Week 5: Oulipo – Exploring Form / Exchanging Patterns



The Oulipo, or Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle, is a Paris-based group of writers and mathematicians that explores the uses of writing of constrictive form. Members include Raymond Queneau, Fran?ois Le Lionnais, Claude Berge, Georges Perec, and Italo Calvino.

The OuLiPo group has experimented for decades with various kinds of procedural writing, producing texts according to formal rules Ð inventing the rules themselves has been the primary focus for the Oulipians, producing actual texts is not nearly as important, thus the “potential literature” in the name. Oulipian writers impose constraints that must be satisfied to complete a text, constraints ranging across all levels of composition, from elements of plot or structure down to rules regarding letters. OuLiPo thus pushes a structuralist conception of language to a level of mathematical precision; technique becomes technical when language itself becomes a field of investigation, a complex system made up of a finite number of components. Constraints push writers into new linguistic territories–one might say that in Oulipian work is a sort of ongoing investigation into language itself: language is conceived as a complex system made up of a finite number of components, and constraints force the linguistic system’s itinerary off its usual well-trodden paths.

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit… the arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution.” Igor Stravinsky ”

Above  extracted text taken from:

What is Oulipo?


  1. Extracts from Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau. You can collect a hand out from Helmore 245 [Admin office] or there are copies of the book in the library.
  2. oulipo-manevich-newmediareader

Watch this:

Do this:

Writing Project 3 

Experiment with Queneau’s Exercises in Style model.

  • devise a simple scenario.
  • write 3-4 versions [minimum] of that scenario/story using a different strategy for each.
  • be clear about the strategy you have devised/chosen.
  • title your works acoording to their strategy.

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