Thursday, April 03, 2008

Workshopping & Debauchery

F. débaucher is, according to Littré and Hatzfeld, derived from a n. bauche, of which the precise sense and origin are according to the latter unknown; according to the former it = ‘a place of work, workshop’, so that desbaucher would mean orig. ‘to draw away from the workshop, from one's work or duty’.

Oxford English Dictionary

The OED defines the current sense of "debauchery" in vivid terms, viz. as "vicious indulgence in sensual pleasures." It also provides an obsolete sense: "seduction from duty, integrity, or virtue; corruption." The etymology provides an indication of how they are connected. The modern sense of "debauch" apparently emerged in the 17th century, i.e., at the beginning of the modern era, when humanity began to separate the pursuit of profit from the pursuit of pleasure. Today, of course, these pursuits are specialized, and localized in places like factories and brothels, office buildings and movie houses, computer and television screens.

That's how I usually introduce my writing workshops. Workshopping is the attempt to "get back to work", to take craftsmanship seriously, to derive pleasure from the first-hand manipulation of materials. Quality in any art, I believe, depends on integrating (and in our age this means reintegrating) productivity and sensuality, industry and creativity. It is the opposite of the vicious idulgence in sensual pleasures, the pursuit of false pleasure, we might say. Quality is a true pleasure, it is the sensuality of work.

My workshops try to establish the microcosm of a bauch, a place of work. I have two groups of four people this semester. Each group meets on Wednesdays and Thursdays for an hour and a half every other week. We work on a one-page, 14 point, Times New Roman, double-spaced sample of text that has been submitted by one of the participants. We print the original submission, and work on it together in Word using an overhead beam projector. As writers, it is our duty to edit.

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