France. 1960s. A small group of writers and mathematicians get together to experiment with the practice of writing under invented formal constraints. Oulipo (Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle) is born. Not a movement, not a new class of literature, but a rejection of psychography and even aesthetic value in favor of freedom (potentiality) in the form of a rigorous, deliberate and constrained approach to expression.
Oulipo stems from the idea being that total freedom of expression doesn’t really exist, and if it did, would be paralyzing. We already impose constraints on our writing (meter, structure, register), so why constrain the constraints?
From simple gimmicks to sophisticated though exercises, Oulipian constraints are amazing tools for breaking through blocks and unearthing a little more of what is possible – in writing, translating, stage performance, visual arts, and game theory.
If you’re looking for an interesting read, check out Georges Perec’s A Void, a post-modern detective novel written in French and translated into English without a single use of the letter e.
And if you’re just looking to break out of a rut and discover new potentiality – give Ouxpo a chance.