Courses for Fall 2017

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

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

English 010.303    Introduction to Creative Writing: Writing about Health and Medicine    Sam Apple    R 1:30-4:30   

English 010.304    Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Creative Nonfiction    Karen Rile    W 2:00-5:00   

English 010.601    Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction    Sebastian Castillo    TR 5:30-7:00   

English 111.401    Experimental Writing: Experimental Poetry    Charles Bernstein    M 6:00-9:00   

English 112.301    Fiction Writing Workshop    Carmen Machado    M 2:00-5:00   

English 113.301    Poetry Writing Workshop    Laynie Browne    T 1:30-4:30   

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

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 119.301    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 121.601    Where the Wild Things Play Quidditch: Writing for Children    Melissa Jensen    W 5:30-8:30   

English 128.301    Magazine Journalism    Avery Rome    M 2:00-5:00   

English 129.401    Across Forms: Art and Writing    Sharon Hayes, Rachel Zolf    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    R 1:30-4:30   

English 144.301    Speculative Fiction: Horror, Mystery and Suspense    Carmen Machado    T 1:30-4:30   

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

English 145.601    Advanced Nonfiction: The Writer in the Community    Kitsi Watterson    M 5:30-8:30   

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

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

English 159.301    Political Writing in the Digital Age    Dick Polman    W 2:00-5:00   

English 165.301    Writing through Marcel Duchamp     Kenneth Goldsmith    R 1:30-4:30   

English 416.640    Screenwriting    Scott Burkhardth    Online   

English 457.640    The Art of the Interview     Kitsi Watterson    R 5:30-8:10   


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
R 1:30-4:30

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: Fiction and Creative Nonfiction
W 2:00-5:00

Narrative collage: because the most interesting journey isn’t a straight line. In this workshop we’ll explore fiction and creative nonfiction using nontraditional techniques including nonlinear segments, multiple voices, found texts, and more. We’ll dig into readings from a wide range of sources, from Sei Shōnagon’s 10th century Pillow Book through George Saunders’s 2017 novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. This seminar-style course is designed for students interested in experimenting with both memoir and fiction, and is appropriate for any level of experience, from curious beginners to accomplished writers. There will be weekly reading assignments with short response papers and weekly creative prompts, which will be workshopped in a collaborative, supportive setting. Questions? Contact me at


English 010.601
Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction
TR 5:30-7:00

This workshop-style course will serve as an introduction to writing across a wide breadth of genres, including (but not limited to) fiction, poetry, and essays. Students will craft their own original pieces in this community-based classroom, where we will read and comment on each other’s work. The course will emphasize considering the structural and conceptual conceits endemic to specific literary genres, and students will be encouraged to write across varying modes of literary composition. As such, our readings will focus on a large range of contemporary writers, many of whose work either directly invoke genre hybridity, or challenge conventional formal categorization. A small sampling of these writers include Lydia Davis, Leslie Scalapino, Anne Boyer, César Aira, and Bhanu Kapil. Course requirements include thoughtful and committed class participation, regular writing assignments, and a final portfolio of work written over the course of the semester.


English 111.401
Experimental Writing: Experimental Poetry
M 6:00-9:00

This is a nontraditional “poetry immersion” workshop. The workshop will be useful for those wanting to explore new possibilities for writing and art, whether or not they have a commitment to writing poetry. The workshop will be structured around a series of writing experiments, collaborations, intensive readings, art gallery visits, and the production of individual chapbooks or websites for each participant, and performance of participants’ works. There will also be some visiting poets. The emphasis in the workshop will be on new and innovative approaches to composition and form, including digital, sound, and performance, rather than on works emphasizing narrative or storytelling. Each week, participants will discuss the writing they have done as well as the assigned reading. Before enrolling, please review the syllabus at http://


English 112.301
Fiction Writing Workshop
Carmen Machado
M 2:00-5:00

In this course, we will practice the art of fiction. Throughout the semester, students will write two new short stories and a series of craft-based exercises, as well as participate in thoughtful conversations about their classmates’ work. We will also be reading and discussing a variety of published pieces of fiction. These examples are not meant for intimidation or rote imitation: instead, think of them as small flames illuminating certain parts of a dark room, in which you too will be lighting your own candle. Students will be encouraged to consider how these authors approach character, form, description, dialogue, setting, genre, and plot, and also how they might do the same in a fresh and exciting way.


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

This is a course for students who are interested in exploring a variety of approaches to poetry. Students will encounter a diverse series of readings, in-class writing activities, weekly writing assignments and creative methods for heightening your abilities as a reader. Writing prompts will include ideas generated in class, along with procedural experiments, appropriation, and investigations of poetic form. Students will be encouraged to discover new territory, to collaborate, and to unhinge conventional assumptions regarding what is possible in poetry.


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

The class will be conducted as a seminar. Every student will write four 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 Permit from the instructor is required.


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.


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 119.301
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. This course is cross-listed with Comparative Literature.


English 121.601
Where the Wild Things Play Quidditch: Writing for Children
W 5:30-8:30

From Grimm tales to dystopian Tributes, from hatted cats to Sorting Hats, children’s literature endures and evolves and entices. Long after our own childhoods have passed, we continue to read these stories—to younger and smaller people, and to ourselves. In this course, we will explore what draws us to and into books for children and teenagers, why we love them at six or sixteen. Or sixty. What makes these stories compelling? What makes them important? Often the answer is the same: children’s books put a spotlight on human experience, from the simple and idyllic to the profound and traumatic, offering reassurance. Knowledge. Hope. They can be mirrors that reflect us—or act as portals into different worlds. Where else, in what other literary form, do we reach both inward and outward with the same satisfaction and effect? Where else can we find magic and mystery, folklore and science, love and tragedy—education and entertainment and escape—all in the same familiar and comforting corner? Students will read across era and subgenre, from picture books to teen novels. They will develop their own projects: honing their voice, creating believable story, characters, and language. This course is based around lots of reading and writing, lively discussion, and livelier critique. If all little writers are eager and industrious, there will be a treat or two. If not, there might be wolves.


English 128.301
Magazine Journalism
M 2:00-5:00

A course devoted to various aspects of print and online magazine journalism. Magazine journalism plays with the element of time: magazine stories are longer in general than newspaper stories; they tend to be reported over weeks rather than over days. A prolonged lead time makes possible different kinds of storytelling—and approaches to time. You can tell a tale out of order. You can play with the medium and with your readers. You can assume a voice or establish your own. You can use point of view, dialogue, suspense, the timely revelation of truths, the commentary of a narrator—anything that gives the reader the texture and tangibility of “what happened.” The form of magazine writing—nonfiction, built with facts and accuracy—does have its own rules, and doing it well depends on being able to see the big picture and the telling detail. Each week in this class we will read, discuss and write different types of magazine stories, drawing on general-interest publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine. We’ll practice pitches to editors and end the semester by producing a 2,500-3,000-word magazine story.


English 129.401
Across Forms: Art and Writing
Hayes and Zolf
W 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? 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.

In this course, which is open to all students interested in art and writing, regardless of experience, students will develop multiple creative projects that integrate the forms, materials, and concerns of both art and writing. As a class we will employ critique and workshop, pedagogic methodologies from art and writing respectively, to support and interrogate cross-pollinations between writing and art practices. We will also study 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 315/615. Permission to enroll is required; please submit a short description of your interest in the class to


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?


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 discuss what travelling means in an age when many people can get on a plane or drive on a whim to a place of their choice. Students will be asked to think about travel as a deliberate act or an act of improvisation. They will observe and record what they see when they travel. They will explore a popular form of writing and practice both—travelling and writing—as part of their own daily activities. The familiar will become strange and new as they return home, walk through the university, visit Center City, or explore places close to campus. They will, in the process, learn about themselves; they will learn to see themselves in the mirror of “the ordinary and the extraordinary,” “the other,” or “the same.” They will be forced to see themselves as part of a greater whole, a past, a present, and a future. The course will explore famous works by travelers who visited the USA, such works as Charles Dickens’s “On America and the Americans” and G. K. Chesterton’s “What I Saw in America” (1922), and consider recent works such as Michael O’Brien’s Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon (2011) and Robert MacFarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (2012).


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; fulfillment of writing requirement and permission of instructor required. For more information, visit the Critical Writing Program.


English 135.402
Essay, Blog, Tweet, Nonfiction now!
R 1:30-4:30

English 135 is an improvisational workshop in creative nonfiction that connects you to current reporting opportunities; gives you structured choice in assignments; and teaches you how to write about hard subjects for and about young people. Big Questions about the social, emotional, relational and physical structures that affect young people require clear, engaging prose that avoids self-importance. Sometimes it’s even funny. Throughout this course, you’ll practice real-world skills without which even excellent writers may founder: initiative, scheduling, public reading preparation, and a meditative habit of observing—as if the same old world were born fresh every day. Which it is.

This course is designed as a group internship in association with SafeKidsStories, a blog and social movement devoted to promoting safe havens for children and youth. You will work on and off campus, conduct workshops, curate, write, research, and publish. You will promote stories and events, including fall visits to the Penn campus by MK Asante, the filmmaker, professor, and author of the searing memoir and literacy lovesong Buck; and by David Daley, journalist and author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. You will write compact and engaging prose for blogs. You will also write Facebook posts and Tweets to accompany your own and your colleagues’ work. You will give a workshop to high-school or middle-school students, and you will edit their work for possible publication, too.

If we do the job right, we will shine a light on those among us who make young people safe in an era of fear. If we make it fun to read, look at, and listen to, then, we’ll be on our way to creating community—and stealth culture change.

This class is cross-listed with Africana Studies 134 and is an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course.


English 144.301
Speculative Fiction: Horror, Mystery and Suspense
T 1:30-4:30

Horror, mystery, and suspense: three related, misunderstood, oft-maligned genres that many assume belong only in the supermarket aisle. But for centuries, writers have been using the tropes of these evolving forms to tell stories that grapple with the very darkest of human impulses. “No one need wonder at the existence of a literature of cosmic fear,” H. P. Lovecraft wrote in 1938. “It has always existed, and always will exist; and no better evidence of its tenacious vigor can be cited than the impulse which now and then drives writers of totally opposite leanings to try their hands at it … as if to discharge from their minds certain phantasmal shapes which would otherwise haunt them.” Students should come prepared to read a wide range of published work in the field, and to craft their own canny, uncanny, and original contributions to the genres of slow-ratcheted, nigh-unbearable tension and white-knuckle, heart-pounding terror.


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

This is a course for students who love the written word and desire to advance their ability to write and craft narrative nonfiction. It is a course in applying devices of fiction to nonfiction writing without compromise of facts. Writing will be emphasized, and so will avenues of storytelling through such components as creating a narrative spine, building a dramatic plot, character development, scene-setting and use of quotes. Students must be willing to do significant reportage, since narrative nonfiction cannot exist without it. There will be concentration on writing assignments and workshopping as well as outside readings. We will examine the work of authors such as Truman Capote, Katharine Boo, John McPhee, John Hersey, Lillian Ross, Richard Ben Cramer and JR Moehringer. We will also examine some of my own books, such as Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City, 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 comprehensive narrative nonfiction piece of somewhere around 5,000 words will be required at the end of the semester. Class attendance and participation are essential. Be prepared to come to every class. The course will meet on Thursdays 4:30-7:30pm and Fridays 2-5pm on the following days: August 31 and September 1, September 14 and 15, September 28 and 29, October 12 and 13, October 26 and 27, November 9 and 10, November 30 and December 1. I will be available for one-on-one discussions: November 20 and 21 and December 7 and 8. I will also be available at any time by Skype and email. A nonfiction writing sample of any type (reported piece, narrative, essay or personal) is required for acceptance into the class. Please send your writing samples to Mingo Reynolds at Mingo Reynolds


English 145.601
Advanced Nonfiction: The Writer in the Community
M 5:30-8:30

“It is what we think we know already that prevents us from learning.” — Claude Bernard

People often talk about poverty, hunger, racism and homelessness as though “it”—whatever it is—is an “issue” or an “idea,” not a reality lived by millions of people. In this course, we will experience the creative and scholarly process of many things we do not know. Students will gather information from primary and secondary sources, learn from people within the community, and organize and write about the effects of poverty, discrimination, and homelessness on children and adults. As a community of writers, we will examine the challenges faced by low-income families and individuals who are trying to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

As a writer in the community, you will have experience of working every week as a volunteer participant in a program for adults who work as vendors in Philadelphia’s One Step Away program. This academically based community service course (ABCS) will combine an anthropological approach in field work with developing your skills as a writer, thinker, and observer. Throughout the semester, you will learn how to gather research, conduct interviews, and use primary and secondary resources – mastering in the process the literary forms of memoir, oral history, investigative journalism, and creative non-fiction.

While this seminar requires an extra time commitment outside of class, it also allows you to gain an intimate knowledge of contemporary social issues and learn to write in unexpected ways. You will have the opportunity, as Writers in the Community, to draw upon your own experience as you work in programs dedicated to transformation within our communities. Students must be active contributors and engaged learners throughout the entire semester. This work relies heavily on the class becoming a community of writers and researchers who share ideas and information. As “engaged scholars,” you will need to be present at every class for group discussions about our readings, collective reflection about our experiences, and discussing issues related to working with our partners in the community. Once we go into “the field,” be prepared to spend about nine hours a week on this course, including class, site, reading and writing time.

The writing you’ll do will include ethnographic field notes, reflective narratives, profiles, commentary, and a final essay. Our writing workshops will provide feedback and opportunities for revision. Your fluidity as a writer will also be improved by free-writing ten minutes a day and responding to the different ways other writers communicate their own experiences. You’ll have readings by a variety of authors, including Michelle Alexander and Jonathan Kozol. In the process of our work, you will also have the opportunity for publication in the homeless newspaper, One Step Away, shadow vendors for a day, and access the impact of the program’s efforts. Your final paper will include a persuasive journalistic commentary/essay about the realities and needs this program tackles and the challenges it faces within the larger community. This course is an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course.


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 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. 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
Political Writing in the Digital Age
W 2:00-5:00

A primer on writing about U.S. politics, in an era of major technological upheaval and serious voter polarization. Today's 24/7, wi-fi'd, blogging environment—along with the rise of new conservative media—are changing the ways that writers cover politics and deliver the information. The course will put all these trends in a historical context, tracing the changes that have occurred during the four decades since Theodore H. White wrote The Making of the President 1960. Students will write in different formats, including: the traditional straight story, commentary, and blogs. Outstanding and controversial work, from writers such as author Richard Ben Cramer and Hunter S. Thompson, will be studied. The course, taught by a veteran reporter of five presidential campaigns, is also valuable for followers of politics who want to become more discerning readers.


English 165.301
Writing through Marcel Duchamp
R 1:30-4:30

The visual artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) changed the course of art history with a series of artworks that radically questioned the status of the art object in ways it had never been before. Although he worked in the 20th century, his queries continue to inspire new generations of artists in the digital age. Canonized in art history, rarely have his numerous investigations been explored in literature. In this year-long class, we’ll literally be writing through Duchamp’s oeuvre, adopting his artistic strategies for the page.

What could this be? His output was so wide and ranging that any number of his works are translatable into writing prompts. His Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912), for example, could inspire cubist arrangements of words on the page; his famous found urinal, Fountain (1917), suggests that found text can be reframed as poetry; his The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (1915–23) is a portal into the world of literary surrealism; his cross-dressing alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, hints at expanded explorations of sexuality and gender; and his final work, Étant donnés (1946–66), inspires literary mediations on eroticism, violence, and death.

A rich cross between creative writing and art history, we’ll be exploring in depth the life and milieu of Duchamp. Using numerous critical and art historical texts, as well as immersing ourselves in the many hours of Duchamp on screen (interviews, art films, biographies), we’ll acquaint ourselves with many of the major figures of modernist art, music, and literature.

This course will be given in conjunction with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has the largest number of Duchamp artworks in the world. We’ll be working closely with the museum’s curators and educators, who will be able to give us unprecedented insights into the works of Duchamp. And needless to say, we’ll be spending many classes at the museum, basking in the presence of Duchamp’s masterpieces themselves.

The class will culminate in a paper-bound publication to be copublished by the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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


English 416.640

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. Students will start with a short script of 5 to 15 pages then we will focus on learning the basic tenets of dramatic structure and how this will serve as the backbone for a feature screenplay. Along the way we will read and watch classic films- Chinatown, Thelma & Louise -and contemporary films- Short Term 12, Bridesmaids -and examine what makes them successful as character driven stories. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed with an outline to guide them the rest of the way. Films and their corresponding 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 in Hollywood and independently. This is an online course and no previous screenwriting experience is necessary. Cross-listed with CIMS 416.640.


English 457.640
The Art of the Interview
R 5:30-8:10

The Art of the Interview is an MLA graduate writing seminar focused on interviews: how to prepare for them, conduct them, and write them into narrative form—whether for a profile, article, story, essay, book, documentary, radio or television show. The title of this course could also be “The Art of Listening and Gathering Stories That Matter to You.” A great interview—revelatory for both interviewee and interviewer—opens doors and leads to unexpected answers. It also requires doing your homework—with research ahead of time, and observation and an alert presence in the moment.

During the semester, we will read profiles, essays, and articles from The New Yorker and elsewhere that incorporate research and information from interviews; Q&A interviews in the quintessential Paris Review; and narratives by masters of the craft, including Studs Terkel, Richard Preston, John McPhee, and Joseph Mitchell. We’ll also listen to or watch excellent interviews conducted by Bill Moyers, Terry Gross, Crista Tibbett, and other gifted interviewers on television, radio, or podcasts.

We will examine effective (and ineffective) techniques and approaches to interviews—including direct and indirect questions, how to put your interviewee at ease, how to ask difficult questions, and how to keep the interview from becoming adversarial. You will have the opportunity to meet a number of people, including strangers, relatives, public figures, authorities, and/or peers—interviews that should generate powerful stories to strengthen our understanding of some aspect of the human condition. We will also focus on how to edit these interviews into various forms. We will explore the significance of good leads, detail, dialogue, description, and accuracy in bringing the material to life.

I hope for each student to find new ways to generate ideas and to write with more comfort, fun, and fluidity, from the inside out. I also want you to learn how to re-envision and revise your writing—what to keep, what to build upon, and what to let go. I will ask you to maintain a daily practice of free-writing; participate in peer review workshops; and write reading responses. I will also ask you to decide on an area of interest and to conduct, , and write up interviews that result in a short Q&A, a profile, and a narrative essay or article that incorporates material from the interviews.

Throughout this process, you will gain insight into the ways in which we create stories and build narratives in an effort to make sense of this complex progression of life and the experience of being human. We live at at a time in human history when we are discovering how our brains work, how our environment functions and how deeply we are interconnected with one another and all living things in this extraordinary web of life.