English 010.302 Creating Possibilities in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry Tom Devaney MW 2:00-3:30
English 010.601 Creative Writing Lynn Levin W 5:30-8:30
English 111.401 Experimental Writing Charles Bernstein TR 3:00-4:30
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 Katherine Fodor M 2:00-5:00
English 115.301 Advanced Fiction Writing Max Apple T 1:30-4:30
English 116.401 Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco M 2:00-5:00
English 117.301 The Arts and Popular Culture Anthony DeCurtis R 1:30-4:30
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 122.401 Writing, Printing, Bookmaking: Grotesque Forms Erin Gautsche, Tricia Treacy TR 1:30-4:30
English 130.401 Advanced Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco W 2:00-5:00
English 135.301 Creative Nonfiction Writing Lorene Cary R 1:30-4:30
English 135.302 Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels Marion Kant M 2:00-5:00
English 135.401 Peer Tutoring Valerie Ross TR 10:30-12:00
English 135.601 Creative Nonfiction: Finding Voice Kathryn Watterson T 5:30-8:30
English 145.301 Advanced Nonfiction Writing Paul Hendrickson T 1:30-4:30
English 145.401 Writing in Concert Lorene Cary T 1:30-4:30
English 155.301 Documentary Writing Paul Hendrickson W 2:00-5:00
English 158.301 Journalism Across Cultures: Writing about the Foreign Peter Tarr W 2:00-5:00
English 159.301 Political Commentary: Writing in the Blog Age Dick Polman W 2:00-5:00
English 161.301 The Art of the Profile Dick Polman M 2:00-5:00
English 165.301 Writing Through Art and Literature: Transcribing the Wor(l)d Kenny Goldsmith W 2:00-5:00
English 170.301 Advanced Writing Projects in Art and Popular Culture Anthony DeCurtis F 2:00-5:00
English 435.640 Writing and Remembering: A Memoir Workshop Kathryn Watterson W 5:30-8:10
Creative Writing: Fiction and Creative Nonfiction
Students will take a comprehensive look at the creative process from inception to revision to completion. Focusing on fiction and creative nonfiction, students will read examples from both genres; examine both from a craft perspective and through short analytical and creative responses; and compose complete original works in both genres. Students will receive peer feedback in workshops. A portfolio, comprised of first drafts and revisions of each piece, is due at the end of the semester.
Creative Writing: Creating Possibilities in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry
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 “mini-essay” 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.
This workshop-style class is an introduction to the pleasures of the writing process. Students will benefit from in-depth readings and constructive critical support in a class that fosters a community of writers. We will spend half the semester writing poems, and the other half writing fiction. Some of each meeting will be devoted to reading poems or a short story by established authors, with the emphasis on reading as writers rather than scholars. Experimentation and revision will be encouraged. Class participation and attendance are vital. We will have some brief in-class writing exercises and a variety of take-home assignments designed to help students generate and shape work. Students will turn in a final portfolio of 15 or so pages, which will include both poetry and prose. We will also write some brief (up to one page) responses to work read and written in class.
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 email@example.com
More information at http://writing.upenn.edu/bernstein/syllabi/111-intro.html
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 toassigned 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com
Class participation is vital and expected.
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.
Advanced Fiction Writing
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.comPermit from the instructor is required.
The Arts and Popular Culture
"Writing About the Arts" is a workshop-oriented course that will concentrate on all aspects of writing about artistic endeavor, including criticism, reviews, profiles, interviews and essays. For the purposes of this class, the arts will be interpreted broadly, and students will be able -- and, in fact, encouraged -- to write about both the fine arts and popular culture. Students will be doing a great deal of writing throughout the course, but the main focus will be a 3000-word feature story about an artist or arts organization in Philadelphia (or another location approved by the instructor) that will involve extensive reporting, interviews and research. Potential subjects can range from a local band to a museum, from a theater group to a novelist -- all of which students have written about in previous classes.
Class meetings will include detailed discussions of the students' own writing, as well as that of the instructor and other writers whose work appears in magazines, newspapers and journals. A considerable effort will be made to have the course be as professionally focused and "real time" as possible, so current stories in the media will frequently be the subject of class discussion and critique. A number of writers, critics, journalists, editors and other media types will visit the class to share their work and experiences with the students, and to participate in the discussions. It should be emphasized that, in discussing the work of fellow students, courtesy and respect will be as much required as candor.
Those interested in taking the course should email as soon as possible one or two samples of their best prose to Anthony DeCurtis at ADeCurtis@aol.com. Applicants can also mail their work directly to the instructor at: 875 West End Avenue, Apt 10G, New York, NY 10025. Also include your name, undergraduate class, and the telephone number where you can be reached. Permit from the instructor is required.
Advanced Poetry Workshop
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
Writing for Children
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
Writing, Printing, Bookmaking: Grotesque Forms
An introduction to letterpress printing and bookmaking and writing for the artist book, focusing on the history of the artist book, competence in letterpress technique, print composition and design skills, and alternative book binding. Course readings will focus on the work Johanna Drucker and Jerome Rothenberg, an overview of the history of “the grotesque” in art, and the examination of multi-media works. Fieldtrips to local artist book collections will supplement course reading, projects, and the final project. The goal of this course is to explore writing, printing, and bookmaking, all through the lens of the grotesque in art and literature. The definitions of “ugly” or “grotesque” vary widely across cultures and time periods. Much of what we understand about historical cultural norms of beauty and acceptability is learned from the way that artists have portrayed the grotesque. We will explore art as destroyer of norms, the shocking, perverse, repulsive, disgusting or fear-inducing, and evaluate how contemporary cultures enact their fascination and repulsion with their own grotesques. As a final project, each student will make their own limited-edition artist book that considers the course theme of “the grotesque” through writing, image, printing and binding.
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.
Creative Nonfiction Writing
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.
Creative Nonfiction Writing
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).
This course is intended for capable writers who possess the maturity and temperament to work successfully as peer tutors at Penn. The course emphasizes the development of tutors' own writing through the process of collaborative peer-criticism, individual conferences, and intensive sessions on writing, from mechanics to style. The class meets twice weekly; tutors also work two hours weekly in the Writing Center or elsewhere, and confer regularly in small groups or one-on-one meetings with the instructor. Tutors are required to write five short papers, eight one-page peer reviews, and two responses to readings. Additionally, students keep a journal and give two class presentations. CWIC-affiliated course.
Creative Nonfiction: Finding Voice--Perspectives on Race, Class & Gender
Our voices as writers take shape in the complex ground of our inner landscapes, seeded by our lives as children, our family dynamics and myths, and our cultural, psycho/social connections. In this writing workshop, we will explore the impact of “identity”—primarily race, class and gender—as it informs the way we convey our experiences and personal truths to the world. Students will read a variety of authors to gain insight into various ways writers build narratives to make sense out of the conflicting histories and memories that influence the progression of their lives. Students will conduct interviews, do research, writing exercises and visualizations to generate ideas, and to develop and revise personal essays, articles and opinion pieces.
Advanced Nonfiction Writing
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 email by attachment as soon as possible one or two samples of their best prose to Paul Hendrickson at email@example.com. Also include your name, last four digits of SS#, undergraduate class, and telephone number where you can be reached. Permit is required by the instructor.
Writing in Concert
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 A Soldier's Play by essayist, fiction writer, and Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Charles Fuller.
The son of a printer, Fuller acted as a youthful proofreader for his father, and decided to become a writer when he learned that his high school library had not one book by a black author. He discovered drama after visiting a Yiddish theater. Fuller first wrote short stories, then one-acts, then longer plays. Zooman and the Sign, produced in New York City at the Negro Ensemble Company in 1979, won Fuller an Obie. His four-year army stint in Japan and South Korea inform A Soldier’s Play, which opened in New York in 1981 and won, in addition to the Pulitzer, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play, and an Obie for Distinguished Ensemble Performance. The original cast included Adolph Caesar as Sergeant Waters, Denzel Washington as Private Peterson, and Samuel L. Jackson as Private Louis Henson. Set in an Army base in Fort Neal, Louisiana, in 1944, A Soldier’s Play opens with a murder, and unfolds through the investigation, revealing racial, class, and temperamental fissures among the company of men and officers. Fuller adapted the play for the 1984 film, A Soldier's Story, which won an Edgar Award. It was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Writers Guild of America Award. For several years, Fuller switched his focus to movies, saying "I always wanted to reach the most people with my work. Not enough people go to the theater.”
In this course students will develop an intimate relationship with the play and learn about themselves as writers as they respond to it. Students create lesson plans and then teach the play in West Philadelphia Partnership schools. We will work to help high school students find their own ways into the text.
On Wednesday, April 7th, at 10 a.m., readers from the various sites will come together to attend a discussion with Charles Fuller, co-sponsored by Art Sanctuary and the Center for Community Partnerships.
Our emphasis during the term is on focus, practice, learning, relationships, revision, and language. We work to create a safe, but challenging, classroom camaraderie to dislodge comfortable writing habits and urge writers toward hard-earned prose in their own true voices. The final essay will reflect students’ experience with reading, teaching, memory, community, and the Reading in Concert performance. Students will submit essays, or an excerpt, for publication and post on the Art Sanctuary website.
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
Introduction to Journalistic Writing
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 email by attachment as soon as possible one or two samples of their best prose to Paul Hendrickson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also include name, last four digits of SS#, undergraduate class, and telephone number where you can be reached. Permit is required by the instructor.
Journalism Across Cultures: Writing about the Foreign
How should we approach writing -- knowing -- about people and things that are foreign to us? It’s a question that historians, anthropologists, and sociologists ask routinely, but that most practicing journalists typically have not been trained to consider. In mainstream American journalism, international postings have long been awarded as plums to reporters who have scored major successes on domestic beats. This practice is consonant with an old journalistic shibboleth that any good reporter should be able to tell any story, anywhere, with no prior preparation or study. This course is grounded in a diametrically opposed notion: that intelligent reporting about the foreign is predicated upon self-awareness of one’s own cultural particularity and an active interest in the perspective and voice of “the other.” Students in the course will have an opportunity to write in a variety of modes -- factual reportage, op-ed, review, analysis -- about people and places that take them beyond their own immediate experience. The intent is to use reporting to enlarge the area of personal experience, thus enabling students to become more conscious of, and to move beyond, cultural assumptions, presuppositions, and prejudices. The instructor, who began a decade of international reporting as a cultural stranger among the peoples he wrote about, will draw on this formative experience in leading workshop members through their initial encounters as writers with the problem of knowing the other.
Political Commentary: Writing in the Blog Age
A primer on writing about U.S. politics, in an era of major technological upheaval and serious voter polarization. Today's 24/7, wi-fi'd, blogging environment - along with the rise of new conservative media - are changing the ways that writers cover politics and deliver the information. The course will put all these trends in a historical context, tracing the changes that have occurred during the four decades since Theodore H. White wrote The Making of the President 1960. Students will write in different formats, including: the traditional straight story, commentary, and blogs. Outstanding and controversial work, from writers such as author Richard Ben Cramer and Hunter S. Thompson, will be studied. The course, taught by a veteran reporter of four presidential campaigns, is also valuable for followers of politics who want to become more discerning readers.
The Art of the Profile
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.
Writing Through Art and Literature: Transcribing the Wor(l)d
"Everyone, absolutely everyone, was tape-recording everyone else. Machinery had already taken over people's sex lives--dildos and all kinds of vibrators--and now it was taking over their social lives, too, with tape recorders and Polaroids. The running joke between Brigid and me was that all our phone calls started with whoever'd been called by the other saying, 'Hello, wait a minute,' and running to plug in and hook up. I'd provoke any kind of hysteria I could think of on the phone just to get myself a good tape. Since I wasn't going out much and was home a lot on the mornings and evenings, I put in a lot of time on the phone gossiping and making trouble and getting ideas from people and trying to figure out what was happening--and taping it all." -- Andy Warhol
From Andy Warhol's diaristic tape recordings documenting his life to Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 mystery thriller about audio surveillance, The Conversation, audio archiving and its subsequent manipulations have left an enormous legacy across the arts. Beginning with ethereal radio transmissions in the late nineteenth century and increasing after World War II with the widespread use of home tape-recorders, artists began incorporating the sounds of language and everyday life into their works and using them as the basis for their art works. Today, with digital technology, these impulses to record, archive and manipulate sound have only increased, as have their distribution networks: thanks to file-sharing and laptop-based software, audio works are now able to be instantly disseminated on a global scale.
We'll be listening to and exploring the depths of the manipulated voice beginning with 78 RPM recordings of séances through the more recent spate of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) -- spirits conducted by radio waves -- researchers: Raymond Cass and Dr. Konstanin Raudive. From there, it's a short leap to the Musique concrète composers of the 1950s, who used the human voice as the basis for many of their electronic compositions, which inspired everyone from The Beatles and John Oswald's Plunderphonics to mash-up artists such as Danger Mouse. We'll dip into theatre and explore the uses of the recorded voice in the works of Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape and Jean Cocteau's telephone-driven La Voix Humaine. In literature, we'll read the speech-driven works of Ezra Pound (as well as his notorious WWII pro-Axis shortwave radio broadcasts) and Frank O'Hara's everyday-language based poems; moving forward we'll read and listen to David Antin's tape-recorded transcribed "talk poems." The visual arts are chock-full of audio manipulations, including Richard Serra's time-delayed 70s videotape "Boomerang" and Michael Snow's radio manipulations "Short Wavelength." And digital technology has inspired younger practitioners to extend this tradition as in Kalup Linzy's satirical narratives inspired by television soap operas, telenovelas and Hollywood melodramas; or the young Philadelphia-based video artist Ryan Trecartin, who merges sophisticated digital manipulations with footage from the Internet and pop culture, animations, and wildly stylized sets and performances.
This year-long creative writing class, given as a collaboration of CPCW and the ICA, will use the above works as a basis to inspire a wide variety of written, spoken, and recorded works by participating students. Students will be encouraged to develop correspondent methods of responding to the ICA's exhibitions, specifically in conjunction with an exhibition which explores the manipulated voice in recordings and soundworks. 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.
Advanced Writing Projects in Art and Popular Culture
This advanced course in writing about the arts and popular culture is limited in enrollment (by permission of the instructor) and intended for students who wish to concentrate on specific aspects of their writing -- whether as critics, essayists or profile writers. Occasional meetings of the full group will concentrate on issues relevant to all aspects of arts-and-culture writing, while meetings with individual students will focus and help realize the larger individual projects that will constitute the course's main work. Readings for the course will be geared specifically to the interests of the students who have been selected, and will be drawn from work that is appearing at that time in journalistic publications, both in print (for example, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker) and online (Slate, Salon and sites of similar quality). Ideally, applicants will have already taken 117.301 with the instructor, but that is not a firm pre-requisite and other students should absolutely feel free to apply.Please send an email describing your interest to ADecurtis@aol.com
Writing and Remembering: A Memoir Workshop
Whether you’re a new or experienced writer, this seminar will help you explore the elements that go into creating an effective memoir —the storytelling that creates for your readers events/people/places that have helped shape your inner life and sense of self. Memory is a dynamic force, and as we move and grow through our lives, our perspectives shift and change our relationships with the past. Through exercises and assignments, you will tap into your imagination and learn not only how to explore the mysteries that have helped to shape your own life and others' lives, but how to write vividly about them. We will focus on details, pace, and tone, as well as on research and revision and the ethics of how to write “truths” that may effect other people’s lives. We also will mine a deeper understanding of the art and craft by writing from a wide range of authors, including Maxine Hong Kingston, Kaye Gibbons, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston. In addition to in-class writing, students are asked to a maintain a daily practice of free-writing; write reading responses (2-3 pages weekly) to assigned books, essays, and stories; participate in workshop discussions and peer review, and write and revise three stories or personal essays (4-5 pages) during the semester.