Thursday, February 17, 2011

Uta Hagen, Susanne Langer--and the craft of writing

I read many influential books during my MFA program.

Most of the books I studied to learn about the craft of writing are well written novels and children's books. When I needed to understand how to effectively use a writing technique, I looked for a variety of examples where the technique is done well and not so well. I also studied craft books and literary theory; I have some favorite books in this category that I turn to again and again.

Thanks to Kathi Appelt, I read two books that helped me immensely as a writer. These are not the typical book that the writer studies, yet what is in them are relevant to the writer. I plan to reread both of these books.

Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen is a book for actors. As a writer I need to inhabit my characters, so this was a wonderful book for teaching me techniques to do that. Not all was applicable to writing in this book, but much was very useful for my writing.

Susanne Langer's Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art is a philosophy book. Sadly it is out of print. (1953.) Langer builds her philosophy on the concept that "Art is the creation of forms symbolic of human feeling" (40). She talks about symbols and that literature is a "illusion of experience" (245), an illusion of life, with emotional significance. What I internalized the most is the understanding that I am an artist who uses words and story as my medium.

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