Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 February 2021
This chapter explores the novel-writing of the experimental writing collective the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (Oulipo). Despite the seeming mismatch between the Oulipo's attachment to form and the perceived formlessness of the novel, many oulipians have experimented with writing novels. This chapter begins by considering how oulipians have re-invented the novel form via the transposition of structures and constraints from other genres and disciplines. It then reflects on the various functions of these structures and constraints arguing that, while some serve primarily as architectural devices or creative stimuli, others are intrinsically meaningful. In particular I reflect on the ways in which oulipian-authored novels explore the relationship between self and system, and between the individual and the collective. Indeed, oulipian-authored novels often bear the collective stamp of the Oulipo. As this chapter argues, the group has developed a compelling shared imaginary that marks its novelistic production and that raises questions concerning authorship and creative ownership. Lastly, this chapter considers the ways in which oulipian-authored novels frequently invite the reader into a literary game that draws out his or her own creative potential.
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