The two manuals of creative writing, The Forms of Poetry and The Forms of

Narrative, were created to embody the paradigm of authentic learning described below.

They were designed to offer an initiation into all the main forms of creative writing.

Peter Abbs writes:

I have always felt that what are often presented as antithetical concepts, ‘self’ and ‘expression’ on one side, with ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’ on the other, are truly complementary. Each needs the other. Too much self-expression, isolated from a living tradition, and one ends with a kind of autism; too much tradition, isolated from the individual life of engaged feeling, and one ends with a cultural schlerosis. I see the teaching of poetry and narrative – and, indeed, of all the arts – as the task of bringing the two conceptions into the most volatile conjunction possible. This calls for an apprenticeship model of learning with a strong existential stamp.

In A is for Aesthetic the generative principle was expressed like this:

If we consider all the genres and their species, the way they can separate from each other and the way they are interdependent we can see that the symbolic field of English is, in principle, indescribably rich...The aim of English as an aesthetic and productive discipline is to place the student at the centre of that intertextuality, to make him or her a reader, a writer, a performer, a producer at the heat of civilisation.




One of the significant contributions occurs as Abbs elaborates on the new arts paradigm that boldly delineates a shift of thinking from the paradigms of earlier progressive and modern perspectives...Abbs asserts that art is about the pursuit of meaning more than it is about self-expression. He values a rooted sense of artistic grammar, a symbolic cultural language that links to a common cultural past, and proposes we put the learner’s creative work within this context. One is reminded of his wonderfully descriptive term conservationist aesthetics.                                                                                                            

- Sally Armstrong Gradle in International Journal of Education and the Arts Volume 5 


I found the analysis of Modernism deadly in its precision and cogency

-Ernst Gombrich in a letter to the author 


Abbs writes with passion and clarity, a rare combination, on his central theme of a conservationist aesthetics... He makes an invigorating exploration of the nature and role of myth, fantasy, autobiography and creativity 

-David Hargreaves in Times Educational Supplement


 Abbs is surely right in insisting that artistic innovation, the life-blood of the arts, must nevertheless be based upon a knowledge and appreciation of what has gone before. 

-Anthony Storr in his preface to The Polemics of Imagination