I’ve been interested in the (mostly French) group called the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle) ever since I discovered the writings of Italo Calvino and (thanks to him) Raymond Queneau (both being members, the latter one of the founding-presidents). To put it as succinctly as possible the idea of the group is to create new forms of literature for the possible use of other writers. It’s not about creating new literature qua literature, but about creating forms for new literature. Now using the words “form” is pretty damn open, and that is something that I need to work on thinking through. Basically, the Oulipian concept involves “formal constraint”, voluntarily chosen constraints on the process of writing (such as writing a novel without the letter ‘e’ (Perec’s La disparition a.k.a. A Void) or writing a book whose structure is based on the drawing of a sequence of tarot cards (Calvino’s Castle of Crossed Destiny (sorry, the Italian escapes me)), in many cases this involves starting with a base text that is then transformed through constraints.
I have created this blog to discuss the idea of formal constraints (mostly in writing, but also in other media) as well as offer explanations and examples of various constraints. My hope is that this will help proselytize a bit for the idea of writing under constraint and also offer some practical places to start.