Courses for Fall 2010

English 010.301    Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry    Deborah Burnham    TR 1:30-3:00   

English 010.302    Creative Writing: The Art of Narrative Nonfiction    Jamie-Lee Josselyn    M 2:00-5:00   

English 010.601    Creative Writing: Exploring the Possibilities of Fiction and Poetry    Lynn Levin    W 5:30-8:30   

English 111.301    Robotic Erotica/Erotic Robotics: Scribing a Non-Expresssive Sexuality    Kenneth Goldsmith    R 1:30-4:30   

English 112.301    Fiction Writing Workshop    Max Apple    T 1:30-4:30   

English 113.301    Poetry Writing Workshop    Gregory Djanikian    T 1:30-4:30   

English 115.301    Advanced Fiction Writing    Karen Rile    M 2:00-5:00   

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 121.601    Writing for T(w)eens    Melissa Jensen    M 5:30-8:30   

English 122.401    Writing, Printmaking, Bookmaking: Grotesque Forms    Erin Gautsche, Tricia Treacy    MW 1:00-4:00   

English 124.301    Digital Poetry    Chris Funkhouser    M 2:00-5:00   

English 130.401    Advanced Screenwriting    Kathleen DeMarco    T 1:30-4:30   

English 135.301    Creative Nonfiction Writing    Max Apple    R 1:30-4:30   

English 135.302 Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels    Jay Kirk    M 2:00-5:00   

English 135.303 Creative Nonfiction    Meredith Broussard    TR 9:00-10:30   

English 135.401    Peer Tutoring    Valerie Ross    TR 10:30-12:00   

English 135.601    Creative Nonfiction Writing    Kathryn Watterson    T 5:30-8:30   

English 145.301    Advanced Nonfiction Writing    Paul Hendrickson    T 1:30-4:30   

English 145.302    Advanced Nonfiction Writing    Lise Funderburg    W 2:00-5:00   

English 156.301    Writing from Photographs    Paul Hendrickson    W 2:00-5:00   

English 157.301    Introduction to Journalistic Writing    Rick Nichols    R 1:30-4:30   

English 158.301    Advanced Journalistic Writing    Dick Polman    M 2:00-5:00   

English 162.301    The 2010 Congressional Elections    Dick Polman    W 2:00-5:00   

English 415.641    Research for Writers    Meredith Broussard    T 5:30-8:10   


English 010.301
Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry
TR 1:30-3:00

In this class, we’ll read personal essays, mostly contemporary American, and poems from all over. The readings are structured to emphasize the contrasts among various structures. We’ll read some essays that are built along traditional lines (chronological, logical, etc.) and some that are segmented and less linear. You’ll write several short essays and one longer piece, drawing from your experience in idiosyncratic and unpredictable ways. You’ll also write very short responses to the readings that will form the core of a writer’s notebook, useful in generating more writing.

We’ll read some very contemporary and some very old poetry structured like lists, without the familiar organizing principles of rhyme and closed endings. We’ll also read and write poems in what are accurately called “obsessive forms”, poems that contain, magnify and alter their subjects. We’ll read, and write, prose poems and perhaps some forms of your own design.

The class is structured along familiar discussion/workshop designs. You’ll be responsible for presenting your work periodically, and for responding to the work of others in writing and in class. If you have questions, please feel free to write me:


English 010.302
Telling Stories: Memory in Nonfiction and Fiction
M 2:00-5:00

This interactive workshop will focus on literary non-fiction and fiction. Students will explore – through their own work and others’ – how writers use memory to create narrative. Writing experiments will be conducted to help students get a handle on how memory and language guide (and fail) the writer. Students will be encouraged to test the boundary between fiction and non-fiction as they shape stories through description, plot, character and theme.

Readings will include work by Joe Brainard, Phillip Lopate, Joan Didion, Rick Moody, Paul Auster, and others.

A large portion of class time will be spent discussing student work. Revision will be essential. Students will keep a journal for in-class and at-home writing experiments and reflections. An email listserv will be used to discuss readings and other topics. In addition to writing assignments throughout the semester, students will complete a final portfolio of approximately fifteen pages of revised work.


English 010.601
Creative Writing: Exploring the Possibilities of Fiction and Poetry
W 5:30-8:30

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.


English 111.301
Robotic Erotica/Erotic Robotics: Scribing a Non-Expresssive Sexuality
R 1:30-4:30

The tropes of erotica are well-digested by now: tingling narratives wrapped in a humanist ethos, designed to universally stimulate all; these conventions -- codified and calcified -- are never questioned. Yet if we view erotica in the expanded field, we'll find a wealth of anti-humanist, machinistic and robotic approaches to bodies and sex. From netporn to realcore to technésexuality, playful erotic acts are committed in physical and virtual space simultaneously, begging new definitions of intimacy and sexuality. How would language express these states? Can a non-expressive sexuality be written though erotic? Can computer code be erotic? Readings and theory will include Foucault's "Scientia Sexualis," Mulvey's theory of the male gaze, D'agoty's eroticised anatomies, Ballard's "Crash," Artaud's "Theater of Cruelty," Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto" and many more. Art historical precedents will include Yves Klein's "Anthropometies," Carolee Schneeman's "Meat Joy," the films of the Vienna Actionists, Passolini's "Salo." Note: this course will include adult material, often violent and disturbing. Not for the faint-hearted. Permit from the instructor is required.


English 112.301
Fiction Writing Workshop
T 1:30-4:30

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 participation are essential.

Students who have completed and taken pleasure in a fiction writing course need not submit writing samples. Others please submit brief samples to: Permit from the instructor is required.


English 113.301
Poetry Workshop
T 1:30-4:30

A course for students who have had some experience writing poetry but who wish to improve the rhythm and expressiveness of their language, and who may want to see the things of this world in new relationships and, perhaps, with a broader vision. Students will be asked to write every week, and to discuss and respond to the works of classmates and established poets. A final portfolio of revised poems will be required at the end of the course. Students interested in taking the class should submit three poems to Gregory Djanikian via email at Permit from the instructor is required.


English 115.301
Advanced Fiction Writing
M 2:00-5:00

English 115 a workshop for advanced writers who have already completed at least one semester of English 112 or its equivalent. Participants should be familiar with technical topics in fiction writing, such as point of view and narrative distance.

In this class you will have at least two opportunities to present a story or novel excerpt to the workshop. You are also encouraged to present revisions of your work. We will do some exercises designed to illuminate technical, ethical, and aesthetic issues in fiction, but the emphasis throughout the semester will be workshopping student-initiated projects. Admission to this class requires an instructor permit. Send a sample of your fiction directly to me at


English 116.401
M 2:00-5:00

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 kathydemarco@writing.upenn.eduPermit from the instructor is required.


English 117.301
The Arts and Popular Culture
R 1:30-4:30

"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 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.


English 121.601
Writing for T(w)eens
M 5:30-8:30

Maybe it was the boy wizard, or the noble vampire, but however it started, something big has happened with young people and books. In this course, we will explore the growing world of Young Adult fiction. Students will develop their own projects: honing their voice, creating believable plot, characters, and language, all directed at adolescent and teen readers. We will examine subgenres: Fantasy, Historical, and Romantic. We will read established works and discuss what makes a successful Young Adult novel. One session will be devoted to the business of getting that novel published: navigating the world of agents and editors, proposals and rejections. Students will be expected to complete a series of weekly writing exercises, and to discuss them in class. These will include both themed assignments from the instructor and portions of their final project. By the end of the term, students will have completed a minimum of three chapters (or approximately thirty pages) and a comprehensive outline of their novel.


English 122.401
Grotesque Forms
MW 1:00-4:00

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 of Johanna Drucker and Jerome Rothenberg, and the examination of multi-media works. Field trips to local artist book collections will supplement course reading, projects and the final project. The entire class will be taught, and practiced, through the lens of "the grotesque" in art and literature. 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. Note: Lab fee of $40 required.


English 124.301
Digital Poetry
M 2:00-5:00

In this course students will study, discuss, and also make digital poems. Technology has changed the writing, reading, and analysis of poetry. Through explorations in digital poetry—a craft featuring literary, visual, and sonic attributes—students will be introduced to the wide-range of approaches used by artists who integrate language and programmable media. Students will deliberate on the creative potential of this new modality of writing, where poems including algorithmic programming, graphical artistry, videography, hypermedia, and sonic design elements have become commonplace. Applying theoretical knowledge to multimedia composition, each student will create a poetic artifact and evaluate its literary construction, design, and audio-visual strategies.


English 130.401
Advanced Screenwriting
T 1:30-4:30

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


English 135.301
Creative Non-fiction Writing
R 1:30-4:30

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.


English 135.302
Creative Non-fiction Writing
M 2:00-5:00

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).


English 135.303
Creative Nonfiction Writing
TR 9:00-10:30

For many writers, inspiration comes from everyday life. In Philadelphia, we are fortunate enough to have an unparalleled bounty of inspiration around us-from our eccentric local celebrities to our world-class researchers to our rich history (zoos, ice cream and America all originated here). Students in this nonfiction writing workshop will create stories inspired by the people, the landscape, the ideas and the institutions of Philadelphia. We will discuss the ways that notable writers like Joan Didion, Calvin Trillin, Janet Malcolm and Joseph Mitchell turned everyday life into engaging narratives. As in all creative writing classes, the focus will be on creating, revising, and becoming your own best editor.


English 135.401
Peer Turoring
TR 10:30-12:00

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.


English 135.601
Creative Nonfiction: Finding Voice
T 5:30-8:30

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.


English 145.301
Advanced Non-fiction Writing
T 1:30-4:30

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 from the instructor is required.


English 145.302
Advanced Non-fiction Writing
W 2:00-5:00

Creative nonfiction essays, at best, celebrate curiosity, observation, prejudice, and other idiosyncrasies of the human condition. They use reportage and the literary techniques of fiction in the service of compelling real-life stories. In this workshop-style class you will write and revise four essays (1200-1500 words each).

Aside from some general guidance, the subject matter of your work is deliciously open and up to you. I am, however, available to help shape and steer and urge you away from the overly solipsistic. Take advantage of the city that surrounds you; the questions and answers you've stumbled across; the way life has surprised you, held you captive, or set you free. Subjects can range from the Reading Terminal at lunchtime, an open mike night, a Howard Johnson's counter on a rainy afternoon, a contentious dorm meeting, the bird outside your window, or a visit home.

In assignments, class exercises and discussions of the readings, we will address technical issues such as narrative/thematic tension, transition, character development, dialogue, point of view, characterization, imagery, metaphor, as well as the skills of interviewing, structure, tone, style, and personal voice. We will use your (and occasionally my) work as the bases for discussion. Since I am a full-time freelance writer, you will also be subjected to my wit and wisdom about the publishing world.

The core aim here is to get a group of student writers writing, and to have you stretch beyond what you know by grappling with the revision process and sharing work with the class. Class participation is vital and expected.


English 156.301
Writing from Photographs
W 2:00-5:00

A creative writing course built entirely around the use of photographs, and the crafting of compelling nonfiction narratives from them. The essential concept will be to employ photographs as storytelling vehicles. So we will be using curling, drugstore-printed Kodak shots from our own family albums. We will be using searing and famous images from history books. We will be taking things from yesterday's newspaper. We will even be using pictures that were just made by the workshop participants outside the campus gates with a disposable camera from CVS or with their own sophisticated digital Nikon. In all of this, there will be one overriding aim: to achieve memorable, full-bodied stories. To locate the strange, evocative, storytelling universes that are sealed inside the four rectangular walls of a photograph. They are always there, if you know how to look. It's about the quality of your noticing, the intensity of your seeing.

Writers as diverse as the poet Mark Strand and the novelist Don DeLillo and the memoirist Wright Morris have long recognized the power of a photograph to launch a story. In this course we are going to employ memory and imagination to launch our stories, but most of all we are going to make use of fact-everything that can be found out, gleaned, uncovered, dug up, stumbled upon. Because first and last, this is nonfiction, this is the art of reported fact. So a lot of this class will go forward using the tools and techniques of journalism: good, old-fashioned reporting and research, legwork. And turning that reporting into writing gold. A photograph represents time stopped in a box. It is a kind of freeze-frame of eternity. It is stopped motion, in which the clock has seemed to hold its breath. Often, the stories inside of photographs turn out to be at surprising odds with what we otherwise thought, felt, imagined.

Say, for instance, that you hunger to enter the photographic heart of this youthful, handsome, dark-haired man-who is your father-as he leans now against the gleaming bumper of a 1951 Pontiac. It was three decades before you were born. The moment is long buried and forgotten in your collective family's past-and yet in another way, it is right here before you, on this photosensitive surface. Whether the figure in the photograph is alive or deceased, you are now going to try with all of your writing and reporting might to "walk back in." Almost literally. You are going to achieve a story about this moment, with a beginning, middle, and end.

"Every great photograph has a secret," a noted critic once said. An essayist for Time magazine once wrote: "All great photographs have lives of their own. But sometimes they can be false as dreams." Candidates for the course are asked to submit as soon as possible one or two samples of their best creative nonfiction prose to Paul Hendrickson, Fisher-Bennett Hall, Room 234 (please slide work under the door if no one is in the office). Paper copies only, no electronic submissions. Be sure to include name, phone number, email address, the last four digits of your social security number. Permit from the instructor is required.


English 157.301
Introduction to Journalistic Writing
R 1:30-4:30

This class will focus on the meat and potatoes of journalism - how to identify, report and write clear and effective news stories. How do you decide what the story is? How do you structure it? How do you frame questions? How do you know what to leave out? How do you know what's fair? We will cover the building blocks, then write profiles and features, as well as columns, commentary and opinion pieces. This is a newswriting exercise at heart. But its lessons are not limited to old-school newspapering: They can be applied to journalism whatever its form, and in fields far beyond - anywhere, in fact, where keen observation, concise expression and vivid language are of the essence.


English 158.301
Advanced Journalistic Writing
M 2:00-5:00

This is a how-to course for talented aspiring writers--how to write well in the real world; how to hook the reader and sustain interest; how to develop the journalistic skills that enable a writer to gather, sift and report information. The instructor will share his own real-world experience, as a full-time working journalist for the past three decades. He will be joined on occasion by eminent journalists- including several star journalists from the New York Times--who will address the class and appear at mandatory forums to be held at the Kelly Writers House.

Even though students will read and critique some famous practitioners of non-fiction writing-among them, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, Michael Herr, Truman Capote and Richard Ben Cramer--along with contemporary newspaper storytellers that include the instructor (a national correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer), the emphasis will be on the students' own writing.

The goal is to inspire students to tap their own potential, gain fresh insights, and feel comfortable enough to share their assigned work-both short and long pieces-with others in the class over the span of the semester. Students will write all kinds of non-fiction pieces, from personal memoirs to long-form features about anything from the Philadelphia scene to campus issues and events. The topics are less important than the craftsmanship; anything can be a great read if it's written and reported well.,P. Journalistic issues, both practical and ethical, will also be addressed--among them: how to decide who to interview, and how to handle an interviewee; how to use (and not use) the Internet; when to use (or not use) anonymous sources.



English 162.301
The 2010 Congressional Elections
W 2:00-5:00

The 2010 Congressional elections may well have a large conseuqence on the next two years of President Obama's administration. In this 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 2010 election season.


English 415.641
Research for Writers
T 5:30-8:10

Writers are nosy. We want to know what happened, and then we want to know why, and how, and where, and what it smelled like. Good writing demands details. Finding these details… well, that can be the fun part. Research for writers involves poking through archives, asking people for stories, and looking at alternate interpretations of historical events. It involves answering all kinds of questions for ourselves and our readers: If W.E.B DuBois were a character in a short story, what would he wear? On Juneteenth, what was the weather like in Beaumont? Can a sonnet be biographical, and if so are the facts correct? In this class, you will learn the research methods employed by scholars, journalists, and super-sleuths. The class is intended for poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers, though journalists and documentary filmmakers may apply. We will read writers like Zora Neale Hurston, Marilyn Nelson, and Colson Whitehead to examine how writers use research in their work; we will talk to oral historians, archivists, and museum curators about how to mine the past for ideas. Be prepared to choose a topic early in the semester and research it thoroughly. Your final project, a creative piece in your choice of genre, will be informed by your discoveries.