The work of the Oulipo (Workshop for Potential Literature) is becoming better known in the U.S., as more of its work becomes available in translation. In writing texts under self-imposed constraints, Oulipian writers believe they stimulate the creativity and imagination of the writer--co-founder Raymond Queneau insisted that "the Oulipian writer is always inspired." 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. After incorporating Oulipian practices into writing courses, I am completely convinced that the Oulipian method really works--students consistently generate texts that even surprise themselves in their innovation and quality.
This site conveys several aspects of my interest in the Oulipo. It includes information on teaching the Oulipo, constraint-based texts written by students and myself, some of my scholarship on Oulipian writers, and links to other sites on Oulipo. I would like to think that the rising popularity of Oulipo is part of an increasing openness to verbal play and experimentation in our culture. I hope this site helps to pique such interests in others.