The great bricoleurs of literature could begin with Hesiod and Homer, who then

evolved over time into the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. These writers began

with history, a predetermined, pre-existing set of facts, events, and characters, and

they used these like a bricoleur would use only the materials in front of him to build

whatever he saw they could be. They used the concrete things they were given, and

the tools they had within them, innovative, creative minds, questions they wanted

to give answers or leads to, or events they felt needed to have attention drawn to

them, and a passion for giving a form to the world. With what they had inside and

behind them, they wove a story, they melded the hard facts as well as fragments

of themselves into one another and embellished a long-standing, yet unfamiliar

foundation into a piece of the past with a new meaning and a perspective of its

own. These literary bricoleurs produced stories, ones with historical and cultural

significance and unique relevance attached to them, that colored the past with

intentional highlights and included questions, ideas, and voices that were never

part of the frozen time period they wrote about, but always had the potential to

be. These writers broke the silences of the people who came before us, and let

their voices mingle with those of themselves, which in turn mingle with our own

contemporary ones, as the texts are discussed in modern times. These poets, took

what they had in front of them and created names and places in what is now our

history, for themselves and for those that came before them. They capitalized on

some desire within themselves to make something that had the potential to remain

lost, impersonal, and without the character and timelessness of tragedy, or humor, or



The terror and savage fighting of the Trojan War that somehow taught us about

humanity, how far we’ve come and, simultaneously, how much we’ve stayed the

same since that time.


The inexplicable universe before humans and what was the god’s stomping ground

are given significance, shape and a few laughs.


The tragic time period of the dictators, exploitation and chaos in Latin America

that was concealed from the rest of the world, given back to us in a story that is

unparallelled in depth, meaning and philosophy.


These are the gems cut for us by those who practice bricolage, they represent

bricolage itself.


-Clare Bollnow


A heterogeneous mixture

To be separated,

Recombined by physical means.

By hands

Decanting words and meaning into transparent tubes.

Distillation, releasing ambiguity, collecting its vapor

To save, to breathe mystery and life into something else

Dry from overuse, from underuse, cracked and bleeding its last drip-metaphor like

dying skin.

Drops of blood-life in broken phrases.

Broken bones, syntax, dripping ink-marrow down a page

To catch at the end like rain,

Meant to be measured.

We are measuring meaning lost and found,

We catch and seek.

Mix, decant,

And start anew.

We are reacting.

Adding heat by proximity; flames of juxtaposition.

Placing volatile element with hungry reactant, watching it all burst together,

Come together,

Come out new.

We are making something new,

And, why not?

There can be no useless reaction of word and idea.

No dialogue without product,

Without something to come.

We are in the business of building

A work of other hands.

Our hands exist for the mixing,

For reacting,

For selection and set up.

We are lighting the fuse.

-Margaret Fisher


When I consider Bricolage, I immediately think of the Fordham Comparative Literature

publication, but that’s probably because I don’t speak French. So I followed a suggestion and

took a page out of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s book The Savage Mind. This is what I found:

The Savage objective reality:

Reasons are not relevant here.

Nature authorized the methods that were essential

To turn its back on reality

And assail the sensible world.

It is a fact that they remain the basis of our civilization.

Bricolage: the finite and heterogeneous tools

Which bears no relation to any project.

The analogy worth pursuing:

I was riding in my grandparents’ car and they put a cassette tape in and music came out. It was

old music in an old music player. The high notes were warped, uncomfortably sharp. The low

ones barely played at all. There was a constant thrum or wiggle of sound as the tape struggled to

circle through the cassette. A strange harmony was struck by the buzz of tires on pavement. The

autumn trees flying by outside the window provided a visual counterexample; they had caught

the stars in their branches. We talked about the music, adding an analytical element that was

filtered through various languages.

Basically, I still don’t know what Bricolage is. Is it a way to rationalize pre-rational

thought? Is it a word in a language I don’t understand? Is it a Comparative Literature journal?

-Sophia Nolas


Bricolage is the perfect embodiment of the tension or opposition between the creative

and the critical. The fundamental difference between the two is their generativity. Critical

thinking, and those who employ analytical skills, involve no actual production or generation of

an innovative entity. Instead, they compile the knowledge around them and gather their opinions

from their experiences, and espouse ideas that manifest from these existent materials. In contrast,

a creative text or art generates life-whether in the form of new ideas and concepts or new tools

and materials. However, as Claude Levi-Strauss is quick to clarify, neither creative nor critical

epistemology subsumes the other. Rather, both are necessary for a true understanding of reality.

Strauss determines a definition of bricolage through the term bricoleur, which has no English

equivalent. However, one can think of a bricoleur as a “Jack of all trades” who possesses a

certain quality that distinguishes himself from that category. This notion of a person that can

adeptly and resourcefully draw upon his surroundings but whom simultaneously engenders to

create something new provides the quintessential example of a point of convergence for creative

and critical thought. From this perspective, we can understand bricolage as the space for

interplay between the creative and the critical.

-Molly Shilo


Adam is born into a vast library, with shelves stretching for miles and fluorescent lights

Adam is born into the Garden of Eden, with diverse trees growing into eternity and the

crafting beams over the forest of oak shelves. A faint humming pervades the world. He is

sun shining upon everything within sight. Birds sing in the distance as squirrels climb up

alone. Adam walks to the nearest unmarked shelf and opens a book. The first word is 

and down the trees. He is alone. Near his left foot, he finds a rock with a sharp end. He

‘sir.’ He continues reading from there. At the end of the day, he has completed one shelf

takes the rock to the nearest tree and begins to hack at it. At the end of the day, he has   

of books. He rests at the foot of the shelf, sleeping before he continues to read, tirelessly.

felled one tree. He rests his head on the fallen trunk, with his rock at his side. When he

The days continue like this, with Adam finishing book after book and shelf after shelf. He

awakes, he picks it back up and begins chopping at another tree. The days continue like

understands some of what he reads, but some books confuse him. After a while, he    

this, with Adam’s progress marked by the field of tree stumps. Some trees fall easily, but

pauses from reading and begins writing. He thinks new thoughts and imagines new 

others take two or three days to cut down. After he has a large pile of wood, he begins to

stories. In his mind, he sees a log cabin, built with his own hands. He sits for an entire

build. He carves boards and divides logs into regular lengths. He builds a log cabin with

day, imagining this house before going to sleep at the foot of a bookshelf.

his own hands. He looks at it for an entire day, before going inside to sleep.

-Adam Fales