Courses for Spring 2021

Please note that the Advance Registration Period for Spring 2021 is November 30–December 7.

English 010.301    Intro to Creative Writing: Memoir and Creative Nonfiction    Carmen Maria Machado   R 10:30-12:00 

English 010.302    Intro to Creative Writing: Poetry and Essay    Taije Silverman    TR 10:30-12:00   

English 010.303    Intro to Creative Writing: Ordinary Life    Jess Shollenberger    R 3:00-4:30

English 010.304    Intro to Creative Writing: Speculative Pasts and Futures   Davy Knittle   T 6:00-9:00  

English 010.305   Intro to Creative Writing: Fact and Faction   Marion Kant   M 4:30-7:30 

English 010.306    Intro to Creative Writing: Imitations and Writing in Form    Ahmad Almallah    R 1:30-4:30

English 010.307    Intro to Creative Writing    Joseph Thomas    TR 12:00-1:30

English 110.401    Writing for Television    Scott Burkhardt    R 4:30-7:30

English 111.301    Rip, Remix, Burn: Music as Poetry/Poetry as Music   Kenneth Goldsmith   R 1:30-4:30 

English 112.301    Fiction Writing Workshop    Karen Rile    M 6:00-9:00   

English 113.301    Poetry Workshop   Laynie Browne   R 1:30-4:30

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

English 115.302    Advanced Fiction Writing: The Novella    Weike Wang  W 2:00-5:00   

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

English 116.402    Screenwriting    Scott Burkhardt    W 2:00-5:00   

English 116.403    Screenwriting    Scott Burkhardt    W 6:00-9:00   

English 117.301   The Arts and Popular Culture: Creativity, Self-Invention and the Music of Bruce Springsteen    Anthony DeCurtis    R 1:30-4:30  

English 118.301    Advanced Poetry Writing Workshop     Ron Silliman    W 2:00-5:00

English 120.401    The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation   Taije Silverman    TR 12:00-1:30   

English 125.401    Is This Really Happening? Performance and Contemporary Political Horizons    Brooke O'Harra, Sharon Hayes    W 5:00-8:00   

English 127.301    Writing and Borders   Ahmad Almallah   T 4:30-7:30

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

English 135.301    Essays, Fragments, Collage: The Art of the Moment    Beth Kephart    T 1:30-3:30   

English 135.302    Narrative Nonfiction: The Art of Experience    Jay Kirk    T 5:00-8:00 

English 136.401    Experimental Playwriting    Brooke O'Harra    TR 10:30-12:00 

English 137.401    Cities and Stories    Elizabeth Greenspan    M 6:30-9:30

English 138.401    Writing Center Theory and Practice    Stacy Kastner    TR 10:30-12:00   

English 140.401    Writing Towards Transformation    Ricardo Bracho    R 4:30-7:30   

English 144.301    Horror, Mystery, and Suspense Writing Workshop    Carmen Machado    R 1:30-3:00

English 145.301    Creative Nonfiction: Look In; Look Out    Lise Funderburg    M 2:00-5:00   

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

English 157.301    Introduction to Journalistic Writing    Kristen Martin    R 1:30-3:30 

English 158.401    Science, Technology, Society    Peter Tarr    T 1:30-3:30

English 160.301    Long-Form Journalism    Dick Polman    M 2:00-5:00

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

English 169.301    Advanced Writing Projects in Long-Form Nonfiction    Paul Hendrickson    TBA

English 170.301    Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture    Anthony DeCurtis    TR 12:00-1:30

English 512.640    How a Story Works: The Art of Fiction    Elysha Chang    W 5:30-8:10  

English 515.640    Storytelling in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction    Kathryn Watterson    R 5:30-8:10   


English 010.301
Intro to Creative Writing: Memoir and Creative Nonfiction
R 10:30-12:00

This workshop-style class is an introduction to the pleasures of the writing nonfiction. Students will read in a wide variety of subgenres, forms, and traditions (including memoir, criticism, lyrical and hermit-crab essays, and travel- and food-writing) and respond creatively with their own work. They will also learn how to mine their experiences and memories, do family-based historical research, generate brand-new material, discuss published and unpublished nonfiction in a critical way, and access the creative, playful side of their psyche that so many people leave dormant. We will talk about the craft of nonfiction and do periodic in-class exercises. No writing experience is necessary, but students must be willing to participate, revise their work, take risks, and be generous with themselves and others.

This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components.






English 010.302
Intro to Creative Writing: Poetry and Essay
TR 10:30-12:00

In this class, we will read and write poems and short essays. The class will follow the familiar workshop structure, alternating between critical discussions and collective conversation as we respond to each other’s writing in order to create new drafts. Emphasis will be on revision, camaraderie, and surprise. We’ll read a range of moving verse and prose by some of the most exciting contemporary writers as well as by classic figures in literature.






English 010.303
Intro to Creative Writing: Ordinary Life
R 3:00-4:30

“Question your tea spoons,” Georges Perec advised, or “that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us.” In this workshop-based course, we will follow Perec’s maxim—to attend to and interrogate the mundane objects around us—with the caveats that Life in a Pandemic has imposed. Is “ordinary life” a fantasy—a catastrophe—an ideal from Before?

How can we understand extreme political, social, and environmental conditions as embedded in the ordinary? How can we write the ordinary—how can we live in it as writers? What forms and genres does it require? How do writers represent the present, full of ordinary (as the poet Lyn Hejinian once put it)? How does identity impact the way we represent, experience, and define what’s ordinary?  

Writers reveal the ordinary: it is a realm of endless detail, fascination, and complexity; of secrets, traces, names and things remembered, vague events, found things, lost things, used things, things seen, routines and habits, artifacts; of missed connections, ambient feelings, violence, power’s operation; of resistance; of other spaces.  

We will read work by authors including Gwendolyn Brooks, Gertrude Stein, Perec, Harryette Mullen, Claudia Rankine, Bernadette Mayer, and Nicholson Baker, among others. Requirements include: engaged participation and a final portfolio of work from the semester.

This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components.






English 010.304
Intro to Creative Writing: Speculative Pasts and Futures
T 6:00-9:00

José Esteban Muñoz argues that “queerness is always in the horizon”; Kara Keeling argues that “‘Black futures’ requires acting as if that other world were here now”; Bill McKibben argued in the late 1980s of climate change that “our reassuring sense of a timeless future, which is drawn from that apparently bottomless well of the past, is a delusion.” Speculation is key to fiction, poetry, drama, and hybrid creative work that seeks to imagine other worlds, but also to work that consider other ways this world could be or might have been.

Speculating about what the future might hold has long been a strategy employed by marginalized people to imagine other ways of negotiating present dispossession. But speculation is also central to the work of climate scientists, investment bankers, and public health experts. Speculation is often used at cross-purposes. Some speculate to imagine a future that breaks with histories of violence, while others speculate to profit from existing inequalities.

Speculators variously want to know what the weather is going to be tomorrow, how fast a disease is going to spread, whether we will change our emissions practices or face mass extinction, what an anti-racist society would be like, which stock will be most profitable in six months, whether a family member with cancer has two years to live, or five, or ten. All of these forms of speculation require different forms of betting on the future, and different ways of using and working with the past.

This workshop-based course considers speculation as a primary strategy for both critical exploration and creative writing. We’ll read speculative fiction that imagines near-futures of our planet, including works such as Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous. We’ll also read ecocritical essays and hybrid works that speculate about the futures of climate change and the recent pasts of severe storms and industrial disasters, as well as short critical excerpts from queer and trans theory, Black studies, urban studies, health sciences, and economics, as we consider the various ends to which speculation is used.

In your own practice and in our workshops, you’ll be invited to write between and among forms and to draw from a wide range of disciplines and sources, including from your expertise from other areas of study. Writers working in all genres are welcome!

This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components. 






English 010.305
Intro to Creative Writing: Fact and Fiction
M 4:30-7:30

In this course, students will read literature by contemporary (and not so contemporary) writers such as Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Edna O’Brien, Angela Carter, Bell Hooks, Zadie Smith, Neil Gaiman. Students will be introduced to the craft of writing through discussions of genres, styles, techniques and themes. In workshops they will explore different kinds of fictional and non-fictional approaches to composition with an emphasis on the essay in autobiographical and biographical writing, travel writing and nature descriptions.

Students will write weekly pieces of ca 800 words that they will present in workshops throughout the semester. The assigned reading will also be analysed in class discussion. The most important elements to bring to this class are openness, tolerance and willingness to discuss and think critically and imaginatively.

No midterms, no final exams, compilation of a portfolio with the weekly essays.






English 010.306
Intro to Creative Writing: Imitations and Writing in Form
R 1:30-4:30

What is a cento? An essay? A short story? How do you go about writing one? How can writing a sonnet or a piece of dialogue both be an exercise in bringing the poetics of language to the forefront? How can the imitation of literary forms be a way into improving your writing? How does writing “a terrible sonnet” sound to you? This course works around the idea of imitation as a way of constructing generative practices of writing by setting limitations. We’ll begin by looking at examples of poetic forms and their imitations in pre-modernist and modernist works and their use of form. Eventually we’ll work on writing our own imitation and how to use them or break them into any style, including prose.






English 010.307
Intro to Creative Writing
TR 12:00-1:30

This introductory course will examine contemporary poetry, fiction and nonfiction, studying each form’s techniques, influences, and purpose, while also deriving meaning for them within our societal context, that is, how literature draws on, and subsequently speaks to, the larger world. We will ask the question, why write at all? We will consider what it means to be a writer today and make connections between readings, writers, and across genres. We will think about writing as and alongside criticism. We will read and discuss creative work as writers focused primarily on craft, in order to build new writing of our own. Writing exercises will complement our reading, granting us opportunities to generate new and interesting material that will, in some cases, manifest in our own work. Writing workshops will be a vital component of the course. We will revise aggressively.







English 110.401
Writing for Television
R 4:30-7:30

This is a workshop-style course for those who have an interest in writing for television. The course will consist of two parts: First, students will develop premise lines, beat sheets and outlines for an episode of an existing television show. Second, students will develop their own idea for a television series which will culminate in the writing of the first 30 pages of an original television pilot. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course and their experience as a writer to bujo@sas.upenn.eduThis course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 117.






English 111.301
Rip, Remix, Burn: Music as Poetry/Poetry as Music
R 1:30-4:30

This creative writing class is not about how to write good lyrics or hone a great tune; instead, it is focused on the potential of music to inspire your own writing. From theory to rhythm to structure to lyric to distribution, the world of music closely parallels that of writing. This class will survey all types of music, from pop to rap to classical to experimental sound poetry— From Duke Ellington to Sgt. Pepper to Karlheinz Stockhausen to Kanye West—as the basis for new forms of page-based poetry and prose. The class will embrace the use of technologies such as file-sharing, audio editing software, social media, and streaming platforms as tools for ripping, remixing and burning your poems. Turn it up. Make it loud. Goal of the class: from “This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band.” to “This is a lyric. This is another. This is a third. Now become a writer.






English 112.301
Fiction Writing Workshop
M 6:00-9:00

Brush up your backstory and polish your point of view! In this generative, interactive workshop we’ll investigate literary fiction technique through a series of directed prompts that will produce a portfolio of work ranging from fully realized stories to quirky experiments worthy of McSweeney’s (e.g., The Bad Writing Competition). Course readings are chosen from a diverse selection of contemporary fiction to illustrate varied approaches to the techniques we’ll explore. You’ll read, write, and workshop every week. Think of this class as CrossFit for fiction writers. This class is appropriate for experienced fiction writers of every level, from intermediate through advanced. Come prepared to take creative risks, work hard, and bring your technique to the next level. Admission to this class is by instructor permit. Please email me at with a brief introduction, plus a sample of your fiction as a .doc or .pdf attachment.






English 113.301
Poetry Workshop
R 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 and investigations of poetic form. Students will be encouraged to discover new territory, to collaborate, play, and 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. Permit from the instructor is required. Please submit a brief writing sample to






English 115.302
Advanced Fiction Writing: The Novella
W 2:00-5:00

A novel can provide a writer with endless space, and while that may be freeing or daunting, there is a common misconception that because one is writing a ‘novel,’ the story must be ‘epic’ and thus long. In this course, students will explore the medium of the novella. A novella is defined as a long story or a short novel. It an ideal form in which an narrative can expand without compromising elements of craft. How can we efficiently create a sense of world and fullness? How can we capture character in the lightest of brushstrokes? Lean prose is something students will study and learn to adapt in their own writing. Students will be expected to read six novellas and to participate in weekly workshop. Authors will include Joyce, Spark, Hempel, Murata, Torres, and Kaysen. Course requirements are a novella outline, a novella draft of approximate 40-50 pages, and final revisions. The course will mainly focus on literary fiction, and while aspects of speculative fiction are welcomed, fantasy may be difficult to accommodate. Please reach out to the instructor if you have any questions or need further clarification. Permit from the instructor is required. Please send email a 5-10-page writing sample, ideally of fiction, to  






English 116.401
DeMarco 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 kathydemarco@writing.upenn. edu. Permit from the instructor is required. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.






English 116.402
W 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 Permit from the instructor is requiredThis course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.






English 116.403
W 6:00-9:00

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 Permit from the instructor is requiredThis course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.






English 117.301
The Arts and Popular Culture: Creativity, Self-Invention and the Music of Bruce Springsteen
R 1:30-4:30

This course will focus on the songs, films, solo projects and life of Bruce Springsteen as a source of creative inspiration—which is appropriate, given that inspiration is the very blood coursing through the veins of his work. The course will, in part, take its shape based on the interests of the students who enroll in it. Bruce obsessives—you know who you are—are, of course, more than welcome. However, if you are new to his music and merely curious about how it might inspire your own creativity, your adventurousness, sense of wonder and willingness to take a deep dive into his work are all that is required. We will listen to and discuss Springsteen's songs, watch documentaries and performances, explore his influence across the arts and culture (very much including style and fashion), and meet critics and artists who have engaged his work in meaningful ways. For those reasons, the course will be more improvisatory than strictly schematic—that is, we will follow various threads in Springsteen's work as they emerge in our discussions and as our mutual fascination guides us. The goal is for us to achieve an understanding of his work that is as visceral as it is intellectual. The class will do some analytic and critical writing, of course. But students who are so inclined will be encouraged to pursue their own creative work—which is to say that, in consultation with the instructor, short stories, songs, poems, plays, paintings, photography or videos inspired by Springsteen's songs will be acceptable projects to complete the course's requirements. You will be allowed a great deal of freedom in charting your own independent course, in other words, as appropriate to our subject and the gift his work has given to us all.





English 118.301
Advanced Poetry Writing Workshop
W 2:00-5:00

This workshop will explore not only advanced writing techniques in poetry but also the poem’s evolving relationship to the artifact of the book in the age of the web. Poetry invariably oscillates between a focus on its materials and its capacity to invoke (and challenge) worlds. The best contemporary poetry, regardless of emphasis and commitments, no longer is simply a hodgepodge of recent writing. Students will create a manuscript of at least 20 pages that both demonstrates excellence and internal coherence, but which pushes the twin notions of poetry and book into new territory. This is not a class on intermedia, although intermedia may occur. In addition to intensely workshopping our writing, we will also read texts that exemplify and challenge the book as horizon, including work by Claudia Rankine, Divya Victor, Bhanu Kapil, Susan Briante and others. A focal text will be Jacket2’s feature on Conceptual Writing (plural and global) and other cultural productions.






English 120.401
The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation 
TR 12:00-1:30

“Cultures that do not translate stagnate, and end up repeating the same things to themselves." —Eliot Weinberger

 In this class we will study and translate major figures in 20th-century poetry, including Aimé Césaire, Shu Ting, Wisława Szymborska, Dahlia Ravikovitch, Yun Dong-ju, Mahmoud Darwish, Anna Akhmatova, Paul Celan, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Giuseppe Ungaretti. Biographies of these poets will reveal how historical events (from Franco's dictatorship in Spain to the birth of modern Senegal) have intertwined to influence each other and shape who we are today. The curriculum will be tailored to the linguistic backgrounds of students who enroll, and some knowledge of another language is necessary, but all those curious about world poetry are welcome. We will study multiple translations of major poems and render our own versions in response. Students familiar with 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 discussions will explore the contexts and particularity of poetry written in Urdu, Italian, Arabic, French, Bulgarian, and Polish (to name a few), they may ultimately reveal how notions of national literature have shifted in recent years to more polyglottic and globally textured forms. Through famous poems, essays on translation theory, and our own experiments, this course will celebrate the ways in which great poetry underscores the fact that language itself is a translation. In addition to 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 125.401
Is This Really Happening? Performance and Contemporary Political Horizons 
O'Harra, Hayes
W 5:00-8:00

This class addresses the meeting points inside of and between a range of resistant performance practices with a focus on artists using performance to address political and social encounters in the contemporary moment.

Performance, a chaotic and unruly category that slides across music, dance, theater and visual art, has long been a container for resistant actions/activities that bring aesthetics and politics into dynamic dialogue. Embracing works, gestures, movements, sounds and embodiments that push against and beyond the conventions of a given genre, performance can’t help but rub uncomfortably against the status quo. Scholars working across Performance Studies and Black Studies importantly expanded critical discourse around performance to address the entanglement of the medium with physical, psychic, spatial and temporal inhabitations of violence and power. Generating copious genealogies of embodied resistance, this scholarship instigates a complex, interdisciplinary and multidimensional perspective on intersections between art and life, performance and politics.

The class hosts a series of public lectures, presentations and performances by visual artists, choreographers, theater artists, composers/musicians, performers, curators and activists engaged with the social and political moment. Presentations will be open to the public with students in the course developing in-depth research into the work of each visiting artist/performer/presenter to engage the larger context of each visitor’s scholarship and/or practice through readings, discussion and in-class presentations.

This course is open to all interested students. No prior requisites or experience with performance or the performing arts is necessary. For Spring 2021, the public lectures, presentations, performances and class meetings will be adjusted to protocols and current conditions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This means most events will be virtual with the possibility of a live outdoor event. This course is cross-listed with Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies 086 and Fine Arts 086.






English 127.301
Writing and Borders
T 4:30-7:30

This workshop is, first of all, about writings that are influenced by crossings, borders, and war. But it is also about writing that exceeds the limits of form to arrive at the poetic; when the drive to put down experience in poems spills out into prose (and vice versa), or when the borders of poetic form seem to be incapable of holding or transferring experience into language. Essentially we will explore how writing influenced by borders seeks to occupy space, not in the real sense, but in the abstract—where language and content are always in tension with one another to achieve new forms, or where writing, as one poet and critic puts it “gains distinction not from content, but from what content demands—the renewal of poetic resources.” We will also explore the possibilities of these statements in our own experimentations to achieve form in poetry and prose.






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 kathydemarco@writing.upenn. edu. Permit from the instructor is required. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 130.






English 135.301
Essays, Fragments, Collage: The Art of the Moment
T 1:30-3:30

Memory arrives in fragments. Truth erupts; it finds us. A button on a sweater flashes us back to a day of gift giving. A childhood book recalls the one who read the tale out loud. In this class we’ll explore the moments of our lives through prompts that range from the tactile to the auditory, the documented to the whispered. We’ll produce and share miniature essays. We’ll create, as a final product, a curated memoir-in-essays. We’ll take inspiration from writers such as Margaret Renkl, Charles D’Ambrosio, Durga Chew-Bose, Elissa Washuta, Brian Doyle, Marc Hamer, and Alexander Chee.

This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components.






English 135.302
Narrative Nonfiction: The Art of Experience
T 5:00-8:00

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 136.401
Experimental Playwriting
TR 10:30-12:00

In this course, students will write scripts for theater and performance. Writers in the class will take cues from a myriad of experimental playwrights and performance artists who have challenged conventional ideas of what a script should look and sound like. Students will be asked to challenge how narrative is constructed, how characters are built and what a setting can be. This class will push beyond the formal structures of the well-made play script and address how writers use form and language to celebrate cultures or as a means for radical change in the field of performance. Some playwrights we will read include Gertrude Stein, Suzan-Lori Parks, Maria Irene Fornes, Robert O’Hara, Young Jean Lee, John Jesurun, and Toshiki Okada. This class is ideal for playwrights, performers, screenwriters, and writers of experimental fiction. This course is cross-listed with Theatre Arts 116. 






English 137.401
Cities and Stories
M 6:30-9:30

So much of what we know about cities comes from the stories we tell about them. This course takes the-city-in-stories as both our subject and our muse. We will work across genres and disciplines, reading a mix of fiction and nonfiction in which cities figure prominently, from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities to Sarah Broom’s Yellow House. We’ll go from Mumbai, in Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, to Oakland, in Tommy Orange’s There There. With each text, we’ll examine how the city is represented, including what and who we see and don’t see, and the role it plays in the narrative. We’ll also explore the author’s craft and write our own creative nonfiction about city streets and neighborhoods. The class will be part discussion-based seminar and part peer-review writing workshop. It is open to both creative writing and urban studies students excited to explore the intersections between our stories, our cities, and ourselves. This course is cross-listed with Urban Studies 350.

This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components.






English 138.401
Writing Center Theory and Practice
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. This course is cross-listed with WRIT (Writing Program) 138. For more information, visit the Critical Writing Program.







English 140.401
Writing Towards Transformation
R 4:30-7:30

Writing Towards Transformation is a critical and creative writing workshop focused on developing work across genres that express and elaborate upon current and historical conditions of crisis and injustice.  Using guided meditation, critical feedback and healthy, ethical discussion, the students of the class will develop manuscripts of poems, short stories, essays, plays and/or screenplays that in some way articulate their analysis of the present and the past towards a transformative future.  We will read essays, manifestos, theater and fiction as well as view films that will hopefully inspire each student to develop texts and scripts of hope.

Writers will include Gary Indiana, Valeria Solanas, June Jordan, Bertolt Brecht, Cherrie Moraga, Leslie Feinberg and Toni Cade Bambara, among many others. The course is cross-listed with Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies 514 and Latin American and Latinx Studies 514







English 144.301
Horror, Mystery, and Suspense Writing Workshop
R 1:30-3:00

Horror, mystery, and suspense: three sister genres with disreputable reputations and dedicated readerships. But far from being niche, these genres in fact make up the very backbone of all fiction writing. Within them lie the blueprints for understanding and mastering character, plot, the building and releasing of tension, and the unsettling recesses of the human psyche. “No one need wonder at the existence of a literature of [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 if to discharge from their minds certain phantasmal shapes which would otherwise haunt them.” Whether you’re a horror enthusiast, a scaredy-cat, a curious novice, or simply interested in discharging from your mind certain phantasmal shapes which would otherwise haunt you, I invite you to come and confront the darkness. Participants in this course will read a wide range of published work in the field, and eventually craft their own canny, uncanny, and original contributions to the genres of slow-ratcheted, nigh-unbearable tension and white-knuckle, heart-pounding terror.

This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components.






English 145.301
Creative Nonfiction: Look In; Look Out
M 2:00-5:00

In this nonfiction workshop you will enlist essay and memoir genres to explore connections between the personal and the universal: in other words, your experience matters … but why? Here’s a chance to write your way to understanding, clarity and resonance. We’ll experiment with narrative stance and form (such as lyric, hermit crab, braided, and epistolary), and you’ll write. A lot. Several longer essays and a handful of shorter ones that will be generated by guided freewrites. Most of these will be revised at least once. Aside from general guidance, the subject matter of your work is open and up to you. Take advantage of the city that surrounds you. The questions and answers you’ve stumbled across. The way life has surprised you, perplexed you, made you laugh, held you back, set you free.

Creative nonfiction is an art form that calls on both the literary techniques of fiction and the reporting strategies of journalism. In addition to writing, we’ll use class exercises and discussions of readings to address technical issues such as narrative/thematic tension, transition, character development, dialogue, point of view, characterization, imagery, structure, tone, style, and how to research your life. Through careful attention to your work as well as that of your peers, expect to become a stronger writer, a better reader, and an enthusiastic reviser.






English 156.301
Writing from Photographs
M 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 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 1965 red-leather, bucket-seat Mustang. 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 1:30-3:30

Journalists hold great responsibility in society: they must assess the newsworthiness of events, issues, and people in the world; gather and verify facts; and present those facts—as well as the perspectives of people affected by and driving the news—in clear and engaging prose. Journalism exists to inform and empower readers to come to their own decisions and opinions, whether it be breaking or straight news, investigative reporting, profiles, features, commentary, or criticism. 

In this workshop, we will hone skills key to writing a variety of journalistic articles: finding stories, interviewing, reporting, researching, and understanding and engaging with audiences. For models, we will read from a wide range of newspapers, magazines, and websites. We may consider works ranging from the staff of the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s series on the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, to Sarah Maslin Nir’s New York Times investigation on the exploitative working conditions of nail salons, to Adam Serwer’s political commentary for The Atlantic, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s profile of Dave Chappelle for The Believer, and Kathryn Schulz’s New Yorker feature on the Cascadia fault line and the inevitability of a massive earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, students will write a straight news article, a profile, a work of commentary or criticism, and a feature. 

This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements.






English 158.401
Science, Technology, Society
T 1:30-3:30

Millions of Americans are science-illiterate; a growing number are "science-deniers." This state of affairs was brought to light as never before in the uneven response to expert advice during the COVID-19 pandemic.  There is much confusion about science and technology as reported in the press. Are GMOs dangerous?  Does climate change pose a threat we need to act upon now? Should biologists be permitted to “edit” germline cells? Is data privacy something we should no longer expect?  This workshop is for students interested in using popular science writing to broaden public understanding of such questions. The premise is that good sci-tech writing should help the public assess the role of science in society. Each student will produce 4 polished pieces of writing (3 fact-based op-eds of 750 words + a scientist-profile of 1500-2000 words) about scientists and sci-tech subject matter, based on a range of techniques that all journalists must master: quickly researching a topic; identifying interviewees and performing interviews; focusing the story; and writing and rewriting story drafts. The object is to show improvement between first and subsequent drafts, with help from others in the workshop, who will provide periodic short critiques. 

Students will also participate in asynchronous 1-on-1 check-ins with the instructor twice during the semester and will be encouraged to participate in meetings with one another to consult on semester projects, at their discretion.

This course is cross-listed with Science, Technology, and Society 118This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous elements.






English 160.301
Long-Form Journalism
M 2:00-5:00

We’ll be reading and workshopping some of our most adventurous, pioneering nonfiction reporter/writers. At the same time, we’ll also shepherding semester-long projects that are due during exam period. The so-called “New Journalists” have thrived ever since the iconoclastic 1960s—the era when the craft was first developed and practiced. The term itself is very imprecise—the “New Journalists” were fiercely independent of each other, employing a wide range of reportorial and stylistic techniques not previously seen in American nonfiction—and their styles differ. But they’ve shared one fundamental trait. In the words of Marc Weingarten, who authored a book about the original New Journalists (The Gang that Wouldn’t Write Straight), they’ve all aspired to practice “journalism that reads like fiction” yet “rings with the truth of reported fact.”

We’ll closely parse some of their work, not because they are products of long-distant eras, but precisely because their novelistic techniques—narrative storytelling, dramatic arcs and scenes, structural cliffhangers, shifting points of view, author’s voice, dialogue as action—are routinely employed by the best long-form journalists today. Indeed, many contemporary journalists take these techniques for granted, perhaps unaware of their origins.

But this is not just a reading course. The ultimate goal is for each student to take the best of these techniques and use them in the reporting and writing of a long-form nonfiction piece that is due at the semester’s end. Each student will nurture one project from January to early May. And during the semester, we will schedule the time to workshop these works in progress—with class feedback and feedback from the instructor, functioning as an editor would.






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

“Choose someone who touches some corner of the reader’s life.”—William Zinsser, on profile-writing

 We’ll explore—and practice—some of the key elements of profile-writing: gaining access to the profile subject; conducting an effective interview and extracting quotes that reveal the person; observing the profile subject in action, and extracting details that reveal the person; making the profile subject compelling—and, ideally, relatable—for the reader. We’ll also debate issues that have long challenged profile writers: How do you persuade complete strangers to share compelling details of their public or private lives? What are the best ways to assemble the essential ingredients of a good profile: facts, quotes, and/or anecdotes? Do you tape the interviews or just take notes? How can you best structure a profile in order to keep the reader’s attention? Is it possible to write a profile if the person won’t talk—or if the person is deceased? Is it better to quote at length—or merely to observe? When, and under what circumstance, should the writer insert his or her judgment/voice into the profile story? On the other hand, is there sometimes a problem of having too much access? Beyond all that, is it even possible to capture the essence of a person on the written page? Are you a friend, a confidante, or a manipulator? A journalist at The New Yorker once said that a writer’s relationship with the profile subject is “a kind of love affair”—but, 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? All told, profile reporting challenges one’s social skills. How good are yours?






English 169.301
Advanced Writing Projects in Long-Form Nonfiction

An advanced course in long-form nonfiction journalistic writing for a select group of experienced and self-starting student writers. (Ideally, each accepted member will have already taken one or two nonfiction seminars within the creative writing program.) The goal will be to tailor a reporting and writing project to your interest, one you may have long wished to take up but never had the opportunity. It could be a project in the arts. It could be a profile of a person or place. It might be documentary in nature, which is to say an extremely close-up observation of your subject. (An example: think of a hospital chaplain at Penn, going on his dreary, redemptive, daily rounds, to visit the sick and anoint the dying. What if you were there, for most of the term, as unobtrusively as possible, at his black-clad elbow?) The group will meet at to-be-determined intervals. In between, the enrollees will be pairing off and in effect serving as each other’s editor and coach and fellow (sister) struggler. When we do assemble as a group, we will be reading to each other as well as discussing the works of some long-form heroes—Didion, Talese, Richard Ben Cramer, one or two others you may not have heard of. In essence, this is a kind of master course, limited in enrollment, and devoted to your piece of writing, to be handed in on the final day. It will be in the range of 25 to 30 pages, something above 8,000 words. The course presumes a lot of individual initiative and self-reliance. If you’re interested, please email and suggest your qualifications. Permission to enroll is required.






English 170.301
Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture
TR 12:00-1:30

This advanced course in writing about the arts and popular culture (interpreted broadly) is limited in enrollment and focuses on a semester-long project that each student defines in consultation with the instructor. The course will be run something like a group independent study, in which students pursue their specific, personal projects and share their work on an ongoing basis with the class as a whole. Ideally, students will informally serve as each other’s editors, sharing suggestions, sources, approaches and encouragement. 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 individual projects that will constitute the course’s main work. Most typically, the semester-long project will be a lengthy feature (6,000+ words) of the sort that regularly appears in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine or Rolling Stone, among other publications. Other approaches to the project, however, will certainly be considered. Readings for the course will be geared specifically to the interests of the students who have been selected, and will be drawn from relevant work that is appearing at that time in journalistic publications. Ideally, applicants will have already taken English 117 with the instructor, but that is not a firm prerequisite and other students should absolutely feel free to contact the instructor for more information. A permit is required to join the course. Please send an email describing your interest to 







English 512.640
How a Story Works: The Art of Fiction
W 5:30-8:10

This course will introduce you to the fundamentals of writing fiction. Over the semester, we will explore the formal underpinnings of narrative art, emphasizing craft techniques such as how characters work, the way in which a story develops, and the lyrical use of language. Together we will write, discuss, dissect, experiment, create, and read works by authors such as James Baldwin, Alexander Chee, Yiyun Li, Lesley Nnecka Arimah, Edna O'Brien, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Kirsten Valdez Quade, and others. Class discussions and workshops will focus on reading the work of these writers from a writer’s perspective. We will learn from each other what we, both as writers and readers, respond to, and encourage one another to write as freely as possible. This course is appropriate both for students with previous creative writing experience and for students trying fiction writing for the first time.






English 515.640
Storytelling in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction
R 5:30-8:10

Storytelling is an art form that can be applied to many endeavors in life. This class is designed to help students shape the stories they want to tell--stories that come from the experiences and imagination of the individual writer. During the semester, we will be inspired by a wide range of writers, including James Baldwin, Jeanette Winterson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, John McPhee, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Radcliffe Hall, Lorna Goodison, Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The books, stories, and essays we read and discuss will offer opportunities to talk about powerful writing that explores themes such as love, war, racism, poverty, freedom, death, and the resilience of the human spirit. Turning a personal lens on individual stories can take storytellers and their listeners to a new level of understanding of our shared human experience. The more personal a story, the more intimately told, the more universal it becomes. In addition to in-class exercises that help participants tap into and visualize what they are writing, students will be asked to free write for 10-15 minutes daily. Prompts will help generate creative responses to assigned books, essays, stories, films and speakers, and students will work in teams to lead and participate in workshop discussions and contribute to peer review. Any questions about this class can be sent to me at