1. How it began

Meeting the Text

I first saw J. E. Moon’s 1967 trampolining thesis The Techniques of Trampolining (for Coach and Performer)[1] in Edge Hill University’s archive four years ago. Much like the character who emerges later in my story, I was intrigued by the language and voice in the thesis. It is, on the surface, a thorough and well-structured guide to the elements of trampolining. But dig deeper, beneath the technical language and physics, and there are tiny slippages, moments where the writer, Moon, steps into the text. Examples such as ‘Do not try to break your fall with the hands – this will only complicate things,’[2] and ‘I remember one person who had a very good baby fliffus and he did this movement quite successfully…’[3] showcase how the tone is authoritative, an instruction manual, yet spiking through is this personal and somewhat tender subtext. In my writing practice, I like experimenting with ‘creative response’, taking existing images, words or ideas and writing back to them. I wanted to explore who else might find some unlikely joy, support or nourishment in the document. How might this thesis become more than the sum of its parts for a character?

Collage Technique

I have been exploring the notion of ‘found text’ in my writing for some time. I am calling it literature trouvé (lit. trouvé) after the art term Objet Trouvé, which translates from French as ‘found object’ and describes an ‘object found by an artist and displayed with no, or minimal, alteration as (or as an element in) a work of art’ [1]. Also referred to as ‘collage’, the concept of using cut-ups of other words isn’t new. Dadaist artists created poems using similar techniques in the 1920s. Poet Adrian Henri used collage to create his poem ‘New Fast Automatic Daffodils’[2] which spliced together lines from Wordsworth’s Daffodils with text from a Dutch motorcar leaflet. Author David Shields sparked controversy around plagiarism with his work Reality Hunger[3] in which he collages short excerpts from multiple sources.

The concept involves splicing ‘found’ texts with my own words; editing and juxtaposing to suggest new interpretations, or so that one text will be in dialogue with the other. As literature scholar Rona Cran suggests, ‘Collage is about encounters. It is about bringing ideas into conversation with one another.’[4] And just like any ‘real life’ conversation, when I begin working in this way, I don’t know exactly how it will unfold, how the call-and-response will function and whether the ‘conversation’ will ultimately go anywhere.

2. First Steps

My method was to spend time with the source material in the archive. Next, I went through it forensically for words or lines that particularly resonated with me. When I’m undertaking this harvesting approach I am initially instinctively searching out elegant or unusual sentences or subject-specific words, for example ‘the radius of gyration is the same as the moment of inertia,’[1] and ‘fliffes’[2]. I am also seeking metaphorical weight that I might be able to explore in the response writing; anything that could hold multiple interpretations. I am also investigating authorial voice in the source material, and moments of ‘slippage’ in mode, as I mention above, because these are intriguing and characterful. They help to create a framework which the secondary narrative can pull against.

Once I have undertaken the harvesting process, I type the words up which allows me to feel the rhythm of the syntax and gain a deeper understanding of the language. At this point, I am deeply considering what the responding story will be.

3. Ideas Form: Structure and Pace

There is careful orderliness in the way Moon’s thesis is structured into sections. This considered approach slows the pace of the thesis and gives it a punctuated start-stop-start dynamic. It creates an intriguing antithesis to the movement of a body if it were to actually trampolining. This slow halting pace feels deliberately cautionary. It is sectional in a way that prevents a smooth movement or the abandon of the bounce itself, the way a body feels in mid-air – the flow between ascent and descent. I found this hesitancy aspect of the work fascinating and knew it was a fundamental element that I wanted to explore in the creative response.

4. Creatively Responding to the Work

A key phrase enabled me to begin writing my response story: ‘There can be a ‘carry over’ value to similar situations, for example, the relocation of the body when in an awkward situation e.g. upside down; or if falling backwards when not in contact with the ground then a person can land more safely by initiating a ½ twist in the air.’[1] This direct instruction felt like an invocation. The secondary narrative, about a woman who has left her controlling husband came onto the page quite quickly. The idea had already begun to form while reading the thesis, as I considered who might respond to the work – both in a physical sense, as she finds the trampoline submerged in her new garden, but also on a metaphorical level as she seeks to find support in learning to live again; to ‘bounce back’. I like how this cliché entirely underplays the hugeness of the situation she is in. The thesis unveils the complexity of ‘bouncing’ so it felt like a potent guide for her.

Splicing it Together

Next, I printed the work off and cut both the trampoline extracts and the woman’s narrative into sections. I laid the woman’s story out and began experimenting with drawing the two texts together. I chose to keep the woman’s story chronological, charting her progression to the final bounce. I randomised the sections from the trampoline thesis, replicating how the woman might dip into it and draw down memories from it nonchronologically, analogously to how a person of faith might recall quotes from a holy text to inform, support or justify their daily experiences.

5. What did I Discover?

Meaning Making

Writer David Shields says, ‘Everything I write, I believe instinctively, is to some extent collage. Meaning, ultimately, is a matter of adjacent data.’[1] This is a key concept in creative practice. The human brain, given two disparate ideas, images or words will spark for ways to connect them. We seek pattern, logic and understanding in our world. We find pictures in clouds, we seek subtext in horoscopes, we read fate from coincidence. It is a fundamental of storytelling, allowing the reader space to interpret and seek meaning. A great example of this is the Kuleshov Effect. Russian filmaker Lev Kuleshov intercut the same shot of a man holding a neutral expression with an image of a bowl of soup, a child in a coffin and woman lying on a sofa, and from this juxta positioning, audiences correspondingly read hunger, grief and desire in his neutral expression[2]. Meaning was made by the interrelation of the images, not by the images alone. This is how I hope ‘Location of the Body When in an Awkward Situation’ operates, intercutting the somewhat inert scientific sections from Moon’s thesis with vignettes from the protagonist’s life to make meaning, opening space for the reader to form their own connections.

The Trampoline as Metaphor – a Lyrical Story

During writing, I realised that the trampoline had become a metaphor; an image we keep returning to and each time the interpretation adjusts its position like a trampolinist in mid-air. This defines the story as what critic Eileen Baldeshwiler terms a ‘lyrical’ story – open to fluctuating interpretation and reinterpretations,[1] and inviting the reader’s own responses. For example, at various moments the trampoline is a shameful carcass to be dismembered and secretly disposed of; an alienlike dominating ‘spaceship’; and a living force that ‘trembles’ and allows the protagonist to exist in a liminal space. In another place, where Moon’s thesis explains the

process of unfolding a trampoline, via ‘pressure’ and ‘coaxing’ of leg sections and bottom legs, the trampoline could be read to be the protagonist herself as inert victim/object. But I hope these metaphors remain somewhat open and dialectic. For a story to satisfy and grow with a reader, it needs to let them in to bounce, to test their own ideas and to allow them to freely adjust their position as they go.

My deep gratitude goes to John Edward Moon for writing this beautiful work. Although the archive team have made great efforts to trace him via records and alumni, they have not been able to, but I continue to hope I might one day learn more about the writer of the work and I hope he would approve of the way I have responded to it. My thanks also to the wonderful team of archivists at Edge Hill for being curious and nurturing curiosity.

Sarah Schofield

[1] John Edward Moon, ‘The Techniques of Trampolining (for Coach and Performer)’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, 1967)

[2] Moon, p. 37.

[3] Moon, p. 89.

[4] Oxford Reference website, ˂https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100243703˃ [Accessed 30 June 2022]

[5] Adrian Henri, ‘New Fast Automatic Daffodils’ in The Mersey Sound, by Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten (London: Penguin, 1967).

[6] David Shields, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, (London: Penguin, 2011).

[7] Rona Cran, Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature, and Culture : Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank o’Hara, and Bob Dylan (Oxford: Taylor & Francis Group, 2014) p. 4.

[8] Moon, p. 60.

[9] Moon, p. 85.

[10] Moon, p. 14.

[11] David Shields, ‘Reality Hunger: A Manifesto*’, Salmagundi, 164, (2010) (pp. 72-92), p.75.

[12] Lev Kuleshov, Efecto Koulechov 1,  <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gGl3LJ7vHc> [Accessed 29 June 2022].

[13] Eileen Baldeshwiler, ‘The Lyrical Short Story: the sketch of a history’, The New Short Story Theories, ed. by Charles E. May (Ohio: Ohio Press University, 1994) p. 231.