Courses for Fall 2016

English 016.301    First-Year Seminar: Writing Philadelphia    Laynie Browne    T 1:30-4:30   

English 010.301    Creative Writing: Creative Nonfiction and Poetry    Deborah Burnham    TR 10:30-12:00   

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

English 010.303    Creative Writing: Writing about Health and Medicine    Sam Apple    W 2:00-5:00   

English 010.304    Creative Writing: Animal Tales    Anna Maria Hong    R 1:30-4:30   

English 010.601    Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction    Jason Zuzga    T 4:30-7:30   

English 111.301    Wasting Time on the Internet    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    Julia Bloch    T 1:30-4:30   

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

English 116.401    Screenwriting    Kathleen 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 119.401    Across Forms: Writing and Art    Sharon Hayes, Rachel Zolf    M 2:00-5:00   

English 127.401    Writing toward Diaspora    Ariel Resnikoff    W 2:00-5:00   

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

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

English 135.302 Narrative Nonfiction: The Art of Experience    Jay Kirk    T 1:30-4:30   

English 135.303 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 135.402    Essay, Blog, Tweet, Nonfiction now!    Lorene Cary    W 2:00-5:00   

English 145.301    Advanced Nonfiction Writing    Buzz Bissinger    F 2:00-5:00   

English 145.601    The Art of the Personal Essay    Kathryn Watterson    T 5:30-8:30   

English 157.301    Introduction to Journalistic Writing: Writing About Food     Rick Nichols    T 1:30-4:30   

English 157.302    The World Around Us: Journalism and the Environment    Avery Rome    R 1:30-4:30   

English 158.301    Journalistic Storytelling    Dick Polman    M 2:00-5:00   

English 159.301    Writing about the Presidential Election    Dick Polman    W 2:00-5:00   

English 410.640    Truth Tales: A Writing Workshop [cancelled]    Rebekah Zhuraw    W 5:30-8:10   

English 410.641    Storytelling in Fiction and Nonfiction    Kathryn Watterson    R 5:30-8:10   

English 412.640    The Glorious "What If?": Writing Speculative Fiction    Melissa Jensen    W 5:30-8:10   


English 016.301
First-Year Seminar: Writing Philadelphia
T 1:30-4:30

This first-year seminar will be devoted to exploring the diverse literary histories of Philadelphia, from its vibrant poetry and spoken-word scene to its many celebrated and award-winning practitioners of creative and journalistic prose. Students will engage with the many different literatures of the city as readers, but also, and more importantly, as writers crafting their own original creative works in ways that engage their own experience of the city: its landscape, architecture, cultural history, arts, and even food. We will immerse ourselves in the literary textures of Philadelphia by attending live literary events across town and at Penn's own Kelly Writers House; visiting literary hot spots devoted to book, zine and comic culture; meeting visiting writers and artists; and creating and workshopping our own writing of the city. Our class will culminate in individual creative portfolios; we will also design and plan a collaborative final project, which could include a podcast series, public event at the Writers house, or online literary archive of Philadelphia.


English 010.301
Introduction to Creative Writing: Creative Nonfiction and Poetry
TR 10:30-12:00

In this class, we’ll read personal essays, mostly contemporary American, and poems from all over. We'll read some essays that are built along traditional lines (chronological, logical, etc.) and some that are segmented and nonlinear. You’ll write several essays, 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 read and write poems in what are accurately called “obsessive forms," poems that contain, magnify and alter their subjects, and poems in very new forms that include sampling, repetition, etc. 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.


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

This interactive workshop will focus on the way a writer constructs characters in memoirs, personal essays, and journalistic profiles. Students will examine – through their own work and others’ – how nonfiction writers must shape information to render people on the page in a way that is 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? We will think about how to integrate what we know about ourselves and the world now into stories that happened in the past. We will look to the writers Joan Didion, Phillip Lopate, Mary Karr 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
Introduction to Creative Writing: Writing about Health and Medicine
Sam Apple
W 2:00-5:00

Anyone who follows health and medical news knows the problem: today's breaking headlines are flipped on their head tomorrow. One week, we’re told meat is a fundamental component of a heart-healthy diet; the next, we’re told it causes cancer and should be avoided. Health reporting ceases to be a source of information and instead leads to widespread confusion, frustration, and even apathy. Journalists aren’t necessarily to blame for this problem, but when they report on each new study without critically analyzing the scientific research behind it, today’s health writers inadvertently add to misinformation and public confusion.

In this creative writing workshop, we’ll focus on the fundamentals of good science journalism, with an emphasis on how to evaluate the strength of published research and integrate it into our own writing for a broad audience. This course is designed both for students who have little background in science and for science and pre-med students who want to become stronger writers. Through a series of readings, writing activities, and workshops, we will explore the art of navigating health and medical research, crafting our own original pieces of reporting. Class guests will include prominent journalists, scientists, and economists.


English 010.304
Introduction to Creative Writing: Animal Tales
R 1:30-4:30

This course provides an introduction to creative writing in multiple genres. You will study and practice writing in a workshop atmosphere and engage in intensive reading of excellent writings focusing on the real and imagined lives of animals from ancient fables through 21st-century stories, poems, essays, and hybrid-genre works. We will follow discussions of readings with writing experiments designed to spark original thinking, develop facility with writing, and enhance understanding of your creative process. You will explore the possibilities of creative writing and the fine and ferocious literature concerning the great and small beasts by writing short creative and analytical pieces and longer works. Some classes will be devoted to working field trips to observe animals.


English 010.601
Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction
T 4:30-7:30

This workshop-style course will serve as an introduction to writing short fiction and poetry. We will hone our skills as writers, as readers, and as generous editors of each other’s writing in workshop.


English 111.301
Wasting Time on the Internet
R 1:30-4:30

Live without dead time. — Situationist graffiti, Paris, May 1968

We spend our lives in front of screens, mostly wasting time: checking social media, watching cat videos, chatting, and shopping. What if these activities — clicking, SMSing, status-updating, and random surfing — were used as raw material for creating compelling and emotional works of literature? Could we reconstruct our autobiography using only Facebook? Could we write a great novella by plundering our Twitter feed? Could we reframe the internet as the greatest poem ever written? Using our laptops and a wifi connection as our only materials, this class will focus on the alchemical recuperation of aimless surfing into substantial works of literature. Students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs. To bolster our practice, we'll explore the long history of the recuperation of boredom and time-wasting through critical texts about affect theory, ASMR, situationism and everyday life by thinkers such as Guy Debord, Mary Kelly Erving Goffman, Betty Friedan, Raymond Williams, John Cage, Georges Perec, Michel de Certeau, Henri Lefevbre, Trin Minh-ha, Stuart Hall, Sianne Ngai, Siegfried Kracauer and others. Distraction, multi-tasking, and aimless drifting is mandatory.


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

This workshop will be devoted to tackling a range of poetic forms – list, lyric, documentary, collage, erasure, epistolary, sound-based, prose, performative, and other shapes and experiments – as well as exploring how contemporary poetry and poetics make us think differently about language: its uses, its limits, and its capacity to change the way we experience the world. Students will write in response to weekly creative prompts, read and discuss work by contemporary and visiting writers, and workshop each other's writing throughout the semester before producing a final portfolio of approximately 15 pages of work as well as a statement of creative practice. Newcomers to poetry are welcome, but permission of the instructor is required: please send 1-3 pages of writing (in any form) to


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

English 115 is 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 workshop you will have at least three opportunities to present new full-length short stories and/or substantial revisions of those stories to the workshop. We will also do weekly writing: short prompts designed by you and your peers. Our reading list will consist of short stories published within the past two years and chosen by members of the class. Admission to this class requires an instructor permit. Send a sample of your fiction and a short introduction to me at


English 116.401
Van Cleve
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 the instructor to kathydemarco@writing.upenn.


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. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to


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. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to


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 119.401
Across Forms: Writing and Art
Hayes and Zolf
M 2:00-5:00

What if a poem spoke from inside a photograph? What if a sculpture unfurled a political manifesto? What if a story wasn’t just like a dance, but was a dance—or a key component of a video, drawing, performance, or painting? In this course, artists and writers will develop new works that integrate the forms, materials, and concerns of both art and writing. Many artists employ writing in their practices, but may not look at the texts they create as writing. And many writers have practices that go beyond the page and deserve attention as art. This course will employ critique and workshop, pedagogic methodologies from art and writing respectively, to support and interrogate cross-pollination between writing and art practices. Additionally, the course will examine a field of artists and writers who are working with intersections between art and writing to create dynamic new ways of seeing, reading, and experiencing. This course is cross-listed with Fine Arts.


English 127.401
Writing toward Diaspora
W 2:00-5:00

Wandering creates the desert. — Edmond Jabès

What is the relationship between writing and diaspora? This trans-genre workshop will move through a series of key diasporic texts, from ancient times to the present, asking students to respond to these works in their own language—with an emphasis on reading and writing across genre—through poem, essay, story and translation. Together, as a writing community, we will constellate a number of difficult, pressing questions around our collective work, including: what is our relationship as writers to urgent issues of diasporic statelessness in the contemporary moment? What are the implications of diaspora in art? The stakes of diaspora in art? Who gets to speak and who gets spoken for? How and where does language serve as a boundary/border defying medium? How and where are boundaries/borders reinforced and reified in language? Class sessions will incorporate a mixture of open communal discussion and paired learning, and will engage with the intersubjectivities of the texts we read, write and translate by interpreting and workshopping them alongside one another. No prior literary writing experience required. This course is cross-listed with Comparative Literature.


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 students' 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 kathydemarco@writing.upenn. edu Permission from instructor is required.


English 135.301
Creative Nonfiction Writing
Max Apple
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
Narrative Nonfiction: The Art of Experience
T 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 135.303
Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels
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 135.401
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 135.402
Essay, Blog, Tweet, Nonfiction now!
W 2:00-5:00

This class is designed to advance students’ writing practice, discipline, and workshop and critiquing skills. Student writers will create nonfiction narrative in several forms: blogs, memoir, interviews, Q&As, essays. We will play with promotion, video, and social marketing, even grant proposals, advertisements, public service announcements, queries, and photo captions—all the forms that writers actually use throughout careers of deep reflection followed by hustle-and-pitch.

The class will act as an editorial group for, which launched in the fall of 2015. The idea is to depict safety with the specificity and drama that we usually reserve for conflict. Your writing will explore Big Questions about the social, emotional, relational and physical structures that affect our children and youth; your research, interviews, reporting, and experience will discover and share solutions.

If we do the job right, we will shine a light on people in our midst creating structures of safety for kids in an era of fear. If we make it fun to read, look at, and listen to, too, then, like a few historic college courses that participate substantively in their communities, we’ll be on our way to stealth culture change. This class is cross-listed with Africana Studies.


English 145.301
Advanced Nonfiction Writing
F 2:00-5:00

Great nonfiction writing is about passion. Passion for an idea both wonderful and practical. Passion for reportage. Passion for storytelling through plot and rhythm and pace. Passion for writing without compromise of the facts. All easy to say but elusive to execute. In examining the craft of nonfiction and its essential components, there will be concentration on writing assignments and workshopping. We will examine the work of authors such as Truman Capote, Michael Lewis, Katharine Boo, John McPhee and JR Moehringer. We will also examine some of my own books, such as Friday Night Lights, A Prayer for the City, and Father’s Day, as well as magazine pieces from Vanity Fair, for candid discussions on what the author was precisely trying to do and whether it was achieved. Each writing assignment will be roughly a thousand words. A more comprehensive piece will be required at the end of the semester (the length is up to students since if you learn anything, it is that long is not necessarily better). The workload is reasonable, but keep in mind that quality is far more important than quantity. One great piece is worth five mediocre and rushed ones.

This is a course for students who love the written word and may be considering a career in nonfiction writing. The course will meet Thursdays 4:30-7:30p and Fridays 2-5pm on the following days: September 1 and 2, September 15 and 16, September 29 and 30, October 13 and 14, October 27 and 28, November 10 and 11, and December 1 and 2. For periods of three hours each during the semester, I will be available for one-on-one discussions: November 17 and 18, and December 8 and 9. I will also be available at any time by Skype and email. A nonfiction writing sample of any type (narrative, essay, personal) is required for acceptance into the class. Students must also be willing to do reportage. Please send your writing samples to Mingo Reynolds


English 145.601
The Art of the Personal Essay
T 5:30-8:30

Our voices as writers take shape, in large part, when we absorb and create from the fertile ground of our inner landscapes—those territories seeded with childhood fantasies, feelings, fears, dreams, family dynamics, myths and realities. In writing personal essays, you get to explore your own life in the context of the physical, ecological, spiritual and cultural worlds you inhabit. The verb “to essay” means “to attempt to do something” or to try something out that may or may not succeed. It takes courage to reveal yourself and your doubts in the process. You may not come to a conclusion in the essay, but you will have the pleasure of doing “basic research on the self, in ways that are allied with science and philosophy,” according to Philip Lopate.

This seminar will help you tap into and write about experiences that have helped shape who you are, ideas that spark your imagination, and cultural and societal issues about which you care deeply. Personal essayists tell us what they don’t know. as well as what they imagine to be true. Students will read a variety of authors—from E.B. White to Audre Lorde, Amy Tan, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Lewis Thomas and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In addition to in-class writing, students will maintain a daily practice of free-writing; write reading responses to assigned books, essays, and stories; conduct interviews, do research and write and revise at least two personal essays during the semester.


English 157.301
Introduction to Journalistic Writing: Writing about Food
T 1:30-4:30

Some of the worst writing in the world is passed off as "food writing." And some of the finest, most moving, most joyful prose, as well. This course aims to push the needle -- your needle -- closer to the latter. We'll move smartly through various forms -- profiles (of guest chefs, farmers, turnips), reviews (of the likes of Han Dynasty, local tacquerias, Penn's food trucks), columns (on why avocados once cost less in Canada than Philadelphia, how the Amish may be killing blue crabs in the Chesapeake, the downsides of eating local). Finally, we'll tackle a longer piece that will serve as a final exam. The possibilities are as endless as the cornfields of Iowa (or the snack shelves at Acme). But in the end, the object is to write engagingly, be the subject feast or famine. To write with meaning. That means learning to report well, live and in person. To test conventional wisdom and to dish up what you have to say fresh and tasty. That's not an easy job. We'll look to Dickens for guidance, and the masters, M.F.K. Fisher, Joseph Mitchell, A. J. Liebling, Upton Sinclair and, maybe, Swift and Malthus. And newer voices -- Gopnik, Pollan, Trillin, Reichl, Bittman, Kurlansky. There will be field trips. There will be discussions of how immigration and war and technology (the stove! GMOs!) and transportation have shaped what's on our plate; or short-changed whole populations. Talking about this is a piece of cake. Writing about it -- and in a way that grabs, and holds the reader (of a website, newspaper, magazine, pitch for a best-selling book) -- is a different matter. It is what this course is all about. And, yes, there will be light refreshments!


English 157.302
The World Around Us: Journalism and the Environment
Avery Rome
R 1:30-4:30

How we see the world depends on our point of view at the moment. Is it the air, soil and water we depend on? The birds, bugs and bushes? Or is it the atmosphere of our attention, the texture of a coat, a cold wind or fragrance that elicits a memory? This class, drawing on the skills and practices of journalism, lets us play in an environment we choose to define. We’ll read some of the great naturalists – perhaps Pollan, McKibben, Kingsolver, Carson, Abbey, bell hooks, Winona LaDuke, Wendell Berry, Terry Tempest Williams – learn ways to capture our observations in clear, vivid prose, and develop a sensitivity to the life all around us.


English 158.301
Journalistic Storytelling
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 nonfiction 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 nonfiction 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 159.301
Writing about the Presidential Election
W 2:00-5:00

This in-depth course on political commentary writing will feature the autumn clash between the candidates who seek office in the White House. Students will write weekly on a class blog, chronicling and analyzing the twists and turns of the campaign rhetoric, the campaign ads, and the media coverage. Presidential debates will be grist for much of the student writing. All told, students will track the news as it unfolds week by week, and deepen their understanding of what constitutes credible point-of-view journalism.

All points of view are welcome, but they must be effectively backed up with substantive factual evidence, and, most importantly, they must be communicated in clear, persuasive, and (especially) lively prose. In short, the course will emphasize the challenge of effective thinking and effective writing. The course will also feature several prominent guests from the media and political communities, who will comment on the campaign and the coverage.


English 410.640
Truth Tales: A Writing Workshop [cancelled]
W 5:30-8:10

There is no mind without a body, no words without a mouth to form them, an ear to catch them, a body to play out the tremor of suggested emotion or try on an idea. Unlocking the meaning of words, the mind taps the physical, re-membering the body. To write is to put keys in the ignition of this virtual reality, and if we want our readers to feel anything—to see it our way—we must pave the way. This workshop will explore the intersection of writing and the body. We will examine the issue of embodiment theoretically—philosophically, culturally, politically; we will investigate the body as a subject in the arts; and we will experiment with a variety of embodiment practices to ground us in our senses and see what they might unlock in our creative expression. But mostly we will write. Students may focus on one genre or experiment with many. We will have weekly peer review. Revision is expected. This is a workshop that will teach all writers to write persuasively and evocatively.


English 410.641
Storytelling in Fiction and Nonfiction
R 5:30-8:10

This graduate seminar will focus on how to write a good story whether it’s “true” or not. First, you will write a non-fiction article that lets your readers immerse themselves in a “real” place where you participate and study for two to three hours every week—a place that’s active and that matters to you. Perhaps it will be a pre-school, a boatyard, a domestic violence shelter, a start up, or a soup kitchen, where you observe and report on actual efforts by the people involved. For this first part of the semester, you’ll write weekly reports for the class that culminate in an article about the place. During the second half of the course, you will follow a trail of sorts into a fictional world. Here, in your own imagination, you’ll find and follow a different story, one perhaps connected only by a thread, or a dream about the “true” story. What is “the truth”? What kind of truth are you looking to find or to tell in fiction and in nonfiction? What is visible? What matters that is invisible? What is most important to you and why?

In the process of researching, writing and revising these stories, you’ll not only fine tune your powers of observation, but you’ll also fine tune your ability to tap into the landscape of your own imagination through visualization and meditation. With both pieces, you will see the value of research and revision—as well as the importance of close, detailed description and dialogue. At the same time, we’ll examine what we read and write within a larger cultural and literary context. We’ll read selections from James Baldwin, Ruth Prawer-Jhabvala, Julie Otuska, T. C. Boyle, John Edgar Wideman, Donald Barthelme, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Audre Lorde, and others. Students will turn in observations, short pieces and reading responses every week, and free-write ten minutes a day.


English 412.640
The Glorious "What If?": Writing Speculative Fiction
W 5:30-8:10

This is a course for anyone who is still waiting for the Hogwarts owl to arrive, who inhabits otherwordly places, or just wants to write about them. Speculative fiction takes many forms, from ordinary life with a little twist to hard sci-fi, alternate histories to imagined futures, children's fairy tales to grown-up horror...with some Grimm intersections. Students will read across time and sub-genre, and will write a series of original pieces: honing their voice, creating believable story, characters, and language, all with a fantastical element, whether big or small, for young audiences or mature ones. We will discuss these pieces as a group in class. This course is based around lots of reading and writing, some lively debate, and livelier critique. The possibilities are endless. After all, isn’t that the very best part of fiction, the idea that anything is possible?