through observation of strangers in a residential building; reflection on a historical moment through juxtaposing foreign surrealist paintings with local issues; and the re- imagination of urban spaces through an “imperfect” point of view. These outputs will form the basis of a book-length manuscript on how the creative writing process can contribute to alternative knowledge. The final output of this research will include a free, interactive, online creative writing platform for the public, especially students of creative writing.

This project will break new ground by deploying a practice-based approach in literary studies which focuses not on the “author’s intention,” “the text,” nor the “readers’ reception,” but, rather, on a long-neglected subject of study: “the creative process.” It aims to bridge the perspectives of scholar and writer by examining the intersection of scholarly and writerly practices, and to widen our understanding of “knowledge” and encourage public engagement in creative writing practices as a way to enrich our experience of place.
Effective start/end date1/01/2130/06/23


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