December 4, 2007KR BlogUncategorized

What’s in a Name?

Well, everything. Rachael Toor’s column this week for the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Creating Non-Fiction,” reminds us of the power in naming: to both imbue meaning and significance, or marginalize the same. We (read: Americans at least, humans at most) nickname to show affection and we slur to show the opposite. (Some slurs are so powerful they are hard to say out loud, even to yourself. I can say almost any other word, some that I would never imagine using, without flinching–but not slurs without a palpable physical consequence. It’s a good exercise in the power of a name.)

We try to persuade by our names. “Viagra” sounds half-Niagara, half-viking. Subdivisions are often named after what the excavation company tore out. I read a book once on Luke Howard, the person who named the clouds; prior to his “Essay on the Modifications of Clouds”, clouds were chiefly know by their color. There’s a big difference in “the big blue-gray one” and “nimbus.”

All of which is to say there’s some credence to Toor’s take that “Creative Non-fiction,” as the name of a genre, does inefficient work naming the writing that we associate with it. She’s right to point out that it is hard being named in the negative. Hello, my name is Not James Wright. Hi, I’m Not Matt Damon. Just imagine the baby books.

Toor also talks about creative non-fiction being sometimes known under the dubious title of “the fourth genre.” This reminds me of a housing advertisement I once saw in Philadelphia advertising it as “the sixth borough.” Complete with its own mayor.

What is clear, like Toor suggests, is that people have been mixing the real and the invented for a long time. Creative non-fiction isn’t new, and its arguably as old as we are. Probably original on cave walls in southern France, when someone was trying to show the family just exactly how big the bull was that he/she just clobbered, with their bare hands, eyes closed, that the family is now eating for dinner…It is pretty easy to imagine that boasting is one of the oldest forms of creative nonfiction.

But we’ve come a long, sophisticated way. And reading Toor’s piece–and being reminded the problems in a name–shows that some facts (for better or worse) never go out of style. Some fictions don’t either. Sometimes it’s hard to tell a difference between the two.

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The Kenyon Review Associates Program provides Kenyon students with valuable experience in literary editing, publishing, and programming. KR Associates work closely with Kenyon Review staff, gaining valuable experience in a number of editing, publishing, and programming areas including manuscript evaluation, publicity and marketing, copy editing, developing web site and social media content, outreach programming, event planning and promotion, and other creative and editorial projects

KR Associates attend regular seminars conducted by Kenyon Review editorial staff, visiting readers, and publishing industry professionals. These seminars cover a wide range of topics including editorial philosophy, evaluation of submissions, print and electronic production, marketing, and design.

KR Associates enjoy also enjoy exclusive access to visiting writers and speakers, free issues of The Kenyon Review, and valuable work experience and employment references.

This program is made possible through an initiative of the Kenyon Review, part of the mission of which is to contribute to the enrichment of the academic, cultural, and artistic life of the Kenyon College community.

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Application Details

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Questions? Please contact Tory Weber for more information.