Courses for Spring 2022

Course Selection Period ends January 25th.


English 010.301    Intro to Creative Writing: Writing Asian American Lives    Piyali Bhattacharya   TR 10:15-11:45 


English 010.302    Intro to Creative Writing: Through the 1619 Project    Taije Silverman    TR 12:00-1:30   


English 010.303    Intro to Creative Writing: The Company We Keep    Michelle Taransky    M 3:30-6:30


English 010.304    Intro to Creative Writing: Imitations and Writing in Form    Ahmad Almallah    R 1:45-4:45  
 

English 010.305    Worlding Otherwise: The Ecological Act of Writing    Knar Gavin    M 5:15-8:15


English 110.401    Writing for Television    Scott Burkhardt     W 5:15-8:15


English 111.301    Experimental Writing    Simone White    R 1:45-4:45


English 112.301    Fiction Writing Workshop    Karen Rile    R 3:30-6:30  


English 112.302    Fiction Writing Workshop    Ali Castleman    W 5:15-8:15


English 112.303    Flash Fiction    Sebastian Castillo    M 5:15-8:15 
 

English 113.301    Poetry Writing Workshop    Laynie Browne    T 1:45-4:45


English 115.301    Advanced Fiction Writing    Max Apple    T 1:45-4:45
 

English 115.302    Advanced Fiction Writing: Longform    Weike Wang    M 1:45-4:45   


English 116.401    Screenwriting    Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve    M 1:45-4:45   


English 116.402    Screenwriting    Scott Burkhardt    W 1:45-4:45   


English 116.403    Screenwriting    Scott Burkhardt    R 5:15-8:15   


English 117.301    Station to Station: The Art and Life of David Bowie    Anthony DeCurtis    R 1:45-4:45


English 118.301    Advanced Poetry Workshop    Ron Silliman    W 1:45-4:45  


English 120.401    The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation    Taije Silverman    TR 10:15-11:45


English 121.301    Writing for Young Adults    Nova Ren Suma    W 1:45-4:45


English 124.401    Writing and Politics    Lorene Cary    W 5:15-8:15


English 126.301    The Art of Editing    Julia Bloch    T 10:15-1:15


English 127.301    Writing and Borders    Ahmad Almallah    T 1:45-4:45


English 130.401    Advanced Screenwriting    Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve    W 1:45-4:45  
 

English 133.401    Self-Scripting: Writing through Body and Space    Brooke O'Harra    TR 10:15-11:45  


English 135.301    Narrative Nonfiction: The Art of Experience    Jay Kirk    W 5:15-8:15 


English 135.302    Essays, Fragments, Collage: The Art of the Moment    Beth Kephart    T 1:45-4:45


English 137.401    Cities and Stories    Elizabeth Greenspan    T 5:15-8:15


English 138.401    Writing Center Theory and Practice    Stacy Kastner    TR 10:15-11:45


English 138.402    Community-Engaged Writing Theory and Fieldwork    Valerie Ross    W 10:15-1:15  


English 145.301    Advanced Creative Nonfiction Writing: Look In; Look Out    Lise Funderburg    M 1:45-4:45   


English 149.401    Performing Parables: Ragas and Sagas of Sundarban    Amitav Ghosh, Ali Sethi, and Brooke O'Harra    MW 3:30-5:00


English 156.301    Writing from Photographs    Paul Hendrickson    M 1:45-4:45


English 158.401    Science, Technology, Society    Peter Tarr    T 1:45-4:45


English 159.301    Political Journalism at the Crossroads    Dick Polman    W 1:45-4:45


English 160.301    Long-Form Journalism    Dick Polman    M 1:45-4:45


English 165.301    Writing through Culture and Art    Kenneth Goldsmith    R 3:30-6:30


English 169.301    Advanced Writing Projects in Long-Form Nonfiction    Paul Hendrickson    T 1:45-4:45


English 170.301    Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture    Anthony DeCurtis    R 10:15-1:15

 

Master of Liberal Arts courses

Please note that these courses are generally not open to Penn undergraduate students. For information about the MLA program, visit the College of Liberal and Professional Studies.


English 507.640    Writing for Young Readers    Lanre Akinsiku     T 5:15-8:15 (Online)
 

English 514.640    Writing Experiments    Christy Davids    W 5:15-8:15 (Online)


English 581.640    Learning from James Baldwin    Kitsi Watterson    R 5:15-8:15

 

Descriptions

English 010.301
Intro to Creative Writing: Writing Asian American Lives
Bhattacharya
TR 10:15-11:45

Kids know more about dinosaurs than they do about Asian Americans.” So says Dr. Karen Su, founding director of PAACH (Pan-Asian American Community House) at Penn, and though she’s talking about children’s literature, her sentiment might apply to adults, too. Who are the Asian Americans? What does it mean to be non-Black POC in this country? How do religion, ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, and immigration status define this group? How do we discuss all this while being inclusive of both “us” and “them”? This course will explore these questions through the lens of an introductory fiction, nonfiction, and poetry creative writing workshop. We’ll follow the traditional workshop format of critiquing each other’s short stories, essays, and poems in class, along with close reading works by authors as established as Jhumpa Lahiri, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Amy Tan, and as contemporary as Lisa Ko, Bushra Rehman, Ocean Vuong, and Mira Jacob. We’ll use these texts as springboards to examine representations of identity, inclusion, and exclusion, and we’ll be invited to consider these representations in the media around us as well as in our local communities. Finally, we’ll think through how we can contribute to discussions of these topics with our own artistic voices. 


 

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English 010.302
Intro to Creative Writing: Through the 1619 Project
Silverman
TR 12:00-1:30PM

This introductory creative writing workshop offers an opportunity to hone writing skills through the framework of Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 Project, an overview of our nation’s history that begins with the year kidnapped African people were first sold into slavery here. We will read work by scholars, poets, and writers (including Eve L. Ewing, Tyehimba Jess, Yusuf Komenyakaa, Jesmyn Ward, and Rita Dove) and listen to the 1619 Project podcast in order to enter into its brilliant conversation about the realities and legacies of American slavery.

In addition to discussion and in-class exercises, students will write, workshop, and revise several poems and short essays throughout the semester. Through our study of this country’s foundations, we will explore narrative registers, hone craft, and engage the fraught marriage between personal and collective histories. 

 

 

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English 010.303
Intro to Creative Writing: The Company We Keep
Taransky
M 3:30-6:30PM

In this creative writing workshop we’ll focus on the politics, poetics and powers of naming while we craft our own original works of poetry and creative nonfiction. We will read both historical and contemporary writing from a number of different movements and schools, including the New York School, New Narrative, Confessional, and New Sincerity, whose writers choose to name names as part of the writing process. We’ll consider what acknowledging coterie and in-crowds accomplishes for the writer, and we’ll ask what happens when the company we keep is named—or not named—in our work. We will ask: if proper poems and narratives were long written without proper names, what does it mean for a writer to look toward coterie and kinship and popular culture as part of the writing process? Is gossip a legitimate form of art? We will focus on the syntax of names as a frame with which to think about the works we read and the pieces we write. Students will be expected to complete regular writing and reading assignments, to workshop the writing of their peers, and to complete a final portfolio of original writing.

 

 

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English 010.304
Intro to Creative Writing: Imitations and Writing in Form
Almallah
R 1:45-4:45

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.

 

 

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English 010.305
Worlding Otherwise: The Ecological Act of Writing
Gavin
M 5:15-8:15

In Worlding Otherwise, we’ll tend our impulses toward ecological forms of literary expression. This class is about writing as communing, or, as Stephen Collis puts it, “what all life does” — “the radical sharing of the means and materials of existence.” Light research, archival exploration, and engagements with manifestos from social movements are a few methods of textual encounter that might animate our writing practices. You’ll be encouraged to document, imaginatively reinhabit, and remediate places and histories of concern. If there are particular social, environmental, or political urgencies that have been beckoning to you, follow them — and then pull them onto the page! And for those who feel driven to write spaces of refuge into existence, this workshop will hold space for that refuge-making.

Kaia Sand has suggested the possibility of forming “a small society around the poetic act.” We’ll embrace this notion as we work within and press beyond traditional genres (poetry, memoir, and fiction among them) to attend to publics, histories, and environments of concern. Reading and writing together as a small, temporary society, our workshop will invest care and curiosity into each text’s operations on the level of theme, style, form and content. We’ll also think about the ecological and social horizons that emerge in our writings: what sorts of social worlds and modes of ecological relation might we choreograph, script, and prefigure in our stories, poems, and mixed-genre experiments?

Course requirements include comradely participation, regular short assignments, and a final portfolio. Many assignments are genre-flexible: this flexibility is designed to retain space for experimentation, exploration, and documentary practice. Writers we will read include Susan Briante, Renee Gladman, Rebecca Solnit, C.S. Giscombe, and Mark Nowak.

 

 

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English 110.401
Writing for Television
Burkhardt
W 5:15-8:15

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 course instructor email: Scott BurkhardtThis course is cross-listed with CIMS117.

 

 

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English 111.301
Experimental Writing 
White
R 1:45-4:45

In this course, we consider the limits and effects of literary forms -- writing itself, a limit -- always returning to the question of the thorny and not altogether distinct relationships between form and content, orthodoxy and refusal. We will read statements of writers protesting constraint, writers recommending constraint; what about writers who work with sound? with video? who use their bodies in the work? Weekly writing assignments and a final independent project.

 

 

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English 112.301
Fiction Writing Workshop
Rile
R 3:30-6:30

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.

 

 

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English 112.302
Fiction Writing Workshop
Castleman
W 5:15-8:15

In this fiction writing workshop, we will be making a conscious effort to transcend our personal reading and writing preferences to be apprenticed by visceral, divergent literature—aesthetic achievements centered around objective life, subjective reality, and ecstatic confession and play! Most of the works that tend to affect us deeply are the ones that might have wearied us, or even greatly disturbed us. But in time, upon further reflection, we find them rather informative—or even illuminating! We will do a lot of new weekly writing, which will result in a draft and a final version of an original prose piece. You and another classmate will be “hosting” at least two classes in open discussion of a weekly reading or film and critiquing each other’s drafts—focusing on craft rather than content, aesthetics rather than plot. You will challenge your self-censorship in a safe and supportive environment and will read weekly what you write to develop your observational and listening skills in determining the effects of the spoken word: you will emote! emote! emote!

 

 

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English 112.303
Flash Fiction 
Castillo 
M 5:15-8:15

This writing workshop is devoted to the shortest forms of fiction. We will consider the art of condensation, brevity, sudden stories, and microfiction. We’ll read a large array of arresting work written in both English and in English translation. Assigned readings will include the writing of Lydia Davis, Diane Williams, Robert Walser, Vi Khi Nao, Garielle Lutz, Can Xue, Russell Edson, Daniil Kharms, and several others. The majority of our workshops will focus on creating our own very short stories through a variety of styles and approaches.

 

 

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English 113.301
Poetry Writing Workshop
Browne
T 1:45-4:45

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.

 

 

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English 115.301
Advanced Fiction Writing
Max Apple
T 1:45-4:45

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 maxapple@gmail.com.

 

 

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English 115.302
Advanced Fiction Writing: Longform
Wang
M 1:45-4:45

A longform fiction project 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 longform fiction, the story must be “epic” and lengthy. In this course, students will tackle one project/story for the semester. We will read six novellas and hold regular workshops. Authors will include Nunez, Spark, Hempel, Murata, Torres and Ackerman. Course requirements are a project outline, a draft of approximately 40 pages written over the course of the semester, 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. This course is also ideal for any creative writing student considering the creative thesis and are looking for early guidance. Please reach out to the instructor if you have any questions or need further clarification.

 

 

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English 116.401
Screenwriting
DeMarco Van Cleve
M 1:45-4:45

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens.

Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor: Kathy DeMarco Van CleveThis course is cross-listed with CIMS 116.

 

 

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English 116.402
Screenwriting
Burkhardt
W 1:45-4:45

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens.

Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor: Scott BurkhardtThis course is cross-listed with CIMS 116.

 

 

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English 116.403
Screenwriting
Burkhardt
R 5:15-8:15

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens.

Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor: Scott BurkhardtThis course is cross-listed with CIMS 116.

 

 

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English 117.301
Station to Station: The Art and Life of David Bowie
DeCurtis
R 1:45-4:45

This course will focus on the songs, films, performances, painting, gender play and self-invention and reinvention of David Bowie as a source of creative inspiration. The course will, in part, take its shape based on the interests of the students who enroll in it. Bowie 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 Bowie's songs, watch documentaries and performances, explore his influence across the arts and culture (very much including style and fashion), and engage critics and artists who have grappled with 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 Bowie'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 Bowie's life and music 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, who regarded his very life as a work of art under endless, restless revision.

 

 

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English 118.301
Advanced Poetry Workshop
Silliman
W 1:45-4:45

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 notion of book itself into new territory. This is not a class on intermedia. In addition to intensely workshopping our writing, we will also read texts that exemplify the book as horizon, including Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All, Lyn Hejinian’s The Unfollowing, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Divya Victor’s Kith, the conceptual anthology I’ll Drown My Book and the even more conceptual Flarf anthology.

 

 

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English 120.401
The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation
Silverman
TR 10:15-11:45

“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 written 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.

 

 

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English 121.301
Writing for Young Adults 
Suma
W 1:45-4:45

Young adult literature is powerful, inventive, and worthy of respect—and those writing it have enormous potential in their hands. Part workshop and part seminar, this class will explore the craft of YA literature through creative assignments and readings of texts by both giants in the field and emerging voices, and discussions of student work in a constructive environment. Students will focus on craft concerns crucial to writing about and for teens, such as: voice, point of view, immediacy, pacing, and opening hooks, and we will look beyond straightforward prose into forms such as epistolary and verse novels and other experimental mashups. Students will create writing of their own that pushes the boundaries of form and content, drawing on some of the many possibilities in YA literary fiction such as blurred genres, retellings, and issues of identity and self-discovery. Authors we will study as inspirations and models may include Elizabeth Acevedo, Libba Bray, Malinda Lo, Samantha Mabry, Kekla Magoon, Jennifer Mathieu, Anna-Marie McLemore, Emily X.R. Pan, Randy Ribay, Nicola Yoon, and Ibi Zoboi. Come ready to challenge any preconceptions you may have about YA literature and examine what some believe is its greatest potential: to offer young readers a vehicle for recognizing themselves, and for reflecting and even transforming the world around them. Students will write short pieces throughout the semester as well as the opening chapters of their own YA novels. They will produce a final portfolio of creative work that showcases their unique YA voice, with potential for further exploration beyond the confines of this class.

 

 

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English 124.401
Writing and Politics
Cary
W 5:15-8:15

This is a course for students who are looking for ways to use their writing to participate in our democracy. We don't just talk about it; we do it, in real time. Student writers will use many forms--short essay, blogs, social media posts, mini video- or play scripts, podcasts--and consider lots of topics as they publish with #VoteThatJawn. This multimedia platform popped up in 2018 to support youth registration and voting in Philadelphia's midterm elections. Registration of 18-year-olds that year doubled: from 3,300 to nearly 7,000. Then in the 2020 election, #VoteThatJawn continued to hype Philadelphia 18-year-olds. Our youngest voting cohort followed up strong registration with even stronger turnout--70%; that's 4% higher than older voters!

Imagine a Creative Writing class that answers our desire to live responsibly in the world and to have a say in the systems that govern and structure us. In the process students learn to write with greater clarity, precision, and whatever special-sauce Jawn your voice brings. The course is designed as an editorial group sharing excellent, non-partisan, fun, cool, sometimes deadly earnest content for and about fresh voters. We'll plan and stockpile for the next election. In addition, you will gain experience in activities that writers in all disciplines need to know: producing an arts-based event and social media campaign, working with multimedia content, and collaborating with other writers and artists. This initiative has already effected change. How will your writing help take it to the next level?

Because #VoteThatJawn performs a civic service, it is listed as an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course. Don't sit out history. Your work can bring other youth to the polls.

This course is cross-listed with AFRC124.

 

 

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English 126.301
The Art of Editing
Bloch
T 10:15-1:15

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

 

 

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English 127.301
Writing and Borders
Almallah 
T 1:45-4:45

This workshop is about experiments in writing that exceeds the limits of form: when the drive to put down experience in poems spills out into prose, or when the borders provided for the experience seem to hold for the moment, only to collapse the moment after. This particular writing drive seeks to occupy space, not in the real sense, but in the abstract—where the insider goes out, and the outsider hides in. This ever-acting dichotomy in writing poems is often brought out in times of personal crisis, but most distinctly in times of conflict and war (and where the lines and borders on the ground need to be drawn clearly, the disillusionment with the human self provides a most fertile ground for breaking out of the poem, for seeking the poetic outside defined lines). We will explore the possibilities of these statements in our own experimentations in achieving form in a poem, and then breaking out of it in prose. We will be guided in this process by some of the following texts: 1. modern rewritings of The Iliad, such as War Music by Chris Logue and Memorial by Alice Oswald; 2. autobiographies such as The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster and The Words by Jean-Paul Sartre; and 3. the poems and prose of poets such as W.B. Yeats, Zbigniew Herbert, Paul Celan, and Mahmoud Darwish.

 

 

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English 130.401
Advanced Screenwriting
DeMarco Van Cleve
W 1:45-4:45

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.

Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor: Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve. This course is cross-listed with CIMS 130.

 

 

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English 133.401
Self-Scripting: Writing through Body and Space
O'Harra
TR 10:15-11:45
 

In Self-Scripting, students will write through a variety of exercises and activities that put text into play
with the body and space. Over the course of the semester, students will actively engage space and
composition as they develop and explore scriptwriting for performance. We will explore exercises in an
active laboratory setting. This course aims to expand on techniques for writing plays, poetry, and
experimental biography. This class is cross-listed with Theatre Arts.

 

 

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English 135.301
Narrative Nonfiction: The Art of Experience
Kirk
W 5:15-8:15

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.

 

 

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English 135.302
Essays, Fragments, Collage: The Art of the Moment
Kephart
T 1:45-4:45

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, each week, miniature essays. We’ll create, as a final product, a curated memoir-in-essays. We’ll take inspiration from writers such as Sonja Livingston, Arisa White, Charles D’Ambrosio, Sallie Tisdale, Terrence Des Pres, Durga Chew-Bose, Scott Russell Sanders, Helen Garner, and Marc Hamer. We’ll host at least one important essayist.

 

 

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English 137.401
Cities and Stories
Greenspan
T 5:15-8:15
 

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.

 

 

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English 138.401
Writing Center Theory and Practice 
Kastner
TR 10:15-11:45

This course is intended for capable writers who possess the maturity and temperament to work successfully as peer tutors at Penn. 

 

 

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English 138.402
Community-Engaged Writing Theory 
Ross
W 10:15-1:15

Along with a study of theories, strategies, and methods for teaching and tutoring writing in diverse communities, this course will also interrogate our own social locations and the ways we engage with the realities of teaching and learning. To enable this, this course will provide opportunities for community engagement and reflection beyond the walls of our classroom by working with nearby high school students to prepare them for college-level writing. In addition to fieldwork, students will read and discuss key texts on community-engaged writing instruction, keep a weekly reflection and reading response journal, and engage in a scaffolded semester-long research project on community-engaged writing theory and practice.

 

 

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English 145.301
Advanced Creative Nonfiction Writing: Look In; Look Out
Funderburg
M 1:45-4:45

In this advanced creative nonfiction workshop you will enlist essay and memoir genres to explore connections between the personal and the universal. Your direct experiences matter … 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. Three 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, held you captive, set you free, made you LOL.

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.

 

 

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English 149.401
Performing Parables: Ragas and Sagas of Sundarban
Ghosh, Sethi, O'Harra
MW 3:30-5:00

 

A performance and research course co-taught by Amitav Ghosh, Ali Sethi and Brooke O’Harra. In this course writer Amitav Ghosh invites Penn students to engage his ongoing collaboration with the musician/performer Ali Sethi to stage his newest book Jungle Nama. Ghosh’s book Jungle Nama employs dwipdipoyar verse form and the popular folk tale of Bon Bibi the guardian spirit of the Sundarban to address the eroding ecosystem of the Sundarban. In this course students will work in a short intensive collaborative process with the artists to realize a lyric and musical performance of Jungle Nama.  

The class employs both academic research and performance methodologies to guide students through histories of traditional Indian performance and folk takes and a thorough examination of Ghosh’s source materials and influences (including studies of the Sundarban and its ecosystem). The course is co-taught with director Brooke O’Harra. O’Harra, Ghosh and Sethi will lead students in a rigorous process of research, development and rehearsal, culminating in a public performance of a musical version of Jungle Nama. All levels and experience are welcome. Performance roles will be cast based on individual interests. In addition to performance roles, students will assume responsibility for other aspects of the process and production. In advance of registration, students are asked to audition and/or interview for the course depending upon initial interest. Actors, singers, dancers, musicians, artists and scholars are all encouraged to apply. 

Space is limited. Permission required. Interested undergraduate students, please contact Brooke O'Harra by October 20th at boharra@sas.upenn.edu. Interested graduate students, please contact Deborah Thomas, deborah.thomas@sas.upenn.edu. Course runs January through March 4, with Sunday-Wednesday rehearsals in February. This course is cross-listed with ANTH 179, FNAR 149, SAST 179, and THAR 253.

 

 

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English 156.301
Writing from Photographs
Hendrickson
M 1:45-4:45

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.”

 

 

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English 158.401
Science, Technology, Society
Tarr
T 1:45-4:45

This course is a writing workshop in which we contemplate the future of our fragile planet. Each student will engage with key issues facing society in the Anthropocene—the geologic epoch in which humans have come to recognize their own decisive impact on processes such as climate and evolution that until recently have been considered phenomena of "nature." You will tackle issues that are front-page news, in formats that range from the hard-news "science" story to the op-ed and editorial, to the journalistic profile. You will develop and argue fact-based opinion pieces on such questions as: Should we let some endangered species die out? Should genetic engineers proceed with research on the editing of human germline cells? Is it ethical to attempt to geo-engineer the climate, and if so, at what point in the current warming cycle? More generally: can or should we ever seek to impose limits or controls on scientific research and discovery? In addition to a 2,000-word profile of a scientist or tech developer at work in his/her lab, you will write and rewrite three op-eds and a personal essay over the course of the term, and submit revised drafts in a final portfolio at the end of the term. This course is cross-listed with Science, Technology, and Society 118. For students in the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, this course meets the Humanities and Public Engagement requirements.

 

 

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English 159.301
Political Journalism at the Crossroads
Polman
W 1:45-4:45

Can journalists cover national politics “objectively” when one political party is far more committed to democracy and universal voting than the other party? Or do the imperatives of fairness and accuracy require that political journalists essentially work in defense of democracy and in opposition to authoritarian threats from within? The spring of ’22 will throw a spotlight on the ongoing Republican efforts to curb universal voting—now demonstrably evident in dozens of states—as the nation prepares for the ’22 autumn midterm elections and the early maneuvering for the 2024 presidential race. Students in this course will write frequent commentary pieces about timely events in the news, they will workshop numerous pieces by professional political writers (including the instructor’s), and they will meet with prominent guest journalists

 

 

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English 160.301
Long-Form Journalism
Polman
M 1:45-4:45

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.

 

 

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English 165.301
Writing through Culture and Art
Goldsmith
R 3:30-6:30

The greatest unfinished book of the twentieth century was philosopher Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project which, when finally published decades after it began, was nearly 900 pages of notes, annotations, and anecdotes about Paris, which Benjamin called, the “capital of the nineteenth century.” The book was a sort of anti-history, focused less on the typical recordings that define a period--wars, politics, and economics--than it was on daily life: theater, cabarets, brothels, shopping, advertising, food, and entertainment, slathered with a dose of twentieth-century concerns like surrealism, modernism, and psychoanalysis. The result was an urban “history” unlike any other ever written, more of a dreamscape that doubled as literature.

In order to write it, Benjamin spent fifteen years in libraries, copying out passages from books in longhand that he found interesting, then organizing them by subject. Before he could finish the book, Benjamin killed himself, fleeing the Nazis. And, after the war, when it was finally published exactly as Benjamin had left it, scholars pondered whether this collection of notes was intended as a new kind of radical literature or whether it merely a study for a more conventional work of philosophy. We’ll never know.

For this year-long class, given in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, we’ll attempt to rewrite The Arcades Project for colonial Philadelphia, America’s capital of the eighteenth century. Using Benjamin’s identical methodology, we’ll immerse ourselves in the city’s vast archives, libraries, and museums, seeking out and copying down those ephemeral bits of culture and daily life that we find interesting. Then, as a group, we’ll stitch them together into a massive collage, writing an epic, 900-page prose poem of the city of Philadelphia unlike any other that’s ever been written.

Part American history, part archeology, part anthropology, part art history, and part literature, this class will touch on collaborative ways of constructing alternative narratives. Using information management of as  our guiding poetic device, this class will engage with the intensive archiving and research practices that resonate with the way we parse  information in the digital age. Not only will we have the vast historical resources of Philadelphia at our fingertips, but we’ll also have full access to the collections, treasures, and curatorial staff of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The class will culminate in a lavish publication of our work.

 

 

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English 169.301
Advanced Writing Projects in Long-Form Nonfiction
Hendrickson
T 1:45-4:45

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 phendric@english.upenn.edu and suggest your qualifications. Permission to enroll is required.

 

 

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English 170.301
Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture
DeCurtis
R 10:15-1:15

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 ADeCurtis@aol.com.

 

 

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Master of Liberal Arts courses

Please note that these courses are generally not open to Penn undergraduate students. For information about the MLA program, visit the College of Liberal and Professional Studies.

English 507.640 
Writing for Young Readers
Akinsiku
T 5:15-8:15 (Online)

This creative writing workshop is devoted to discovering the joys and possibilities for writing engaging, challenging, inspiring, and life-changing literature for younger readers. We will explore such topics as: how does contemporary writing for young adult readers produce some of the most transformational fiction and nonfiction currently on the market? What tends to hook young readers—and keep them reading? How do we test our own assumptions about what younger readers want, and challenge ourselves as writers to try new ways of storytelling? Throughout the semester, we’ll complete writing prompts, discuss assigned readings, and workshop our own original writing in this collaborative classroom.

 

 

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English 514.640 
Writing Experiments
Davids
W 5:15-8:15 (Online)

In this creative writing workshop, students will try their hand at multiple genres, and will explore and challenge the boundaries between them. When does a poem behave as a story? When does a personal essay turn into a lyric soundscape? How does bringing an attitude of experimentation and play to our writing deepen what we know about our craft and encourage us to try new tools and bring a fresh aliveness to the tools we thought we knew how to use all along? Over the course of the semester, we’ll read a number of adventurous and rule-breaking texts as well as workshop our own original writing.

 

 

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English 581.640
Learning from James Baldwin (1924-1987) 
Watterson 
R 5:15-8:15 

James Baldwin (1924-1987), one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, speaks directly to the current issues of racism and homophobia in our country today. In this course, we will read Baldwin’s prescient stories, essays and books (The Fire Next Time, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room and more), watch films (I Am Not Your Negro and If Beale Street Could Talk), and discuss how Baldwin illuminates historic and often horrific events, including lynching, with a personal and powerful immediacy.

We will explore and discuss the ether of Baldwin’s life and the stories behind the stories he's created, as well as the intellectual liberation and humanity he's inspired in other artists and writers, including Toni Morrison, Charles Johnson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Thulani Davis, Caryl Phillips, Jasmyn Ward, and Eddie Glaude.

In the spirit of Baldwin, students will write personal responses to readings, speakers, and films. They will research what it is about Baldwin that speaks to them and create stories or essays inspired by his work. Requirements include daily 10-minute free writes; weekly personal responses to readings, discussions and presentations of research, and workshop participation.

 

 

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