English 010.302 Creating Possibilities in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry Tom Devaney MW 5:00-6:30
English 010.601 Creative Writing Andrew Mossin W 5:30-8:30
English 111.301 Experimental Writing Charles Bernstein W 2:00-5:00
English 111.302 Poetry and Poetics: Cultivating a Poetic Philosophy Tracie Morris T 1:30-4:30
English 112.301 Fiction Writing Workshop Karen Rile M 2:00-5:00
English 112.302 Fiction Writing Workshop Diane McKinney-Whetstone R 1:30-4:30
English 114.401 Playwriting Fodor M 2:00-5:00
English 115.301 Advanced Fiction Writing Max Apple T 1:30-4:30
English 115.601 Advanced Fiction Writing Kathryn Watterson R 5:30-8:30
English 116.401 Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco T 1:30-4:30
English 116.601 Screenwriting Marc Lapadula M 5:00-8:00
English 118.301 Advanced Poetry Workshop Gregory Djanikian T 1:30-4:30
English 121.301 Writing for Children Elizabeth Van Doren R 1:30-4:30
English 130.401 Advanced Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco W 2:00-5:00
English 130.402 Advanced Screenwriting Mark Rosenthal R 3:00-6:00
English 135.301 Creative Non-Fiction Writing Lorene Cary R 1:30-4:30
English 135.302 Creative Non-Fiction: Writing Your Travels Marion Kant W 2:00-5:00
English 135.303 Creative Non-Fiction Karen Rile TR 12:00-1:30
English 145.301 Advanced Non-Fiction Writing Paul Hendrickson T 1:30-4:30
English 145.302 Advanced Non-Fiction Writing Lee Eisenberg F 2:00-5:00
English 145.401 Writing in Concert Lorene Cary T 1:30-4:30
English 155.301 Documentary Writing Paul Hendrickson M 2:00-5:00
English 161.301 The Art of the Profile Dick Polman M 2:00-5:00
English 162.301 The 2008 Presidential Primaries Dick Polman W 2:00-5:00
English 165.301 Writing through Culture and Art Kenneth Goldsmith R 1:30-4:30
English 415.640 Writing Linked Short Stories Courtney Zoffness T 5:30-8:10
English 435.640 Writing and Remembering: A Memoir Workshop Kathryn Watterson T 5:30-8:10
DescriptionsEnglish 010.301 The Art of Narrative Non-fiction Kirk
This writing workshop emphasizes creative nonfiction but makes room for fiction as well, since both genres share in common the elements of the narrative story. In creative nonfiction--as with fiction--we employ plot, character, dialogue and vivid description to draw the reader into our imaginative worlds. In addition to the personal essay, students are encouraged to explore other cross-genre forms such as the "reported" essay and the nonfiction short story. In this class we will learn how to take the raw material of real life and reshape it dramatically. Since this class is a "live" workshop, active participation and regular attendance are critical. Students will critique each other's writing, read assigned works of contemporary (and classic) creative nonfiction, and discuss technique, research, and the marriage of journalism and literary ambition. Students are expected to complete a 12 - 15 page manuscript by the end of the semester.
Time: T 1:30-4:30
English 010.302 Creative Possibilities in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry Devaney
The workshop will focus on creative nonfiction and poetry. Creative nonfiction is essays, memoirs, literary journalism, and related writings. Student work is the focus of discussion in this workshop, along with analysis of selected readings. Modes of creative nonfiction, narrative, structure, aspects of style, and other elements of craft are studied. Our focus in creative nonfiction includes writing about people and places as well as inventive approaches to the essay. In the section on poetry, the relationships between poetry and prose are explored, as well as writing ìmini-essayî list poems; haiku (as an editing tool for prose and poems); and prose poems. We will explore the art and craft of writing and will attempt to push the boundaries of what can be done story-wise and otherwise. Students will keep a journal and will complete a final portfolio of 12-16 pages of revised work.
Time: MW 5:00-6:30
English 010.601 Creative Writing Mossin
This workshop will introduce students to a variety of approaches to the writing of poetry and narrative prose. Class sessions will begin with a brief discussion of selected readings in poetry and fiction, including work that blurs the boundaries between these two genres. The bulk of our class time will be spent in careful, considered reading and response to the poetry and prose of workshop members. The aim of all our work will be to create a safe environment for the writing and reading of workshop membersí contributions. Experimentation, revision, new strategies and approaches to writing will be strongly encouraged. Students will hand in an end-of-semester portfolio of revised work (15-20 pages) in both poetry and prose. We will also write brief (up to one page) responses to workshop submissions on a regular basis. Texts: Ann Carson, The Autobiography of Red; Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude; Basho, Bashoís Journey, ed. and tr. David Landis Barnhill; selected poetry and prose made available as a course pack.
Time: W 5:30-8:30
English 111.301 Experimental Writing Bernstein
This is a nontraditional "poetry immersion" workshop. The workshop will be useful for those wanting to explore new possibilities for writing and art, whether or not they have a commitment to writing poetry. The workshop will be structured around a series of writing experiments, intensive readings, art gallery visits, and the production of individual chapbooks or web sites for each participant, and performance of participants' works. There will also be some visits from visiting poets. The emphasis in the workshop will be on new and innovative approaches to composition and form, including digital, sound, and performance, rather than on works emphasizing narrative or story telling. Each week, participants will discuss the writing they have done as well as the assigned reading. Permission of the instructor is required. Send a brief email stating why you wish to attend the workshop (writing samples not required) to firstname.lastname@example.org
More information at http://writing.upenn.edu/bernstein/syllabi/111-intro.html
Time: W 2:00-5:00
English 111.302 Experimental Writing: Cultivating a Poetic Philosophy Morris
Many of us are motivated to write poetry, but do we know where the motivation comes from? How do our poems "come through the page" in the ways that they do? Often we are interested in exploring our ideas through poetry but rarely do we get the opportunity to seriously consider what our poems say about our philosophical ideas, our abstract notions and our secret desires. These motivations not only manifest themselves in the words we choose and the topics we work with but in the nuts and bolts of how we place words on the page.
In this course we will consider ways in which philosophical ideas construct poetic form and content. During the semester we will explore each student's conceptual underpinnings and how these sensibilities can form the basis for unique poetic voices and/or the development of a new voice. The course requirements will include creative *and* analytical writing to get to the heart of what we write, how we write and why we write. We will look at some of the relationships between speech act theory, the popularity of "spoken word" as an outlet for poetic performance, confessional poetry, some experimental poetry movements, and your own perspectives about how poetry intersects with your personal philosophy.
Students who wish to take the course should send a brief description of their interest, including any relevant background or experience, to Tracie Morris at TM540@nyu.edu
For more information on Tracie Morris and this special course, please go to http://writing.upenn.edu/poeticsfellow.html
Time: T 1:30-4:30
English 112.301 Fiction Writing Workshop Rile
This class is a workshop, which means that most of what you produce will be considered work-in-progress, and that your active participation is essential. Come prepared to roll up your sleeves and work!
Each week will bring a new technical topic and a writing prompt designed to illuminate it. You will write every week and present your writing to the workshop for group critique many times throughout the semester. Readings from selected contemporary short stories will be discussed over the class email list and, as necessary, during class. In addition to assigned writing prompts, each student writer will have at least one opportunity to present a complete, independently-conceived short story to the workshop for detailed critique.
The most important reading assignments will be the work submitted by your fellow students. In this course, the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of your criticism is as crucial as the quality of the written work you produce.
Admission to this class is by instructor permit. Please email work samples to: email@example.com.
Time: M 2:00-5:00
English 112.302 Fiction Writing Workshop Diane McKinney-Whetstone
This is a course for students interested in serious fiction writing--literary or genre or somewhere in between--but always seriously and always with a mind to perfecting the work at hand. To that end, we will read short fiction from an anthology and some--very little--"instructional" material. We will discuss the fiction primarily as writers, as opposed to literary "analyzers." We will talk about why the stories engage us and why not. We will identify their "prime movers," that is, the elements in a narrative that urge us--or not--through them. Are the characters interesting and consistent (where this question applies, usually to conventional, realistic fiction as opposed to metafiction, where the question is often irrelevant)? Is there sufficient movement (action, plot, story)? Can we appreciate the art of the narration's technique? Is there a discernable style that we can appreciate?
We will ask the same questions of student work during workshops, which will begin early in the term. Workshop pieces can be revised--you are expected to revise everything, particularly your major assignments--and then submitted as your graded writing assignments. Every student will take at least one turn at serving as an editor for the workshop piece under discussion, and the editor will write an informal "response" to the work to be given to the writer and to the instructor.
There is one major writing assignment of 20 pages. Ideally, this should be a single story. If, however, you must "write short," two or perhaps even three fictions of shorter length and totaling 20 pages will do.
Throughout the term, students will be required to write three brief scenes, length open, all of which can be used--reworked, let's hope--in the longer requirements. These are due: 4th week, 7th week, and 10th week. Naturally, a scene can be dialogue-driven (almost all dialogue) or, at the other extreme, completely exposition (no dialogue). If the scene does not come at the beginning of a narrative, then you will need to write a brief set-up as an introduction to the scene. Email a writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org
Class participation is vital and expected.
Time: R 1:30-4:30
English 114.401 Playwriting Fodor
This class is designed to introduce students to the basic components required for the creation of a play. By the end of the course students will show an ability to recognize and apply the following: dramatic tension, characterization, exposition, and rhythms. Students will also be exposed to the realities behind writing for the theater, which include stage time vs. real time, the differences between writing for theater and writing for film, realistic expectations for actors, and the working relationship between playwright and director.
Time: M 2:00-5:00
English 115.301 Advanced Fiction Writing Apple
The class will be conducted as a seminar. Every student will write three stories during the semester; each story will be discussed by the group. The instructor will, from time to time, suggest works of fiction that he hopes will be illustrative and inspirational but there will be no required books. Attendance and active class participation are essential. Please submit a brief writing sample to: email@example.com
Time: T 1:30-4:30
English 115.601 Advanced Fiction Writing Watterson
This workshop will will explore the elements of fiction, from the focus on details to reveal the larger world of the story, to character development, dialogue, point of view, style and voice. We will mine a deeper understanding of the craft by reading short stories and excerpts from a wide range of writers. In addition to in-class writing, students will be asked to maintain writing journals, participate in workshop discussions and peer review, and write and revise work on a weekly basis. Please submit a brief writing sample to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Time: R 5:30-8:30
English 116.401 Screenwriting DeMarco
This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to email@example.com
Time: T 1:30-4:30
English 116.601 Screenwriting Lapadula
This course will look at the screenplay as both a literary text and a blue print for production. Several classic screenplay texts will be critically analyzed (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, DOCTOR STRANGELOVE, PSYCHO, etc.) Students will then embark on writing their own scripts. We will intensively focus on: character enhancement, creating "believable" cinematic dialogue, plot development and story structure, conflict, pacing, dramatic foreshadowing, the element of surprise, text and subtext and visual story-telling. Class attendance is mandatory. Students will submit their works-in-progress to the workshop for discussion.
Time: M 5:00-8:00
English 118.301 Advanced Poetry Workshop Djanikian
This workshop is designed for those of you who desire advanced study in poetry writing. The hope is that by semester's end, through revision, you will have a portfolio of poems which are for the most part consistent in voice, form, and/or thematic concern. Discussion and constructive peer responses to student work will be the primary focus of the course so your participation is essential. We'll read essays about writing, and individual collections by at least 6 contemporary poets. Students will also be asked to submit written responses of each other's poems, as well as on the assigned collections and essays. Please email me three sample poems at firstname.lastname@example.org
Time: T 1:30-4:30
English 121.301 Writing for Children Van Doren
This is a course for students who have always thought it would be easy, fun, interesting, or rewarding to write a children's book. In the class we will discover that it is anything but easy, definitely fun and interesting, and ultimately rewarding to do so. The class will be conducted as a seminar, using a wide variety of published children's books in all genres -- picture books, chapter books, young fiction, older fiction - as examples of successful and maybe not-so-successful books for young readers. We will discuss the major question of what makes a good book for children and the importance of creating compelling characters, a good plot, excellent pacing, a distinctive voice, and an appropriate theme with the goal of each student refining an existing project or beginning work on a new one. There will be at least one reading and one writing assignment each week. Exercises will include writing picture books for the very young as well as stories for older readers. No previous experience in writing for children is required but students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email that includes a brief description of their interest in the course and a writing sample of no more than five to ten pages. Please email applications to Mingo Reynolds at email@example.com
Time: R 1:30-4:30
English 130.401 Advanced Screenwriting DeMarco
This is a workshop-style course for students who have completed a screenwriting class, or have a draft of a screenplay they wish to improve. Classes will consist of discussing student's work, as well as discussing relevant themes of the movie business and examining classic films and why they work as well as they do.
Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class in addition to some potentially useful texts like /What Makes Sammy Run?/ Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email. Please send a writing sample (in screenplay form), a brief description of your interest in the course and your goals for your screenplay, and any relevant background or experience. Applications should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Time: W 2:00-5:00
English 130.402 Advanced Screenwriting Rosenthal
Writing for the screen has been called an "architectural" skill. The writer creates a narrative by framing a structure. This course will be a workshop in which writers can try out this very particular and peculiar craft. (Along with sharing gossip with professional screenwriters and discussing good movies!)
At several points during the semester, students will meet with visiting screenwriters, who will also make public presentations at the Kelly Writers House.
Note: This is a special writing workshop with an eminent screenwriter. Students wanting to enroll should consult Mark
Rosenthal's faculty bio here: http://writing.upenn.edu/cw/faculty.php.
Students will be admitted on the basis of an
application: by email, send a writing sample, brief description of your interest in the course, and any relevant background or
experience. Applications should be sent to email@example.com.
Time: R 3:00-6:00
English 135.301 Creative Non-fiction Writing Cary
Each student will write three essays and the class will offer criticism and appreciation of each. There will be some discussion of and instruction in the form, but the course will be based on the student writing. Attendance and participation required.
Time: R 1:30-4:30
English 135.302 Creative Non-fiction Writing Kant
In this course students will learn to observe and record what they see when they travel. They will explore a popular form of writing and practice it in their own daily activities. The familiar will become strange and new as they return home, walk through the campus, visit Center City or explore an ethnic community in order to write accounts of what they see. They will, in the process, learn about themselves but without that preoccupation with the self alone that marks much student writing. They will see themselves in the mirror of "the other". The course will explore famous works by travelers who visited the USA as a means to see the familiar through foreign eyes, such works as Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" (1835), Charles Dickens' "On America and the Americans" (ed. Michael Slater), G.K. Chesterton's "What I Saw in America" (1922). Jonathan Raban's "Old Glory: An American Voyage" (1981) and the expatriate who returns like Bill Bryson's "I am a Stranger here myself: Notes on returning to America after twenty years" (1999).
Time: W 2:00-5:00
English 135.303 Creative Non-fiction Writing Rile
In this workshop-style class you will complete six projects in three categories: memoir, profile, and collage. You will visit each category twice. In your first attempt you will write a conventional, albeit creative, nonfiction essay; in the second attempt you will experiment by pushing the boundaries of the form. For example, your first collage project will be a narrative collage written after reading and discussing a variety of narrative collages by established and emerging writers. In your second collage project you will revisit your original material using text with any combination of other media you choose. You might experiment with hypertext, paper collage, photography--the only limit is your imagination.
In our workshop we will address technical issues in prose writing, such as narrative and thematic tension, manipulation of transitions, and point-of-view. Throughout the semester, we will discuss the ethics of writing nonfiction and the uncertain boundary between fiction and creative nonfiction.
Class participation, oral and written, is as important as your writing. In class, and over the email listserv, we will discuss your projects-in-progress as well as your finished work. You will be asked to duplicate your own work for class critique and to give thoughtful, constructive feedback on the work of your fellow student writers.
Time: TR 12:00-1:30
English 145.301 Advanced Non-fiction Writing Hendrickson
This is an intensive course in creative nonfiction--both the reading and practice of it. It's seeking to look at fact as literature. Think of it as the art of fact: using reportage and some of the literary techniques of fiction in the service of compelling, true, real-life stories--sometimes your own story. The core goal is to get a circle of student writers writing, and have them willing to share the work aloud in class. Implicit in this is the willingness to suffer some gentle slings of criticism. We will be examining models of nonfiction from present and past word masters: Annie Dillard, E.B. White, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Michael Herr, Tim O'Brien, John Hersey, James Agee, George Orwell, Thomas Lynch. Ever heard this last name? Lynch is a Michigan undertaker. He writes like a dream. Good writing is where you find it; sometimes it will be about the art of taking folks under.
We will attempt different forms of creative nonfiction, starting with the personal essay or family memoir. Then we'll move on to something deeply reported and/or researched--something that's essentially outside oneself. For this piece it's likely a student will travel into the nearby world and observe something: or interview someone (or several someones). The piece--and these are always to be thought of as "pieces," not as "papers"--could be a profile of a local personality or athlete. It could be an extended scene, say, of a jazz club, or of a hospital emergency room, or of a homeless shelter, or of the Reading Terminal Market. The student will have the primary say in what he or she wishes to tackle. But the instructor will approve the story idea and will monitor and help guide its development. Although not a direct aim of the workshop, it's slimly possible someone will emerge with a piece of nonfiction that any professional magazine or newspaper editor in his or her right mind would be proud to publish. This has happened in previous workshops.
Those interested in taking the course should submit as soon as possible one or two samples of their best prose (paper copies only, no electronic submissions will be accepted) to Paul Hendrickson, Fisher-Bennett Hall, Room 234 (please slide work under the door if no one is in the office). Also include your name, last four digits of SS#, undergraduate class, e-mail address and telephone number where you can be reached. Permit is required by the instructor.
Time: T 1:30-4:30
English 145.302 Advanced Non-fiction Writing Eisenberg
The Creative Writing Program in the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing (CPCW) is sponsoring a Spring 2008 advanced nonfiction workshop in literary journalism to be taught by LEE EISENBERG. Mr. Eisenberg, a Penn alumnus, spent 17 years at Esquire magazine, where he served as editor-in-chief. Under his stewardship, Esquire won numerous National Magazine Awards, and routinely published fiction and non-fiction by acclaimed writers such as Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Don DeLillo, Nora Ephron, among many others.
In 1995, Mr. Eisenberg was hired to oversee creative development at Time magazine, where he helped launch "Time for Kids", a newsmagazine for children, and helped launch Time's chronicle of the most influential men and women of the 20th Century, a series of special issues that gave rise to primetime specials in collaboration with CBS news.
Mr. Eisenberg's writing has appeared in many national magazines, including Business Week, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and New York. His most recent book, The Number (Free Press), published in 2006, was a New York Times Bestseller. He is currently working on a book about consumer behavior.
In this new course, each student will write a 3,000-word nonfiction piece on a timely topic, to be judged on the merits of reporting and distinctive voice -- an article that might appear in a quality magazine such as The Atlantic, Harper's, or the New York Times.
Mr. Eisenberg, who lives and works in Chicago, will make four extended visits to Penn. Students must be available for individual or group meetings on Thursday evening, all day Friday, and Saturday morning during these periods:
Applications should include: a short note describing your interest and relevant experience (coursework and otherwise) and a brief (8 pages max.) sample of your writing. Those with resumes can send one also, but it's not required.
Send your application to John Carroll at
Time: F 2:00-5:00
English 145.401 Advanced Non-fiction Writing Cary
Writing in Concert comprises two parts: teaching a common text and writing about the experience using memoir, reportage, and criticism. This year's text will be the play, The Piano Lesson, by two-time Pulitzer prizewinner, August Wilson.
August Wilson (1945-2005) grew up poor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but better off, he believed than his parents. "My generation of blacks knew very little about the past of our parents," he told The New York Times in 1984. "They shielded us from the indignities they suffered." Wilson's play illuminate that past, its complex difficulties and its legacy.
Wilson wrote a series of ten plays, each set in a different era, from the 1900's through the 1990's. He won five New York Drama Critic Circle Awards, numerous Tony awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes. The Piano Lesson is set in the Great Depression of the 1930's, and it is one of the plays that won the Pulitzer. The drama pits brother against sister in a contest to decide the future of a treasured heirloom, a piano, carved with African-style portraits by their grandfather, an enslaved plantation carpenter. The brother wants to sell it to buy land, while the sister adamantly insists that the instrument carries too much family history to part with.
English 145 students will study the common text in close reading, discussion and preliminary essay exercises. The idea is to develop an intimate relationship with a text, learn about yourself as a writer from your responses to it, and then, by creating a mini-course syllabus and lesson plans, learn how to help readers at different stages in life and literacy find their own ways to enter the text. Learning the work takes three to four weeks; teaching requires four to six, with some overlap. On February 6th, students will participate in a workshop for teachers of August Wilson's work led by New Freedom Theater's Johnnie Hobbs. We also work with intensity and focus on issues of learning and teaching to prepare students to teach at several urban learning sites, each with its own challenges and charisma: high school English classes, a church-based book group, adult education centers, a recovery house, a homeless shelter. In March, we will attend the Arden Theater's production of The Piano Lesson. Teaching, learning, experiencing the work are all subjects of short journal and prompt assignments throughout the term, along with the writing of other, focused writing: syllabi, lesson plans, letters.
On Thursday, April 10th, students from the various sites come together to attend a panel discussion and reading directed by New Freedom Theater's Johnnie Hobbs with student-actors from University of the Arts performing a unique collage of Wilson theater and describing, as they weave together various famous Wilson scenes, the body of work that these separate pieces comprise. This citywide project that makes deep connections among the academy, literature, writers, readers, and learners.
The final essay will reflect each student's experience with the play, teaching, and the Reading in Concert performance. The course requires that each student submit the essay, or an excerpt for publication, and to post it on the Art Sanctuary website. Clearly, the emphasis during the term is on focus, practice, learning, relationships, revision, and language. It comes at you from all sides, a literary bum's rush meant to dislodge comfortable writing habits and push you toward intense, carefully thought, and deeply-felt nonfiction prose.
Here's a taste of what some Reading in Concert students have written:
Community grows me. This is the point I must make here. If I don't start by saying it I'll try to convince myself otherwise. The praise of community is a painful admission for me. I don't want to have to need people. I don't want to admit that community is far more powerful than my own devices. I cannot harvest myself. I cannot truly grow without other people. Every point of my life affirms this need for others. I have never thrived on my own. Yet I can't shake the notion that maybe, if I just give solitude enough time, a break through will come. For some reason I keep my expectations of the future separate from my experiences of the past. I expect to be able to accomplish great things on my own but it has never happened that way. I expect to be disappointed or misunderstood by others yet this has rarely been the case. I expect that teaching Sonia Sanchez will require an outpouring of my intellect and wisdom, yet my most profound moments of learning have come through community experiences. --Josh Macha
As the class dissected Sanchez's words, I realized that I hadn't truly appreciated "Poem No. 8" until that moment. I was more engaged with the text then than I had been at any earlier point in the semester. Sitting at my desk and pulling out my hair while trying to memorize a passage or write a haiku, I had wasted my time battling my inner demons. But there was no time for my inhibitions at this moment; I needed to be present for my students and inhabit the literature with them. For the first time, I let go of my fears, and rose to the occasion. --Rebecca Sherman
Time: T 1:30-4:30
English 155.301 Documentary Writing Hendrickson
This offering in advanced nonfiction writing will function as a workshop, with a select group of students. It's a course that will honor the spirit and tradition of "documentary" writing. The word "documentary" has meant many things over time. Here, it means a kind of nose-close observation and reportage. It means a level of being with one's subject matter in a way that other creative writing courses don't allow because of their format and structure. In English 155, a student writer at Penn will dare to "hang" with his topic--a girl's high-school basketball team; a medical intern in a HUP emergency room; a cleaning lady doing the graveyard shift in a classroom building; a food-truck operator crowding the noontime avenues; a client-patient in the Ronald McDonald House near campus; a parish priest making his solitary and dreary and yet redemptive rounds of the sick and the dying in the hospital--for the entire term.
Yes, the whole term. And at term's end, each writer in the course will have produced one extended prose work: a documentary piece of high creative caliber. This is our goal and inspiration. The piece will be 30 to 35 pages long.
Some people tend to think of the "documentary" genre (whether on film or in words) as work devoid of emotion--just the facts ma'am. But in truth, emotion and deep sensitivity are prerequisites for any lasting documentary work. The nature of documentary, true documentary, implies moral and social scrutiny; means detailed fact-based reporting, depends on personal response to that factuality. This course will draw on specific literary and journalistic interests of the instructor that go back about 30 years.
The core reading models will be James Agee and George Orwell--Specifically, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Agee and The Road to Wigan Pier by Orwell. Separately, across oceans, in 1936, in the belly of the Depression, these two incomparably gifted journalist/authors--one an American, one an Englishman--entered some damaged lower-class lives and proceeded to produce literary classics of the form. Agee went to Hale County, Alabama, to live with sharecroppers. Orwell traveled to the industrial grit of north England to observe coal miners.
Under the instructor's guidance, the students will choose within the first three weeks. Choosing the subject is crucial. Access will have to be gained, cooperation assured. Within five weeks, rough drafts will begin to be produced--scenes, sketches, captured moments--and these will then be brought in to be read aloud to the group. This will be a way of finding the piece's eventual form as well as making sure all participants are working at a level of continual intensity. The final product will be due at the 13th or 14th week of the term. Throughout the term we will constantly be consulting the various documentary reading models, even as we are concentrating on our own work.
Those interested in taking the course should submit as soon as possible one or two samples of nonfiction prose (paper copies only, no electronic submissions will be accepted) to Paul Hendrickson, Fisher-Bennett Hall, Room 234. Please slide the work under the door if no one is in the office. Also include name, last four digits of SS#, undergraduate class, e-mail address and telephone number where you can be reached. Permit is required by the instructor.
Time: M 2:00-5:00
English 161.301 The Art of the Profile Polman
One of the toughest challenges for any journalist is to master the art of profile-writing. In this new course, students will read and critique some of the classic profile articles of the past 40 years, and, most importantly, write profile articles of their own. Writing about people is often very rewarding, but rarely easy. In this course, students will debate the questions that have plagued and energized journalists for generations: How do you persuade somebody that he or she is a worthy topic for a profile? How do you ask sensitive questions? If the person is a celebrity, how do you avoid being manipulated into writing a "puff piece"? Do you tape the interviews or just take notes? How do you structure a profile in order to keep the reader's attention? Is it even possible to capture the essence of a person on the written page? Are you a friend to the profile subject - or a manipulator? A journalist at The New Yorker recently said that a writer's relationship with the profile subject is "a kind of love affair." On the other hand, a famous author once said that a profile writer is typically "gaining their trust and betraying without remorse." Which is closer to the truth? Students, in addition to writing their own profiles, will kick around these questions while reading some of the best contemporary profile writers, including Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, David Remnick, Mark Bowden, and Judy Bachrach. The instructor will also offer several of his own.
Time: M 2:00-5:00
English 162.301 The 2008 Presidential Primaries Polman
The 2008 election may well be the most consequential political event of our generation - and it all starts with the primary season, which will span the spring semester calendar, from January to April. In this new course, students with a passion for both writing and politics will have the unique opportunity to track the news as it unfolds week by week, to critique it in class, and, most importantly, to write about it in a variety of formats, ranging from "straight" news to informed opinion. Students can expect spirited class debate about the elusive nature of "objectivity," the often thin line between truth and rumor, the challenges of fact-checking a candidate's "spin," the challenges of writing responsibility in an era when even facts seem to be polarized, the challenges of analyzing primary results and writing about it effectively, the growing pressure on journalists to reveal their political beliefs, and much more. Some of the writing will happen in class; students will view excerpts from debates and Sunday shows, and file their reports "on deadline." Some of the class sessions will focus on the hottest news of the moment. And students will also have a chance, in class, to critique some of the nation's best political writers - reporters, feature writers, columnists, bloggers - as they too track the 2008 primary season.
Time: W 2:00-5:00
English 165.301 Writing through Culture and Art Goldsmith
This class is a continuation of English 165 that began in the fall of 2007 and is open only to those students who have been enrolled in it since the fall.
Over the past few years, sound art has been present in exhibitions all over the world. And it's not only in galleries that this phenomena is taking place: vast repositories of sound art are sprouting all over the web, offering hundreds of hours worth of MP3s; even rock stars like Sonic Youth are releasing discs of themselves performing works of sound art, introducing this tradition to new generations. But a closer look shows us that this isn't a new trend at all. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, artists have involved themselves in sound. Be it recordings of their work, performances, or installations, the art world has always been a noisy place. The desire to reintegrate the arts, in which sound in its manifold forms has played a significant part, has taken artists in the 20th century far beyond the traditional purview of painting and sculpture to their own bodies and voices, to time and space, and to the environment.
This year-long class, given as a collaboration of CPCW and the ICA, will explore facets of sound art through the medium of creative writing. Students will be encouraged to develop correspondent methods of responding to the ICA's exhibitions, specifically a large retrospective of sound art organized by artist Christian Marclay. The class will involve monthly trips to New York City to attend concerts, museums and lectures. The students will have access to the most cutting-edge artists today via class visits and studio visits. English 165 will culminate in a publication co-sponsored by the ICA and CPCW.
Time: R 1:30-4:30
English 415.640 Writing Linked Short Stories Zoffness
The stories of linked collections are supposed to be both self-sufficient and interrelated; according to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Chabon, the interest of linked narratives lies in what happens ìin the interstices.î How do we understand threads of character or setting or structure or theme? How do such promises shape our expectations as readers? What challenges do they pose for writers? In this writing workshop, students will create their own interrelated stories, focusing as much on making them work independently as making them work together. Assignments include two original narratives, one extended revision, typed critiques of each workshopped story, and a brief presentation. While the primary focus will be student work, weíll also dissect the craft choices of related texts, which will likely include work by: Denis Johnson, Tim OíBrien, Alice Munro, Sandra Cisneros and Russell Banks, as well as Hemingway and Updike and Robert Olen Butler.
Time: T 5:30-8:10
English 435.640 Writing and Remembering: A Memoir Workshop Watterson
This workshop will help both new and experienced writers explore the elements that go into creating an effective memoir - the storytelling that allows writers to recreate for their readers the events that helped them shape their inner lives and sense of self. Through exercises and assignments, students will tap into their memories and imagination and learn how not only to validate the stories and the themes of their own lives, but how to write vividly about them. We will focus on details, pace and tone, as well as on revision and on the ethics of how to write "truth" when it may have an impact other people?s lives. We will also mine a deeper understanding of the craft by reading from a wide range of writers, including Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, Barbara Kingsolver, John Edgar Wideman, William Zinsser, Tobias Wolfe, James Baldwin and Jamaica Kincaid. In addition to in-class writing, students will be asked to maintain writing journals, participate in workshop discussions and peer review, and write and revise work on a weekly basis.
Time: T 5:30-8:10