Courses for Spring 2016

For information on upcoming for-credit Bassini Apprenticeships with Herman Beavers, Rachel Zolf, and Lorene Cary, click here.

English 010.301    Writing the Personal Essay, Writing Fiction    Sam Apple    T 1:30-4:30   

English 010.302    Literary Journalism and Memoir    Jamie-Lee Josselyn    M 2:00-5:00   

English 010.303    Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry    Lynn Levin    W 2:00-5:00   

English 010.601    Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry    Lynn Levin    T 5:30-8:30   

English 112.301    Fiction Writing Workshop    Karen Rile    M 2:00-5:00   

English 113.301    Poetry Workshop    Herman Beavers    W 2:00-5:00   

English 114.401    Playwriting    Jackie Goldfinger    M 2:00-5:00   

English 115.301    Advanced Fiction Writing    Max Apple    T 1:30-4:30   

English 116.401    Screenwriting    Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve    M 2:00-5:00   

English 116.402    Screenwriting    Scott Burkhardt    T 4:30-7:30   

English 116.403    Screenwriting    Scott Burkhardt    R 4:30-7:30   

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 119.301    Art Reviewing and Criticism    Susan Bee    W 2:00-5:00   

English 120.401    The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation    Taije Silverman    TR 3:00-4:30   

English 121.401    Writing for Children: Beauty and the Book (and the Blog)    Lorene Cary    W 2:00-5:00   

English 121.601    The Grown-Up Art of Writing for Children    Elizabeth LaBan    W 4:30-7:30   

English 122.301    Making Comics    Jean-Christophe Cloutier, Rob Berry    W 2:00-5:00   

English 122.302    Word and Picture: Creating Comics in Prose and Verse    Lawrence Abbott       TR 9:00-10:30   

English 126.301    The Art of Editing    Julia Bloch    T 1:30-4:30   

English 130.401    Advanced Screenwriting    Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve    W 2:00-5:00   

English 135.301    Creative Nonfiction Writing    Beth Kephart    T 1:30-4:30   

English 135.302    Creative Nonfiction: The Reported Essay    Jay Kirk    R 1:30-4:30   

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

English 145.301    Advanced Nonfiction Writing     Lise Funderburg    W 2:00-5:00   

English 145.601    Finding Voice: Perspectives on Race, Class & Gender    Kathryn Watterson    T 5:30-8:30   

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

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

English 158.301    Storytelling in the Digital World    Gwyneth Shaw    W 2:00-5:00   

English 158.302    Global Journalism: Writing Across Cultures    Peter Tarr    W 2:00-5:00   

English 160.301    Long-Form Journalistic Writing    Paul Hendrickson    T 1:30-4:30   

English 161.301    Art of the Profile    Dick Polman    M 2:00-5:00   

English 162.301    Political Commentary Writing: The 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 170.301    Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture    Anthony DeCurtis    F 2:00-5:00   

English 415.640    Pop-Fiction for the Literary: Purpose and Practice of Genre Writing    Melissa Jensen    W 5:30-8:10   


English 010.301
Creative Writing: Writing the Personal Essay, Writing Fiction
S. Apple
T 1:30-4:30

In this workshop-style class we'll focus on the personal essay for the first half of the semester and then move on to fiction. In addition to writing and critiquing essays and stories, we'll read and discuss a wide range of work from both established masters and emerging young writers. Several of the authors we read will make guest appearances (in-person and via video) to discuss their work and answer student questions.


English 010.302
Creative Writing: Literary Journalism and Memoir
M 2:00-5:00

This interactive workshop will focus on the way a writer constructs characters in memoirs, personal essays, and literary journalism. Students will examine – through their work and others’ – how nonfiction writers must shape information to render people on the page in a way that is accurate, honest, and engaging.

Much of this workshop will be spent on the “I” character. How do we portray ourselves, both when we’re at the center of our stories and when we’re on the edges looking in? How do we decide what to include and how do we justify what we exclude? How can we deepen our understanding of individuals and relationships by thinking about them through places and objects? We will look to the writers Joan Didion, Phillip Lopate, David Sedaris, Marina Keegan, Mary Karr, Jamaica Kincaid and others for help when we need it.

The majority of class time will be spent discussing student work. Revision will be essential. Canvas 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 010.303
Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry
W 2:00-5:00

This workshop-style class is an introduction to the pleasures of the writing process. You will benefit from in-depth readings and constructive critical support in a class that encourages experimentation, daring, and fun. You will develop a working knowledge of the elements of the craft of fiction: character, plot, point-of-view, dialogue, and style, and you will use them to build your own short story. Our approach to poetry will focus on the importance of strangeness and surprise as well as the more familiar basics: imagery, sound effects, and so on. You will practice writing both lyric and narrative poems in free (mostly) and formal verse. Some of each meeting will be devoted to discussing fiction or poems from our texts, which may serve as springboards for your own work. From time to time, we will do some in-class writing. Growing, experimenting, and revising are key. Class participation and attendance are vital.


English 010.601
Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry
T 5:30-8:30

This workshop-style class is an introduction to the pleasures of the writing process. You will benefit from in-depth readings and constructive critical support in a class that encourages experimentation, daring, and fun. You will develop a working knowledge of the elements of the craft of fiction: character, plot, point-of-view, dialogue, and style, and you will use them to build your own short story. Our approach to poetry will focus on the importance of strangeness and surprise as well as the more familiar basics: imagery, sound effects, and so on. You will practice writing both lyric and narrative poems in free (mostly) and formal verse. Some of each meeting will be devoted to discussing fiction or poems from our texts, which may serve as springboards for your own work. From time to time, we will do some in-class writing. Growing, experimenting, and revising are key. Class participation and attendance are vital.


English 112.301
Fiction Workshop
M 2:00-5:00

English 112 is a boot camp for fiction writers. In this class you will write and read every week. By the end of semester you'll have a large portfolio of new work, plus a stronger set of craft skills. Come prepared to roll up your sleeves!

Each week we will address a different craft topic through readings, in-class and online discussion, and with a writing assignment designed to illuminate technical issues in fiction writing. Our reading list includes examples from 20th and 21st-century contemporary short fiction, which will be bundled into an inexpensive bulkpack. Writing assignments are tied to the craft topics we are investigating.

This class is appropriate for intermediate and advanced fiction writers, or advanced nonfiction writers with strong sense of narrative. Instructor permission is required for registration. Please send a sample of at least 3 pages of your fiction to, along with a note explaining your interest and background in fiction writing.


English 113.301
Poetry Workshop
W 2:00-5:00

This workshop is intended to help students with prior experience writing poetry develop techniques for generating poems along with the critical tools necessary to revise and complete them. Through in-class exercises, weekly writing assignments, readings of established poets, and class critique, students will acquire an assortment of resources that will help them develop a more concrete sense of voice, rhythm,prosody, metaphor, and the image as well as a deeper understanding of how these things come together to make a successful poem. In addition to weekly writings, students will be asked to produce a final portfolio of poems and to participate in a public reading.


English 114.401
Jackie Goldfinger
M 2:00-5:00

This course is designed as a hands-on workshop in the art and craft of dramatic writing. It involves the study of existing plays, the systematic exploration of such elements as storymaking, plot, structure, theme, character, dialogue, setting, etc.; and most importantly, the development of students' own plays through a series of written assignments and in-class exercises. Since a great deal of this work takes place in class -- through lectures, discussions, spontaneous writing exercises, and the reading of student work -- weekly attendance and active participation is crucial.


English 115.301
Advanced Fiction Writing
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 active class participation are essential. Please submit a brief writing sample to:


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 116.402
T 4:30-7:30

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.


English 116.403
R 4:30-7:30

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.


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

This 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 piece 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 comedian.


English 118.301
Advanced Poetry Workshop
T 1:30-4:30

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


English 119.301
Art Reviewing and Criticism
W 2:00-5:00

This is a workshop on writing about visual art. Most weeks there will be both a writing assignment and suggested reading. We will review Philadelphia area exhibitions, including shows at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and galleries. We will also make some class visits to local art spaces. In the workshop, students will be able to try out different approaches to writing about art works, concentrating on various descriptive and critical approaches. The workshop will be useful to budding journalists and critics but also to visual art and art history students, who are interested in honing their writing and analytical skills. We will also discuss editing and the role of the editor in creating the final written piece. And there will be plenty of opportunities for us to talk about a wide range of contemporary visual art.


English 120.401
The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation
TR 3:00-4:30

“No problem is as consubstantial with literature and its modest mystery as the one posed by translation.” --Jorge Luis Borges

In this class we will study and translate some of the major figures in 19th and 20th century poetry, including Gabriela Mistral, Wislawa Szymborska, Mahmoud Darwish, Anna Akhmatova, Rainer Maria Rilke, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Arthur Rimbaud, and Shu Ting. While the curriculum will be tailored to the interests and linguistic backgrounds of the students who enroll, all those curious about world poetry and the formidable, irresistible act of translation are welcome. Those wishing to take the translation course should have, at least, an intermediate knowledge of another language. We will study multiple translations of major poems and render our own versions in response. Students with knowledge of other languages will have the additional opportunity to work directly from the original. A portion of the course will be set up as a creative writing workshop in which to examine the overall effect of each others’ translations so that first drafts can become successful revisions. While class discussions will explore the contexts and particularity of poetry writen in Urdu, Italian, Arabic, French, Bulgarian, and Polish, they might ultimately reveal how notions of national literature have radically shifted in recent years to more polyglottic and globally textured forms. Through famous poems, essays on translation theory, and our own ongoing experiments, this course will celebrate the ways in which great poetry underscores the fact that language itself is a translation. In addition to the creative work, assignments will include an oral presentation, informal response papers, and a short final essay.


English 121.401
Writing for Children: Beauty and the Book (and the Blog)
W 2:00-5:00

We will read our favorite kids’ books, determine the kinds of books we love to read and write, and then write them, aiming at a clear voice appropriate to the story, and as much order or misrule as each writer’s kid-muse demands. For inspiration, we’ll visit the Maurice Sendak Collection at the Rosenbach Museum and Library and have a nostalgia wallow in the kids’ section at the library.

Then students write, fast-fast, drafts of stories to workshop, mull and revise. Yes, fun is required. For sure we'll critique, but first we'll try to outrun our interior grown-up! Workshopping happens first with student writer colleagues, and then with the real kids in schools, through our partner West Philadelphia Alliance for Children. Reading to children will give student writers a chance to hear where children laugh, see where they look scared, or notice when they begin to fidget. Returning with revisions will be a promise fulfilled, and an important marker in the literary life of everyone involved.

Our class will act as a team of editors, then, to submit stories—-and illustrations by authors and/or kids—-on the upcoming website,


English 121.601
The Grown-Up Art of Writing for Children
W 4:30-7:30

This course will focus on writing for children, while keeping in mind the fact that people of all ages read the stories written for younger people. We will read and discuss selected works each week, ranging from picture books to young adult novels. Along the way students will meet Skippyjon Jones, Auggie Pullman of WONDER, and Ponyboy Curtis of THE OUTSIDERS, among other memorable characters. In addition, there will be weekly writing assignments and in-class exercises, culminating in one larger work each student will focus on for the second half of the semester. We will study the elements of what makes a good story, how to create vivid characters and bring them to life, building fictional worlds, the writing process itself, the importance of revising, and a practical guide to getting published. We will talk about ever-changing trends in children’s literature from vampires and wizards to reality-based fiction. A portion of each class will also be dedicated to workshop time to share and critique each other’s work. Advanced fiction writing experience is not required, but students must be willing to stretch their writing skills, take risks, and be open to sharing their work with the rest of the class.


English 122.301
Making Comics
Jean-Christophe Cloutier/Rob Berry
W 2:00-5:00

This course will expose students to the unique language of visual storytelling popularly referred to as “comics” or “graphic novels.” In essence, it will be a creative writing workshop in the inexhaustible art of making comics aimed at beginners and enthusiasts alike. Students will be exposed to a brief history of how this art has developed and to some of its many forms and genres. Through practical homework and lab assignments they will develop an understanding of how text and sequential images create a different kind of reading experience and storytelling. Over the course of the semester, students will work together by taking on a variety of roles in the making of comics, read groundbreaking comics theory and criticism, analyze now-classic and experimental comics, adapt a variety of prose & verse genres into comics, and ultimately create a long-form collaborative “graphic novel.”

Although this is not intended as a course in drawing, all students will be expected to explore storytelling through the combination of words and cartoons (yes, stick figures are fine!). Working in this method creates a unique and hands-on understanding of the creative process in comics. In-class reviews and group critiques will give students direct insight into how certain choices of composition affect the storytelling process. During the first half of the semester, the course will rigorously combine theory and practice, navigating through a slew of different genres (e.g. poem, short story, novel, journalism, film) and how these can be transmogrified into comics form. The second half will be dedicated to the production of a longer comic project.

For comics theory, we will read selections from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics; for practice, we will use Jessica Abel & Matt Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures. Additional readings will be made available through Canvas. Assignments will include participation & attendance, THREE (3) short response papers, SIX (6) short comics homework assignments, and the creation of a final, 20-page collaborative comic.

Watch a video about this course here.


English 122.302
Word and Picture: Creating Comics in Prose and Verse
TR 9:00-10:30

The medium of comics, a combination of text and graphics, has enabled artists to produce a wide range of work, from silly cartoons to serious, thought-provoking novels. Comics’ multimodal approach to creativity is thus both an opportunity and a challenge for any would-be writer/artist.

In Word and Picture: Creating Comics in Prose and Verse, you will explore the reaches of this multimodal art form and make comics of your own. Whether you wish to tell stories or simply investigate the poetics of word and picture, this course will enable you to produce comics within a like-minded peer group for mutual critique and support.

Did you know that Penn’s library has one of the largest collections of comics in any university? You’ll get to work with this tremendous resource as you study comic art over the past century and produce a formal analysis of a classic piece from the past. You’ll participate in lively class discussions about the evolution of the medium. And of course, you’ll be making comics, both solo projects and collaborations with other students.

No background in writing or drawing is required; come and discover your inner graphic artist.


English 126.301
The Art of Editing
T 1:30-4:30

This course takes a critical and practical approach to the art of editing. Is the editor simply a “failed writer,” as T. S. Eliot claimed, or can good editing bring clarity and integrity to writing? In addition to exploring theories and histories of the red pen, we will consider a few case studies of editorial interventions, such as Ezra Pound’s excisions and revisions of Eliot’s The Waste Land, Marianne Moore’s five-decade quest to revise a single poem, and the editor who was discovered to have invented Raymond Carver’s distinctive narrative style. We will then immerse ourselves in the technical aspects of editing, mastering such topics as the difference between developmental and line editing, the merits of MLA and Chicago style, proofreading in hard copy and digital environments, and when to wield an em dash. Students will gain practical editing experience in regular workshops, learn about a range of different levels of editorial interventions, and investigate the politics of language usage and standards, reading from literary texts such as Gloria Anzaldúa's "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" and Harryette Mullen's Sleeping with the Dictionary. This course counts toward the Journalistic Writing Minor.


English 130.401
Advanced Screenwriting
DeMarco Van Cleve
W 2:00-5:00

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 Nonfiction Writing
T 1:30-4:30

In this creative nonfiction workshop we will be thinking about what it means to tell our personal stories and how that telling gets done. Home will be a centralizing theme. The ways in which we define home and the ways in which it defines us. The necessary remembering that both roots us in and suggests a means of escape. We’ll be reading Michael Ondaatje, George Hodgman, and Helen Macdonald, among others. Students should be prepared to reflect and discuss, take snapshots, and find stories inside music. Two long projects—a memoir and a narrative profile—will be required, as will a number of small pieces and in-class assignments. Students will also be contributing to a home-themed chapbook (as part of the Beltran Family program at Kelly Writers House) and will be invited to a special evening with Margo Rabb, A.S. King, and Rahna Reiko Rizzuto.


English 135.302
Creative Nonfiction: The Reported Essay
R 1:30-4:30

Every work of nonfiction is a writer’s attempt to reconstruct experience. But experience can be an elusive thing to capture: a strange hybrid of the highly subjective and the more tangible zone of perceptible fact. How do we strike a balance in narrative nonfiction? For one, we employ the same devices that we already use to navigate our way through the world—that of our senses. The more vivid the details of sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound, the more immersed the reader will become in the author’s re-created world of words. But what of the more abstract, less concrete sixth sense of thought? After all, it is our mind that perceives and finds the subjective meaning in experience. In this narrative nonfiction writing workshop, we will look at craft, literary technique, the mechanics of building vivid and powerful scenes, discuss the role of story-logic, and the importance of hard fact-checking. Yet, the student is also urged to pay close attention to their own internal narrator, and to be mindful of the intuitive (and unconscious) powers at play in their writing. Each week we will review classics in the genre, do in-class writing exercises, go on periodic “experiential” assignments, and explore how the art of playing around with the raw material of everyday life (i.e., “reality”) can make for great and unexpected stories.


English 135.401
Peer Tutoring
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 145.301
Advanced Nonfiction 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. Please submit a brief writing sample and/or statement of interest to:


English 145.601
Finding Voice: Perspectives on Race, Class & Gender
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 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."


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

Journalism has been called the first rough draft of history, because it attempts to answer a basic everyday question, What's happening? Dealing with facts, the journalist tells us stories about our world -- the actions of government and politicians, crime, law enforcement and courts, as well as the way we live, the texture of communities, science, health, business, entertainment and sports, cooking, leisure. Pretty much anything that is true is fair game, if it's new or a new take on the old. Even the definition of "new" is mutable. In essence, journalism grabs reality and holds it intact, saying “I was there and this is what it was like.”

This introductory course will explore the techniques that make a good story, from the selection of topic, to the kind of reporting required, to the ways to recreate the vitality, importance and even humor of what you’ve seen. Expect to write a lot and learn to see writing as a process that rewards nimble thinking and trying again.

The class loosely divides into a study of a story's basic elements – fact gathering, ledes, structure, kickers, interviewing, quotes, description – an analysis of the different journalistic forms and a series of assignments designed to use those tools and stretch the way you “see.”


English 158.301
Storytelling in the Digital World
W 2:00-5:00

Journalism isn’t dying -- it’s being reinvented. This course will immerse you in the often messy, always invigorating process of newswriting in the era of BuzzFeed. We’ll use the rich territory of West Philadelphia as our playground, looking for stories that nobody else is covering and turning them into pieces everyone wants to read. Along the way, we’ll learn the skills real journalists are using every day: how to take and edit photos and video, write across a variety of platforms, and use Twitter and other social media to report as well as draw in an audience for our work. The goal is to produce professional-caliber work for timely publication; the environment is essentially a small, hyperlocal newsroom. This course is for students with some journalism experience who want to get a taste of what it’s like to be a professional these days. The class is taught by a seasoned journalist, with visits from local and out-of-town practitioners.


English 158.302
Global Journalism: Writing Across Cultures
W 2:00-5:00

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.


English 160.301
Long-Form Journalism
T 1:30-4:30

This is a reading/writing course in the art and history of long-form narrative journalism, which to some might seem a lost art and term. And yet the long-form story still has its fervent adherents, and who is to say such a form—call it even a craving—for the full-bodied piece of narrative work won’t have a kind of renaissance as we further try to find our way in the mysteries of cyberspace and the digital age?

Students will study the roots and origins of what came to be thought of in the 1960s as “New Journalism.” So the works and lives of Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Hunter Thompson, John McPhee, Joan Didion, Michael Herr—to cite only seven esteemed practitioners—will be examined. But we will also study the lives and works of some descendants, or maybe inheritors, of those early writers, whose names you know far less well: Gary Smith, Tom Junod, Richard Ben Cramer, Janet Malcolm. Your professor himself is an “inheritor,” and as a matter of fact so are you. Which is only to say: If there will be a large emphasis on reading in the course, there will be an equally large emphasis on the practice of the form. Each student admitted to the class will produce his or her own long-form piece of journalistic prose, something in the neighborhood of twenty to twenty-five double-spaced pages, employing the various techniques of the novelist (scene, characterization, detail, telling moment, revelatory quotes) and yet at the same time remaining absolutely sacred to the responsibility of facts, as you are able to gather and find them.

This is not a course for the faint-hearted. Any long-form piece of distinctive journalistic work is first and foremost about the reporting. The reporting, the reporting, the reporting. You’ll have to find your subject, and go after it. And then it’s about the writing, the writing, the writing, which is the even sweatier act. Joan Didion, one of the finest and sparest of the long-form journalists we will read, once said: “I don’t write well; I revise well.” The professor has this goofy notion it should be a lot of fun.


English 161.301
Art of the Profile
M 2:00-5:00

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.


English 162.301
Political Commentary Writing: The Presidential Primaries
W 2:00-5:00

National politics in the digital era is waged 24/7 on the stump, on TV, online, on Twitter and other social media outposts, and Americans struggle to make sense of the incessant noise. Political commentary writers have an even greater burden. Seemingly by the minute, they are tasked with making quick smart judgments, and communicating those judgments in clear language. English 162 focuses entirely on the daunting art of political commentary writing - and on the challenges that commentary writers face in the era of the blogosphere and Twittersphere. Students will track the news as it unfolds week by week, and, most importantly, write commentary pieces about the news on an online blog created for this course. At a time when Americans are more awash in opinions than ever before, the aim is to master the craft of writing clear, responsible, incisive, substantive, and entertaining point-of-view journalism - and backing it with factual research. The ultimate goal is to successfully develop an “earned voice,” attained via effective writing, effective reporting, and, above all, effective thinking. In addition, prominent guest speakers will discuss their special expertise. The course will focus heavily on the 2016 Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.


English 165.301
Writing through Culture and Art
R 1:30-4:30

Beginning in the 70s, the artist Christopher Knowles — an artist with autism — has explored various analog media to create compelling poetry, opera, performances, and visual art. Knowles’s initial introduction to the general public was in 1976, when as a 13-year-old boy, his poems were used as the basis for the libretto for the avant-garde minimalist production of “Einstein on the Beach” by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson. Since then, he has created a broad spectrum of compelling works which will be the subject of his mid-career retrospective at the ICA in the Fall of 2015.

Taking our inspiration from Knowles’s powerful and prodigious output, we will be constructing literary works on analog media: letterpress, chapbooks, broadsides, Xeroxing, typings, scribbling, scratchings & scrawlings. Analog media is also encouraged: reel-to-reel tape recordings, cassettes, reel-to-reels, and LPs.

This year-long seminar will give us an extraordinary opportunity to investigate the ways in which disability studies and neurodiversity help us understand visual art, literature, and music. We’ll explore the deep history of outsider art, folk art, traditional forms of music, writings of the insane, as well as those artists working within the mainstream who have been influenced by artists with disabilities.

The class will culminate in a paper-bound publication to be co-published by The Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing and the ICA.

Note: This is a two-semester course. Students who enrolled in 165 in the fall then re-enroll in 165 in the spring.


English 170.301
Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture
F 2:00-5:00

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


English 415.640
Pop-Fiction for the Literary: Purpose and Practice of Genre Writing
W 5:30-8:10

This is a course about being a working writer in our evolving writing world. For anyone who has dreamt of being Suzanne Collins or George Martin or Stephen King, this is a good time to do it and a good place to start. There will be lots of reading and writing, lively discussion, and livelier critique. Students will work on honing their voice, creating believable and compelling plot, characters, and language. We will read across genre, exploring what makes contemporary creative writing work. And sell. Students will produce a series of writing exercises for critique: both themed assignments from the instructor and pieces of their choice. We will explore how technology (social media, Amazon, the simple email...) can impact the process. At least one session will be devoted to the Business: navigating today’s publishing world of agents and editors, submission and rejection, established house or DIY. By the end of the term, students will have conceived their own book-length project, and completed a solid opening three chapters.