This writing-intensive course explores the significance of word choice, syntax, meter, figurative language, authorial persona, point of view, and cultural and artistic context in creating the force and value of a work of literature. In addition to Renaissance lyric poetry and a play by Shakespeare, students will read and write about a selection of modern and contemporary short stories and Toni Morrison’s novel Home.
This ENGL 101: Literature & Composition will focus on three aspects, in no particular order:
We’ll read lyric poems by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), and John Keats (1795-1821), short stories by Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Alice Walker, and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Some themes we’ll address through these texts are nature, fate, seduction, trauma, war, sex, and of course death. I hope you’ll join us.
This course teaches students how to read literature closely and write about it clearly. The readings range widely: Romantic odes, Harlem Renaissance sonnets, Southern Gothic fiction, contemporary magical realism, Japanese cinema, Shakespeare plays, and more. At the same time, these works are all defined by what they share: interesting, imaginative, strange, beautiful, complex language that rewards rigorous attention. In a variety of assignments, including frequent, brief writing exercises, several short formal essays, self-reflections, class presentations, exams, a dramatic performance, and an artist’s statement, students will hone their skills as literary critics and marshal these skills in the service of eloquent, original interpretations. This course treats reading, thinking, planning, drafting, revising, and reflecting as essential, inseparable elements of the complex process we call writing. Students should expect to write frequently, discuss their writing in conferences and workshops, and revise extensively.
Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the longest-running show on Broadway among Black playwrights, recasts the struggles of Hansberry’s own family in 1940s Chicago. A Raisin in the Sun offered both Hansberry’s personal reflection on her family’s fight to free themselves from a culture dead-set on enforcing housing discrimination, and—according to the historian Arnold R. Hirsch—“a public testimony about [Chicago’s] urban black life at a historical moment in which there was nearly no representation of that life.” A Raisin in the Sun was thus, in Hansberry’s words, “genuine realism[:] … not only what is, but what is possible [amid what is].” Through the voices of the play’s fictional Black family, Hansberry amplified largely unheard voices of real Black Chicagoans who exposed and opposed a confining system of racial residential segregation while they also strove to realize daring dreams of freedom and be more fully understood.
This course examines the freedom stories within Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun and with the African American literary tradition more broadly by exploring two central questions: (1) “What is freedom?” and (2) “How can one be fully understood?” To pursue answers to these queries, course participants investigate the scripting of freedom stories in the African American literary tradition from the Harlem Renaissance to the present. Our readings focus on how authors of African American literature have made strategic use of distinct genres—poems and the play—to imagine and reimagine, from within sites and systems of confinement in past and present U.S. history, what freedom has been, what freedom is, and what freedom can be. Specific course readings include: poems of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Sterling A. Brown and Jean Toomer, short stories of Richard Wright, Zora Neal Hurston, Marita Bonner, and Ann Petry, Malcolm X’s speeches, “20 Million Black People in a Political, Economic, and Mental Prison,” “Message to the Grassroots,” and “The Ballot or the Bullet,” and Martin Luther King Jr’s speeches, “I Have a Dream,” “A Time to Break Silence,” and “I See the Promised Land.”
Asian Literature and The Politics of Social (In)Justice
Our section of ENGL 101G will examine the politics of social (in)justice in both “popular” and “serious” works of literary suspense/detective fiction set primarily in Asia, although we will study William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as well. Using critical analysis, we will investigate how authors go beyond unearthing secrets, finding bodies, and attempting to right specific wrongs, and how detective fiction can sneakily address pressing political and social concerns of the day—race, class, gender, sexuality, ability etc.— in works that appeal to a broad popular audience. We will learn how to read literature closely and write about clearly.
The English Language: Conflict and Change
Wilcuma! If you can figure out what that means, you have already understood some Old English, a language spoken in England from the mid-5th to the late 11th century. In this class, we will explore the history and the breadth of the English language – not the whole history or the whole breadth, as this would take us over 1500 years and dozens of dialects spoken across dozens of countries. We will explore English in its variety in order to examine why and how we read and write. Specifically, we will explore how language changes. Often, that change comes about through conflict: war, conquest, and oppression. Language can be a tool of such oppression or a tool of resistance. In exploring language in its diversity, we will explore points of linguistic contention, from competing dialects in 8th century England to questions of appropriation and creation in African-American Vernacular English. We are not only going to learn how to interpret literature and write papers, but also see the movements of power in language – and perhaps seize some of that power in the process.
Adaptation: Form, Canon, Culture
Why do we need so many Elizabeths to confront so many Darcies, so many Alices to fall down so many respective rabbit holes? As novels become films, comic books blossom into Broadway musicals, what do we make of the adaptation, our constant restaging of the same stories? How do emerging technologies affect the way we tell old stories, and what criteria do we use to judge them? How did the ancient plays of Sophocles become potent sites of resistance in totalitarian Haiti, as Edwidge Danticat reminds us, when new artists “created dangerously?” How does the adaptation constitute a changing form of historical, political, or aesthetic consciousness?
As in all sections of English 101, Section K will set you to work planning, writing, and revising essays of various lengths, practicing a handful of essential skills that make for clear and persuasive writing. We’ll also consider literary texts—fiction, poetry, and prose—by Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Browning, Frost, Hemingway, and others. Many of our texts, though not all, will center on the poignant and vexed relationships between parents and their children.
What an adventure we will have in this section of ENGL 101 learning how to use compelling works of poetry, prose, and drama to craft engaging critical and interpretive papers. The books required are Selected Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Oxford World Classics / ISBN-10:0199535779); three plays by Shakespeare, covering each of the main literary genres, Comedy of Errors, the tragicomic romance Pericles, Prince of Tyre, and the tragic history Macbeth (using the editions from the Folger Shakespeare Library series); and 100 Best-Loved Poems (Dover Thrift Editions, edited by Philip Smith / ISBN-10: 0486285537). This course is constructivist by design, with all exercises (including group capers, individual papers, and homework extravaganzas) aimed at promoting inclusive student-centered learning. A good time will be had by all.
What makes a piece of writing successful? How do we define “successful” writing in the first place? This semester, we’ll explore these questions together. As we practice close reading and literary analysis, we’ll think, talk, and write about structure, style, perspective, ethics, readership, and everything in between. We’ll be reading Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and essays and short stories by authors including (among others) George Orwell, Zadie Smith, Raymond Carver, and Jhumpa Lahiri.
The Odyssey and Its Afterlife
The Odyssey is one of western civilization’s great adventure stories. Cast about on the “wine-dark sea,” Odysseus battles gruesome weather and meets fierce antagonists: jealous seductresses, one-eyed cannibals, drug-grubbing islanders, drunken suitors overstaying their welcome. Taking this rich tale as our centerpiece, we will investigate basic principles of persuasive writing. As the course proceeds, we will dip into a variety of modern works inspired directly or indirectly by The Odyssey, from specialized textual responses such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Louise Gluck’s Meadowlands, and Derek Walcott’s poetry to looser adaptations of Odysseus’s story such as Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, and The Empire Strikes Back.
In Representative Masterpieces we explore Dante's spiritual universe, embarking with the poet on a journey that takes him from the very center of hell to the luminous heights of heaven itself. One of the towering achievements of literary history, The Divine Comedy is deeply involved with Dante’s own time and personal history, as his memory and imagination range across a spectrum of human feeling encompassing erotic love and visceral horror. Yet the poem simultaneously furnishes a comprehensive vision of the origins, trials, and ultimate destiny of all human souls that is no less psychologically acute and morally relevant than when it was written more than 700 years ago.
Women and the University
This course examines not merely texts about University women (those who work there, study there, or subsidize the place), but also the historical place of women in higher education, how its institutions have been involved in debates about political representation, gender and sexual identities, labor activism, and discourses of care and vocation. This will take us deep into conversations about class privilege, white feminism, campus activism, neoliberalism, and academic precarity. How have people attached to the idea of the University, and how have those attachments influenced the freedom of women to do intellectual work? How do changing notions of “safe space” and free speech bear on women’s experience of living and working in academe?
Students in this class will read some interesting works about teaching and learning in a range of genres: essays by Virginia Woolf, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Sara Ahmed, mystery novels by Dorothy Sayers and Amanda Cross, plays by Adrienne Kennedy, Margaret Edson and Ameera Conrad’s activist coalition of students at the University of Cape Town, campus novels by Julie Schumacher and Zadie Smith, and a few popular films and television episodes. They will come away with a more sophisticated sense of how a campus works as well as where and how power is concentrated in higher ed spaces. The pace of reading will accommodate the course’s writing-intensive attribute, and students will also have some choice in the kinds of writing they want to do.
Death and Memory
This course is concerned with how people from a variety of different cultural traditions have sought to redress the rift in our lives made by death, loss, and mourning. Starting with representative works that introduce the course’s twin theme of memory and mortality (with reference to Skelton’s memento mori [“remember, you must die”], Caxton’s ars moriendi [“the art of dying well”], Lydgate’s Dance of Death and Holbein’s Danse Macabre woodcuts), we will attend closely and critically to the commemorative messages conveyed through Euripides’s drama Alcestis, documents in pragmatic stoicism (exemplarily by Seneca and his premodern English translators), anonymous medieval poems (Sir Orfeo and Sir Gawain), the morality play Everyman, literary excerpts involving the Renaissance death arts (Montaigne, Donne, Gascoigne, and Taylor among others), Poe’s macabre tales of the uncanny, Eliot’s The Waste Land, and four modern novels (William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Toni Morrison’s Sula, Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori, and Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One). A good time will be had by all.
Race in the Age of Hamilton
Beginning with close readings of (and close listening to) Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash Broadway hit Hamilton, this class takes a deep dive into an earlier set of ideas about race, racism, and racial difference as a way of decentering our preconceived notions about race. When we speak of “race” and “racism” today, our understanding of these terms is often unconsciously informed by modern ideas about genetics, chemistry, and DNA. But the word “race” was coined in English long before DNA was discovered, at a time before the primary index of racial difference was skin color. Scholars have sometimes dated the emergence of modern conceptions of race to the 1700s. Before then, human skin color was widely considered malleable—the product of living in a certain climate for an extended period of time. The word “race” then meant something like lineage, family, or nation—terms and ideas specifically linked to monarchies governed by familial succession, and to religions passed down through social heritage. This class explores this earlier set of ideas about race and considers a number of important early writings about Black and Indigenous characters, including William Shakespeare’s drama and Aphra Behn’s fiction, and by Black and Indigenous authors, including the poems of Phillis Wheatley and the autobiographical narrative of Olaudah Equiano.
Marked Bodies: American Speculative Fiction and the Ethnic Imaginary
All writing is time travel. When we put pen to paper, we imagine a future reader, and when we read a text, we gaze, however briefly, into the past. This course asks what it means to imagine a collective future in the wake of a violent past and precarious present. What are the stakes of speculating while Black? How do Latinx diasporic authors conceive of utopia, and what, historically, constitutes the dystopian past? In four units, we will examine imaginative departures by authors of color--from the surreal to the horrific to the beautiful--and consider their implications for our very real present.
A study of literature written in Middle English (1100-1500), including instruction in the reading and pronunciation of Middle English. The course thematically examines the explosion of literature in late medieval England, which includes Geoffrey Chaucer, the Pearl Poet, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, William Langland, and Thomas Malory. The course also explores the history and context of late medieval Britain, including its relationship to literature of the Continent. This semester (Easter 2023) we will attend especially to the transition from oral culture to a burgeoning scribal tradition and thence to the first age of print (1450-1500), with a focus on the lais of Marie de France; Gower’s Confessio Amantis; the pre-1500 output of England’s first poet laureate, John Skelton; as well as several popular earlier works deemed sufficiently marketable to be printed (Lydgate’s Fall of Princes, the morality play Everyman); and “gestes” (Caxton’s Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye and the anonymous King Horn).
In this digital humanities and literary studies course, students contribute to the Ely Green Digital Variorum, a project supported by the Center for Southern Studies and the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation. Students begin with a close reading of the autobiographical account of Ely Green (1893-1968), who came of age as a biracial youth on the University domain at the turn of the twentieth century and provides a sweeping, first-hand account of Sewanee life during the Jim Crow Era. Learning skills in digital archiving and textual encoding, students think critically about print history, authorship, and Sewanee's racial past as they compare Green’s handwritten words to the printed versions.
This class will consider the plays written by Shakespeare after 1600 through a variety of lenses: as cultural artifacts of Elizabethan England; as scripts that have truly only lived, and continue to live, in performance; as an ongoing source of inspiration for us as we continue to make culture anew; and as brilliant works of dramatic poetry. The instruction method is guided discussion, sometimes student-led, with occasional brief lectures. While the foundation of our work will always be careful close-reading, we will also think about reception, considering the implications of performance for our understanding of what Shakespeare might have meant to his contemporaries, and what he continues to mean (and what we make him mean) to us. The through-thread of performance analysis includes discussing and analyzing filmic interpretations, culminating in students creatively collaborating scenes.
In Renaissance Literature II, we read the poetry of 17th-century England. A tumultuous era whose intertwined religious and political controversies culminated in the execution of a reigning monarch by his parliament, it gave rise to remarkable diversity in poetic forms: the licentious love lyrics of John Donne, Ben Jonson’s passionate praise of friendship, George Herbert’s pious struggles with God’s will, as well as imitations and innovations practiced by a host of other figures. We finish with Milton's Paradise Lost, an epic that brings together poetry, philosophy, theology, and science to undertake a task no less ambitious than “to justify the ways of God to men.”
Who were the literary writers we now know as the Romantics? And why do we call this period of literary history “Romanticism”? In this class, we’ll take on these important periodizing questions while luxuriating in some of the best poetry that the English language has to offer. The “Romantic Era” was a period following the American and French Revolutions in which poets and novelists wrote about, drew upon, and ridiculed what we might call the language of the heart. The Romantics populated their literary creations with dark, brooding protagonists and plucky heroines; they pushed the limits of conventional morality; they stole popular forms for their “lyrical ballads” and imagined epic heroes in search of themselves. Closely reading a number of classic texts from the period, we will cheer on (and occasionally contest) the experiments of authors including Wheatley, Charlotte Smith, Barbauld, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Byron, Keats, and the Shelleys while they respond in their art to imperial expansion, the persistence of the slave trade, state censorship, the democratic revolutions, early feminist discourses, and emerging political discourses that championed the rights of common men and women.
Whether in lively vignettes of gossiping neighbors, gripping tales of social ambition, or Gothic visions of lovers prowling the moors, Victorian novels immerse us in worlds and lives that feel as real as our own. Crucially, though, they are not—not ours, and not real. It is in the space between these dimensions—the familiar and the strange, the actual and the imagined, the singular and the universal—that the Victorian novel unfolds. We will trace the narrative structures, techniques of representation, genre tropes, thematic preoccupations, and cultural contexts of nineteenth-century British fiction through the work of several major authors: Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Oscar Wilde. Marrying an intense focus on the inner life with wide-ranging social scope, their books ask enduring ethical and existential questions: What do we owe other people? How do we measure social progress? Is the present forever haunted by the past? Are human beings creatures of self-determination or fate? As we explore these imagined worlds, we will pay special attention to the fellow-feeling that binds individuals together in Victorian fiction—as well as the hostile impulses that drive them apart. Doing so will show us what Victorian novelists knew well: that literary narrative theorizes the world by representing it, and thereby offers a unique mode of social, psychological, and moral insight.
What’s American about an American novel? English 379 tries to answer this question by considering some classic texts from the 19th and early 20th centuries, a period when the U.S. seemed to lack most of the rich social materials on which English novels depended: as Henry James famously complained, there was “No sovereign, no court, no personal loyalty, no aristocracy, no church, no clergy, no army, no diplomatic service, no country gentlemen, no palaces, no castles, nor manners., no great literature, no novels, no museums, no pictures, no political society, no sporting class - no Epsom or Ascot!” Instead Americans had a vast empty continent, a heritage of intense moral introspection, and a sense of national destiny. What kinds of novels emerged from these materials? This spring we’ll let Hawthorne, Melville, Chesnutt, Cather and some others tell us.
This course is a romp through the variety of forms, styles, and questions that shaped the modern lyric in England and Ireland. Arising amid and out of global wars, cosmopolitan cultural movements, changing political and national imaginaries, these texts are unpredictable, innovative, stubborn, wry, and complex. W.H. Auden claimed in an elegy for another poet that “poetry makes nothing happen,” but reading these poets will give you plenty to think about. We’ll proceed by theme and form rather than by chronology, so that each class will be a new stone’s skip across the 20th and 21st centuries. One week, we will dig into poems about exile from G.M. Hopkins, Tony Harrison, Carol Ann Duffy, and Grace Nichols; the next, we might take a different angle and follow the sonnet form through the work of five different writers. Some of these unifying themes will be chosen by students, who will also have an array of choices about the kinds of critical writing they undertake in the course.
By turns terrifying, melancholy, and bizarre, Gothic literature channels real anxieties in monstrous forms. Drawing from the British and American traditions, this course features narratives of the mysterious, uncanny, supernatural, and grotesque. We will trace the Romantic origins of the genre in 18th-century tales of crumbling castles and deranged monks, then turn to the vampires and doppelgangers that menaced Victorian fantasies of domesticity and progress, and finally grapple with phantoms of slavery in 20th-century American fiction. In the process, we will examine how the familiar conventions of Gothic fiction—ghosts, doubles, old houses, family curses—take on new meaning in light of their literary and cultural contexts. As we put these gripping texts in dialogue with one another, we will see how the unsettling, explosive narratives of Gothic fiction give voice to individual and collective fears, unleashing monsters that refuse to be forgotten. This course carries the GMWI attribute. Texts: The Castle of Otranto (Horace Walpole); The Monk (Matthew Lewis); Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë); Dracula (Bram Stoker); The Turn of the Screw (Henry James); short stories by Edgar Allan Poe; Beloved (Toni Morrison).
In this course, we’ll explore literary and cultural representations of the US South from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present. We’ll focus especially on the ways in which the South has long been conceived as “queer”—that is, deviant from national normativity and home to perversity of all kinds. Our syllabus will include works by William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, and Randall Kenan (among many others). We’ll discuss intersections among categories of race, class, gender, and sexuality and consider the relationship between literary canon formation and the mythology of the South.
This course will examine a number of American literary works concerned with the natural world and stemming from the 19th century to the present day. While the course will touch on some trends in American literary history, our primary goal is to see how various American literary imaginations have conceived of and put into practice notions of nature. We are also interested in whether these artworks—if they so be—provide us with explicit or implicit responses to our contemporary climate change crisis.
Literary texts may include: Emerson’s Nature, Thoreau’s Walden, Whitman’s The Song of Myself, Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Leopold’s Sand Creek Almanac, Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, McCarthy’s The Road, Dungy’s Trophic Cascade, and/or others.
Theoretical excerpts may be from Timothy Morton, Jane Bennett, Martin Heidegger, Arne Næss, Immanuel Kant, Ursula Heise, Stephanie LeMenager, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Hannah Arendt, John Zerzan, Theodor Adorno, and/or others.
Taught by major American formalist poet Wyatt Prunty, this course is a study of American poets whose major work was published after World War II. It concentrates on Elizabeth Bishop, Anthony Hecht, Donald Justice, Howard Nemerov, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Richard Wilbur, and Mona Van Duyn. John Berryman, Maxine Kumin, Adrienne Rich, X.J. Kennedy, and Derek Walcott will also be considered.
The structure of this class is designed to give you a new vocabulary, a new language for approaching literary interpretation. In some cases, you will gain terms for ideas and interests you already have, but might not yet have the language to explore as effectively as you could. In others, the ideas and terms will be completely new, opening possibilities for questions, for arguments, and for connections that were simply not available to you before. Our readings will range from classic texts of deconstruction, psychoanalysis, race and gender theory, as well as new work emerging from diverse scholars and developing interpretive fields. But they will all be organized around a series of ‘keywords’ that sit at the intersection of a variety of interrelated ideas, terms, and approaches – all of which we will use to construct a new landscape of what it means to read critically.
This approach is unusual in that it isn't based around a ‘history of literary theory’ or a syllabus that takes you chronologically through the ‘schools’ of criticism. Rather, it looks to give you a working network of ideas -- ideas that are complex, shifting, and full of potential that you can use in your own reading and writing. In the end, you will have a well of possibilities to think from and your task will be to put them to use in careful reading of literary texts of your choosing. Note: this class uses a tutorial model (small group instruction) and self-evaluation for grading. It fulfills the GMWI requirement for the major, and is strongly encouraged for students considering writing an Honors Thesis in the department.
African American poetry involves diverse forms of Black Americans’ fugitive expressions rooted in the vernacular tradition. African American literary critic and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. states the vernacular refers to “church songs, blues, ballads, sermons, stories, and, in our own era, hip-hop songs” that are part of the oral tradition of Black expression. African Americans have written, recited, and published poetry in response to slavery and vestiges of neo-slavery such as convicting leasing, Jim Crow, racial residential segregation, the disenfranchisement of Black voters, police brutality, mass incarceration, premature death, and the prison industrial complex. The African American Poetry course will introduce students to a broad selection of African American poetry, spanning back to the enslaved “Black and Unknown Bards” of the Negro spirituals and Phillis Wheatley, who in various ways “transformed and invented language” to resist and undermine their spatial and temporal carceraltiy while creating liberating spaces. We will examine the texts chronologically, allowing us to discern shifts in social, political, and aesthetic movements. We will explore African American writers’ engagement with the New Negro movement; the Black Arts Movement; the emergence of Black feminist and womanist literature, criticism, and theory; and debates about the African American literary tradition. We will also explore some of the musical genres that range from the spirituals to contemporary blues and hip pop such as the songs of Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Bukka White, Muddy Waters, Tupac Shakur, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, and Janelle Monáe. Other authors discussed in the course may include: Jupiter Hammon, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Angelina Weld Grimké, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Etheridge Knight, June Jordan, Terrance Hayes, and Reginald Dwayne Betts.
The diasporic community we call Latinidad emerged from many wildly disparate ethnicities, all with distinct national, linguistic, racial, and religious affiliations. Latinxs cohere within the United States under the two-sided banner of inequity and optimism: united by a shared history of diasporic movement and colonialism, Latinx authors together build a vision of an equitable future. In this course, we will explore the current landscape of contemporary Latinx literary production through the lens of crisis and hope. This includes Latinx nationalism and the realist novel, immigrant narratives, the Latinx lyric, queer Latinidad, ecological refugism, and US border control.
How do we tell stories that matter? How do we make our voice heard in a way that connects us to the larger world?
If you’re interested in storytelling, the Beginning Fiction Workshop provides you with the opportunity to develop your skills, study unique and diverse stories from contemporary literature, and share and discuss creative work amongst a group of students in a welcoming space. The primary goal of the course is to help each writer find their own particular voice while utilizing distinct elements of craft. The beginning workshop allows for students to generate multiple stories over the course of the semester, and over the course of the semester we will develop a common language so we can discuss these stories with sensitivity, specificity, and generosity.
Are you a fan of The Flight Attendant or House of Cards? Do you love Raya and the Last Dragon, Encanto, or Turning Red? What do they all have in common? They were all written by playwrights.
Whether you are a fiction writer interested in improving your dialogue, a poet who wants to explore narrative, a theatre geek who wants to see their work come to life, or someone simply interested in trying something new, Beginning Playwriting Workshop is an excellent opportunity to explore dramatic writing in a safe and supportive environment. Emphasis is placed on promoting growth as a writer. A variety of foundational texts are read in order to develop an understanding of basic dramatic structure. Each play is chosen to address a corresponding skill, such as dramatic tension, subtext, dialogue, exposition, or character. Weekly writing exercises are assigned to work in concert with the plays we read. By reading plays and dissecting the form and content, students have an opportunity to develop their analytic skills, which can then be applied to their own work. In addition to short writing exercises, students will also complete either two 10-minute plays or a one-act play.
Why study and write the novella? The novella, unlike the novel, is wieldy enough to be imagined, written, and workshopped over the course of a semester. Similarly, its form, and literary merit can be examined in some depth over 15 weeks. Shorter than a novel—between 18,000 and 25,000 words—but longer than a traditional short story—really, the middle child of the word count world—the novella, or as some might cheekily call it “the short novel,” is the perfect form to practice writing long form fiction—be honest, you’ve been working on a novel since you were 12 and you’re convinced that this particular “novel” needs another form to fit into, one that allows you to actually finally finish a complete draft!—so this seminar will be devoted to making that happen. In this class we will examine the three-act story structure, elements that go into crafting an outline, and endings. We will give careful consideration to cultivating the following aspects of fiction in our own writing: how to develop major and minor characters, how to utilize different point-of-view strategies, how to develop acute and chronic tension and how to maintain these two types of tension to keep a reader engaged in the story, how to establish and utilize the setting a story takes place in, how to sustain voice, how to deploy subtext and stage desire in extended scenes etc. We will read, read, read because as R. O Kwon said, reading is as much, if not, more important than writing! We will feet-to-the-fire (you gotta take the class to find out what this is) every week and eat sadness pizza as we make certain that none of us share the fate of the deer featured in the photograph!
In the intermediate workshop, students expand their skills writing, reading, and critiquing poems, as well as share their writing with peers in a workshop setting. The course builds upon the basics of craft learned in the Beginning Poetry Workshop and explores more complex ways of utilizing that craft. Students read a diverse range of published poems, but the primary focus is the creation and critique of their own work and the work of their peers.
So, you’ve made it through the Beginning Fiction Workshop, possibly a Forms of Fiction class, and you’ve decided, I’m serious about writing fiction and I’d like to keep doing it. You’re in the right place. Welcome to the Intermediate Fiction Workshop! Here we will continue to build on and expand the architecture of storytelling you’ve learned in your other classes. We will pick apart and glue back together the LOGIC OF THE STORY (I WILL OFTEN USE MY very LOUD VOICE to SAY THESE particular WORDS TO YOU). We will be doing a ton of reading and writing. The author, R.O. Kwon has said that reading is almost as much, if not, more important than writing itself for a working writer. I agree. In order to write well one MUST read well and extensively. Via discussion of the techniques used in published stories, we will endeavor to construct individual critical frameworks through which to view stories written by others and ourselves.
The class’s goal is to help you become a better writer of nonfiction. We’ll read some notable examples for inspiration and guidance, but mostly we will write and converse, providing supportive critique. The genre of nonfiction is wonderfully wide-ranging and has blurry edges. Our explorations of the genre will therefore provide ample opportunities for experimentation with form and voice. In addition to discussions of craft, we’ll investigate how to seek out, excavate, and honor stories from our lives and the world around us.