Spring 2018 Creative Writing Courses

English 016.301 First-Year Seminar: Writing about Art Susan Bee W 2:00-5:00
English 010.301 Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Essay Sam Apple R 1:30-4:30
English 010.302 Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Essay Carmen Maria Machado TR 10:30-12:00
English 010.303 Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction Anna Maria Hong T 1:30-4:30
English 010.601 Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction Christy Davids Online
English 010.602 Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry Melissa Jensen W 5:30-8:30
English 112.301 Fiction Writing Workshop Karen Rile M 2:00-5:00
English 112.302 Flash Fiction Carmen Maria Machado TR 1:30-3:00
English 113.301 Poetry Writing Workshop Yolanda Wisher R 1:30-4:30
English 114.401 Playwriting Jackie Goldfiner M 2:00-5:00
English 115.301 Advanced Fiction Writing Max Apple T 1:30-4:30
English 116.401 Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve M 2:00-5:00
English 116.402 Screenwriting Scott Burkhardt W 5:00-8:00
English 116.403 Screenwriting Scott Burkhardt R 4:30-7:30
English 117.301 The Arts and Popular Culture: Meet the Beatles Anthony DeCurtis R 1:30-4:30
English 118.301 Advanced Poetry Workshop Gregory Djanikian T 1:30-4:30
English 121.301 Writing for Young Adults Beth Kephart (Sulit) T 1:30-4:30
English 123.301 Advanced Writing for Children Lorene Cary W 2:00-5:00
English 126.301 The Art of Editing Julia Bloch T 1:30-4:30
English 127.301 Writing across Borders Ron Silliman W 2:00-5:00
English 128.301 Magazine Journalism Avery Rome M 2:00-5:00
English 130.401 Advanced Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve W 2:00-5:00
English 135.301 Creative Nonfiction: Tell the Truth, Tell It Well Lise Funderburg W 2:00-5:00
English 135.302 Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels Marion Kant M 2:00-5:00
English 135.401 Writing Center Theory & Practice Valerie Ross TR 10:30-12:00
English 135.601 Finding Voice: Perspectives on Race, Class & Gender Kathryn Kitsi Watterson T 5:30-8:30
English 145.301 Experimental Nonfiction Jay Kirk T 1:30-4:30
English 155.301 Documentary Writing Paul Hendrickson M 2:00-5:00
English 156.301 Writing from Photographs Paul Hendrickson W 2:00-5:00
English 158.301 Science, Technology, Society Peter Tarr T 1:30-4:30
English 160.301 Long-Form Journalism Dick Polman W 2:00-5:00
English 161.301 Art of the Profile Dick Polman M 2:00-5:00
English 165.301 Writing through Marcel Duchamp Kenneth Goldsmith R 1:30-4:30
English 170.301 Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture Anthony DeCurtis F 2:00-5:00
English 412.640 How a Story Works: The Art of Fiction Sara Sligar M 5:30-8:30
English 435.640 Writing through Music Julia Bloch Online
English 435.641 Writing and Remembering: A Memoir Workshop Kathryn Kitsi Watterson R 5:30-8:10

Descriptions

English 016.301
First-Year Seminar: Writing about Art
Bee
W 2:00-5:00

This first-year creative writing seminar will engage in critical issues related to the visual arts, with a focus on writing about contemporary exhibitions. Members of the seminar will visit and review Philadelphia area exhibitions, including shows at the Institute for Contemporary Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Barnes Collection. In addition, we will take one weekend trip to a museum in New York. We will also have a guest art critic speak to the group and we will visit a local artist’s studio. In the seminar, students will be able to practice different descriptive and critical approaches to writing about art works. There will be ample time given to in-depth discussions of a wide range of contemporary visual art.

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English 010.301
Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Essay
Sam Apple
R 1:30-4:30

In this workshop-style class we will focus first on the personal essay before moving on to the short story. Along the way, we will discuss the many differences between the writing of fiction and nonfiction — and we will also explore the relationships between the two genres. In particular, we will investigate how fiction writers “borrow” from the real to create imaginative worlds. In addition to writing and critiquing our own original essays and stories, we will read and discuss the work of contemporary writers. Students will practice “reading as writers,” learning to identify the specific literary devices that make an essay or story great. Several of the writers we’ll read will make guest appearances (in-person and via Skype) to discuss their work.

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English 010.302
Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Essay
Machado
TR 10:30-12:00

This workshop-style class is an introduction to the pleasures of the writing process. Students will read essays and short stories from a wide variety of genres, forms, and traditions, and respond creatively with their own essays and short stories. They will also learn how to mine their experiences, generate brand-new material, discuss published and unpublished fiction in a critical way, and access the creative, playful side of their psyche that so many people leave dormant. We will talk about the craft of fiction and nonfiction, and will be doing periodic in-class exercises. No writing experience is necessary, but students must be willing to participate, revise their work, take risks, and be generous with themselves and others.

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English 010.303
Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction
Hong
T 1:30-4:30

This workshop-style course will serve as an introduction to writing short fiction and poetry. Students will craft their own original pieces in this community-based classroom, where we will read and comment on each other’s work as well as on the work of contemporary writers. Course requirements include thoughtful and committed class participation, regular writing assignments, and a final portfolio of fiction and poetry. Over the semester, we will also draw upon the Kislak Center’s unique collection of writers’ manuscripts to inspire the creation of our own new work and learn about the writer’s process. Alongside viewings of manuscripts in various stages of editing and revision, we will engage in discussions and writing experiments designed to spark original thinking, develop facility with writing, and enhance understanding of your creative process. By the end of the course, you will have created a portfolio of your own work and expanded your knowledge of diverse approaches to creative writing.

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English 010.601
Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction
Davids
Online

This workshop-style course will serve as an introduction to writing short fiction and poetry. We will collect, explore, and promote writing in a range of genres that center around the theme of place. We will begin with more literal notions of place (geography, the city, neighborhoods) and move into metaphorical engagements of the theme, including the idea of one’s place in the world, displacement & diaspora, the page itself, and a myriad of formal approaches that seek to engage place and placelessness in writing. Endeavoring this topic, the class aims to posit the act of writing as a means of establishing a locale for creativity, self, exploration, and more. Through a (seemingly) limited thematic structure, we will see just how numerous and porous literature makes something that is typically mitigated by limits, borders, and territories. The cross-genre nature of this class encourages students to read, challenge, represent, and re-write turf, region, and terrain in a way that is multiple.

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English 010.602
Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry
Jensen
W 5:30-8:30

This workshop-style course will serve as an introduction to writing short fiction and poetry. Students will craft their own original pieces in this community-based classroom, where we will read and comment on each other’s work as well as on the work of contemporary writers. Course requirements include thoughtful and committed class participation, regular writing assignments, and a final portfolio of fiction and poetry.

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English 112.301
Fiction Writing Workshop
Rile
M 2:00-5:00

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

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English 112.302
Flash Fiction
Machado
TR 1:30-3:00

Keats called poetry “infinite riches in a small room,” and the same can be said of short-short-form fiction. We live in an age of condensed information. Where does the art of fiction fit into our soundbite-driven lives? Short-form fiction (also called flash fiction, sudden fiction, or microfiction—stories under 1,000 words) is more than just “really short stories.” Every word in a piece of microfiction is the proverbial ant, carrying fifty times its own weight. Students will be reading short-short works of fiction, as well as writing their own. We will learn about powerful verbs, lush nouns, what a story truly needs to be a story, and how to deliver the richest prose in the most succinct way possible. Students will read short-short narratives from a variety of traditions, submit weekly stories of their own for workshop, and explore how the resurgence of the short form has coincided with technology’s integration into every facet of our lives.

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English 113.301
Poetry Writing Workshop
Yolanda Wisher
R 1:30-4:30

Novelist Gabriel García Márquez said, “Everyone has three lives, a public life, a private life and a secret life.” This is a workshop for students who are interested in exploring how poets nurture, flex, and merge their public, private, and secret lives through writing, performance, civic engagement, and activism. In addition to discussing the poet’s changing role in society through the essays of Aimé Césaire, Muriel Rukeyser, and June Jordan as well as the work of inaugural poets and poets laureate, we will study contemporary poets whose work lives both on and off the page, including Ross Gay (a gardener), Iréne Mathieu (a pediatrician), and Ursula Rucker (a recording artist). Students will encounter a diverse series of both written and audiovisual texts, weekly writing assignments that include poems and responses to the readings, and in-class activities that stretch your imaginative and collaborative abilities.

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English 114.401
Playwriting
Goldfinger
M 2:00-5:00

This course is designed as a hands-on workshop in the art and craft of dramatic writing. It involves the study of existing plays, the systematic exploration of such elements as storymaking, plot, structure, theme, character, dialogue, setting, etc.; and most importantly, the development of students’ own plays through a series of written assignments and in-class exercises. Since a great deal of this work takes place in class—through lectures, discussions, spontaneous writing exercises, and the reading of student work—weekly attendance and active participation is crucial. This course is cross-listed with Theatre Arts 114.

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

The class will be conducted as a seminar. Every student will write four stories during the semester; each story will be discussed by the group. The instructor will, from time to time, suggest works of fiction that he hopes will be illustrative and inspirational but there will be no required books. Attendance and active class participation are essential. Please submit a brief writing sample to maxapple1@verizon.net. Permit from the instructor is required.

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

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor to kathydemarco@writing.upenn. Permit from the instructor is required. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.

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English 116.402
Screenwriting
Burkhardt
W 5:00-8:00

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to bujo@sas.upenn.edu. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.

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English 116.403
Screenwriting
Burkhardt
R 4:30-7:30

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens. Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to bujo@sas.upenn.edu. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.

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English 117.301
The Arts and Popular Culture: Meet the Beatles
DeCurtis
R 1:30-4:30

This course will focus on the songs of the Beatles 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. While Beatles obsessives—you know who you are—are, of course, welcome, if you are new to their music, curious about how this iconic band might inspire your own creative output, your adventurousness and willingness to take a deep dive into their work is all that is required. We will listen to and discuss Beatles songs, watch documentaries about the group, explore their influence across the arts, and meet critics and artists who have engaged them and their work in meaningful ways. To that degree, the course will be more impressionistic than strictly schematic—that is, we will follow various threads in the Beatles’ work as they emerge and our fascination suggests. The goal is for us to achieve an understanding of the band and its individual members that is as visceral as it is intellectual. The class will do some analytic writing, and each student will make at least one presentation. However, students who are so inclined will be encouraged to pursue their own creative work—which is to say that, in consultation with the instructor, fiction, songs, poems, plays, visual art or videos inspired by the Beatles will be acceptable projects to complete the course’s requirements. You will be allowed a good deal of freedom in charting your own independent course, in other words, as appropriate to our subject and the gifts their work has given to us all. As Sgt. Pepper assured us, “A pleasant time is guaranteed for all.”

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English 118.301
Advanced Poetry Workshop
Djanikian
T 1:30-4:30

This workshop is designed for those of you who desire advanced study in poetry writing. The hope is that by semester’s end, through revision, you will have a portfolio of poems which are for the most part consistent in voice, form, and/or thematic concern. Discussion and constructive peer responses to student work will be the primary focus of the course, so your participation is essential. We’ll read essays about writing, and individual collections by at least seven contemporary poets. Students will be asked to submit a poem each week and written responses to the assigned collections of poetry. Permit from the instructor is required. Please email me three sample poems at djanikia@writing.upenn.edu.

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English 121.301
Writing for Young Adults
Kephart
T 1:30-4:30

Intelligent and searching, original and impassioned, lit from within and motivated by a desire to start a conversation about it means to be alive, to choose, to yearn, to be different, to take a stand, to get along, and to hope, the best books written for middle grade and young adult readers are, most assuredly “big” books, the kind that live with readers long after the last pages have been read and the books slipped back onto the shelf. In this intensive (and fun) reading and writing workshop, we’ll learn from the likes of R. J. Palacio, Sherman Alexie, Kate DiCamillo, Ali Benjamin, Patricia McCormick, Francisco X. Stork, CeCe Bell, Dana Reinhardt, David Levithan, Ruta Sepetys, A. S. King, and Jason Reynolds. We’ll study the development of characters (and character), the creation of setting, the power of talk, and the secrets of narrative risk. We’ll produce three short pieces and one longer one, in addition to a series of brief in-class prompts.

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English 123.301
Advanced Writing for Children
Cary
W 2:00-5:00

Advanced Writing for Children is a response to our fast-and-faster learning culture. We’ll take the term to write and re-write several fiction and non-fiction pieces for children or teens. Let’s call it Slow Write, like the Slow Food movement. The idea is to take time to write better, deeper, more beautifully, funnier, to respect stories and how you choose and render them. Using community—among ourselves and with select partners outside the university—we will work to help you harness various intelligences to figure out the stories you need to write. Trips and collaborations will refresh and surprise. You’ll be writing, but also taking time: to remember, sketch, connect with others, research, meditate, assess, develop, discard. Slow writing respects difference. Some of us need to get honest, others to pull back; some to learn fluency and others restraint. Most of us need support to work harder, but as Thomas Wolfe defined it for artists: “an integrity of purpose, a spiritual intensity, and a fine expenditure of energy that most people have no conception of.” When stories are ready, you will be invited to submit them to SafeKidsStories.com, because as Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lungren has said: “Children perform miracles when they read.” On the side, for funsies, and to assuage the must-write fast urge, you’ll also write bits and blogs. This course is cross-listed with Africana Studies 123.

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English 126.301
The Art of Editing
Bloch
T 1:30-4:30

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 editing 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 across Borders
Silliman
W 2:00-5:00

Butterflies and hurricanes pay no heed to borders, but humans will risk their lives to cross them, build walls to mark them, and kill to defend them. In this writing workshop, we will explore our own relations to borders across a variety of genres. At a moment when the number of displaced persons is projected to rise steeply over the next 30 years, we cannot escape questions of borders and identities in our writing. How do our heritage(s) as citizen, resident, explorer, refugee, immigrant, tourist, trader, slave or raider condition the present and future of writing? How do race, class, and gender enter in? We will examine recent texts that explore these questions as well as look to the future. Authors may include Caroline Bergvall, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Maxine Hong Kingston, Aimé Césaire, C. S. Giscombe, Habib Tengour, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as well as theoretical texts by Césaire, Pierre Joris, Benedict Anderson and Claude Levi-Strauss. Students should expect to keep journals and produce several works in different genres that we will go over closely in class.

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

A new creative writing workshop devoted to writing for print and online magazines. We will delve into what it takes to report for outlets such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, or The New York Times Magazine; we will explore how time works in longform reporting and the specific demands magazines place on storytelling; we will design and practice pitching stories to editors; and we will produce our own 2,500-3,000-word magazine pieces. Open to all students. No prerequisites. Taught by Avery Rome, veteran editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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

This is a workshop-style course for students who have completed a screenwriting class, or have a draft of a screenplay they wish to improve. Classes will consist of discussing students’ work, as well as discussing relevant themes of the movie business and examining classic films and why they work as well as they do. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class in addition to some potentially useful texts like What Makes Sammy Run? Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email. Please send a writing sample (in screenplay form), a brief description of your interest in the course and your goals for your screenplay, and any relevant background or experience. Applications should be sent to kathydemarco@writing.upenn.edu. Permit from the instructor is required. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 130.

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English 135.301
Creative Nonfiction: Tell the Truth, Tell It Well
Funderburg
W 2:00-5:00

At best, essays and memoirs tap into deep curiosities about and connections to the larger world. In this class, you will use these genres to explore the human condition, including the way life has surprised you, perplexed you, held you captive, set you free, broke your spirit or made you laugh. Through intensive writing and revising, you will explore the craft of creative nonfiction, an art form that calls on both the literary techniques of fiction (including character, scene-setting, plot, dialogue, description, structure, narrative/thematic tension, pacing, chronology, point of view, imagery, and metaphor) and the reporting strategies of journalism (reportage, fact-checking, sourcing). Over the course of the term, you will write and revise one long piece and several shorter ones that will be generated by guided freewrites. Through assignments, class exercises, workshop critiques and discussions of readings, expect to become a stronger writer, a better reader, and an enthusiastic reviser.

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English 135.302
Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels
Kant
M 2:00-5:00

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

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English 135.401
Writing Center Theory & Practice
Ross
TR 10:30-12:00

This course is intended for capable writers who possess the maturity and temperament to work successfully as peer tutors at Penn. The course emphasizes the development of tutors’ own writing through the process of collaborative peer-criticism, individual conferences, and intensive sessions on writing, from mechanics to style. The class meets twice weekly; tutors also work two hours weekly in the Writing Center or elsewhere, and confer regularly in small groups or one-on-one meetings with the instructor. Tutors are required to write five short papers, eight one-page peer reviews, and two responses to readings. Additionally, students keep a journal and give two class presentations. CWIC-affiliated course; fulfillment of writing requirement and permission of instructor required. This course is cross-listed with WRIT (Writing Program) 135. For more information, visit the Critical Writing Program.

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English 135.601
Finding Voice: Perspectives on Race, Class & Gender
Watterson
T 5:30-8:30

As children, we first begin to learn stories and myths that explain how the world works, what life means, and how we’re the same and different. In this writing seminar, we will explore myths about race, class, gender, and sexuality that are embedded in the culture of “ordinary life,” as well as in systems of power and privilege. We’ll examine how inequalities impact not only our opportunities, but also how we perceive ourselves and others. During this semester, students will learn how other writers— including Frederick Douglass, Audre Lorde, Leslie Marmo Silko, Thandeka, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Jimmy Santiago Baco, and Amy Tan—have used language to help them convey who they are and how their experiences have shaped them. Throughout the semester, we also will mine a deep understanding of the art of writing. In addition to in-class exercises, meditation and movement, students will be asked to a maintain a daily practice of free-writing; writing responses (2-3 pages weekly) to assigned books, essays, stories, and documentaries; participate in workshop discussions and peer review, and write and revise three stories/essays (4-5 pages). This course is cross-listed with Urban Studies, Africana Studies and Gender/Women’s Studies.

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English 145.301
Experimental Nonfiction
Kirk
T 1:30-4:30

This class will be a creative writing workshop with an emphasis on what is generally called “nonfiction,” but with an emphasis on writing that doesn’t quite fit into any particular genre, yet which is still hell-bent on gettings its fangs into the verifiable “reality” of lived experience (as opposed to just plain-old made up fiction). But whereas the tenets of Realism have long been thought too restricting and outdated in fiction—as well as in the visual arts, poetry, film, theater, and serious music—most narrative nonfiction often still fears straying too far from the stale and safe “journalistic” techniques for how one “should” recreate & document actual reality-based experience. In this class, experimental does not mean throwing out everything we know about good writing just to be different and arbitrarily outré—quite the opposite. In here, we will turn up the Bunsen burner, scorch off a century of crusty thought, and cook up our own new theories for what it means to compose radical contemporary nonfiction.

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English 155.301
Documentary Writing
Hendrickson
M 2:00-5:00

This offering in advanced nonfiction writing will function as a workshop, with a select group of students. It’s a course that will honor the spirit and tradition of “documentary” writing. The word “documentary” has meant many things over time. Here, it means a kind of nose-close observation and reportage. It means a level of being with one’s subject matter in a way that other creative writing courses don’t allow because of their format and structure. In English 155, a student writer at Penn will dare to “hang” with a topic—a girl’s high-school basketball team; a medical intern in a HUP emergency room; a cleaning lady doing the graveyard shift in a classroom building; a food-truck operator crowding the noontime avenues; a client-patient in the Ronald McDonald House near campus; a parish priest making his solitary and dreary and yet redemptive rounds of the sick and the dying in the hospital—for the entire term.

Yes, the whole term. And at term’s end, each writer in the course will have produced one extended prose work: a documentary piece of high creative caliber. This is our goal and inspiration. The piece will be 30 to 35 pages long.

Some people tend to think of the “documentary” genre (whether on film or in words) as work devoid of emotion—just the facts, ma’am. But in truth, emotion and deep sensitivity are prerequisites for any lasting documentary work. The nature of documentary, true documentary, implies moral and social scrutiny; means detailed fact-based reporting; depends on personal response to that factuality. This course will draw on specific literary and journalistic interests of the instructor that go back about 30 years.

The core reading models will be James Agee and George Orwell: specifically, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Agee and The Road to Wigan Pier by Orwell. Separately, across oceans, in 1936, in the belly of the Depression, these two incomparably gifted journalist/authors—one an American, one an Englishman—entered some damaged lower-class lives and proceeded to produce literary classics of the form. Agee went to Hale County, Alabama, to live with sharecroppers. Orwell traveled to the industrial grit of north England to observe coal miners.

Under the instructor’s guidance, the students will choose within the first three weeks. Choosing the subject is crucial. Access will have to be gained; cooperation assured. Within five weeks, rough drafts will begin to be produced—scenes, sketches, captured moments—and these will then be brought in to be read aloud to the group. This will be a way of finding the piece’s eventual form as well as making sure all participants are working at a level of continual intensity. The final product will be due at the 13th or 14th week of the term. Throughout the term we will constantly be consulting the various documentary reading models, even as we are concentrating on our own work.

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English 156.301
Writing from Photographs
Hendrickson
W 2:00-5:00

A creative writing course built entirely around the use of photographs, and the crafting of compelling nonfiction narratives from them. The essential concept will be to employ photographs as storytelling vehicles. So we will be using curling, drugstore-printed Kodak shots from our own family albums. We will be using searing and famous images from history books. We will be taking things from yesterday’s newspaper. We will even be using pictures that were just made by the workshop participants outside the campus gates with a disposable camera from CVS or with their own sophisticated digital Nikon. In all of this, there will be one overriding aim: to achieve memorable, full-bodied stories. To locate the strange, evocative, storytelling universes that are sealed inside the four rectangular walls of a photograph. They are always there, if you know how to look. It’s about the quality of your noticing, the intensity of your seeing.

Writers as diverse as the poet Mark Strand and the novelist Don DeLillo and the memoirist Wright Morris have long recognized the power of a photograph to launch a story. In this course we are going to employ memory and imagination to launch our stories, but most of all we are going to make use of fact: everything that can be found out, gleaned, uncovered, dug up, stumbled upon. Because first and last, this is nonfiction, this is the art of reported fact. So a lot of this class will go forward using the tools and techniques of journalism: good, old-fashioned reporting and research, legwork. And turning that reporting into writing gold. A photograph represents time stopped in a box. It is a kind of freeze-frame of eternity. It is stopped motion, in which the clock has seemed to hold its breath. Often, the stories inside photographs turn out to be at surprising odds with what we otherwise thought, felt, imagined.

Say, for instance, that you hunger to enter the photographic heart of this youthful, handsome, dark-haired man—who is your father—as he leans now against the gleaming bumper of a 1965 red-leather, bucket-seat Mustang. It was three decades before you were born. The moment is long buried and forgotten in your collective family’s past—and yet in another way, it is right here before you, on this photosensitive surface. Whether the figure in the photograph is alive or deceased, you are now going to try with all of your writing and reporting might to “walk back in.” Almost literally. You are going to achieve a story about this moment, with a beginning, middle, and end.

“Every great photograph has a secret,” a noted critic once said. An essayist for Time magazine once wrote: “All great photographs have lives of their own. But sometimes they can be false as dreams.”

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English 158.301
Science, Technology, Society
Tarr
T 1:30-4:30

Millions of American adults are science-illiterate. An annual survey published by the National Science Foundation reveals that more than 50 percent of Americans over age 18 don’t understand what antibiotics are; don’t understand evolution; don’t know what a laser is. There is much confusion about science as reported in the press. What foods should we eat? Are GMOs dangerous? Does the discovery of new “risk genes” for autism or schizophrenia hold any practical significance for patients and their families? What does your online data trail reveal about you, and to whom? This workshop is intended for students interested in using popular science writing to broaden public understanding of who scientists are and what they do. If the public does not understand how to judge scientific claims, how then can it participate intelligently in debates about major policy questions such as our response to climate change or whether limits should be placed on gene editing? This is a writing workshop, and the plan is for each student to produce 3-4 polished pieces of writing (2-3 of 500-750 words and 1 of 1,500-2,000 words) about scientists (including a profile of one scientist “at work”) and scientific subject matter, based on a range of techniques that all science writers (indeed all journalists) must master. Some of the skills we focus on: quickly researching a topic; preparing a list of potential interviewees; performing interviews; finding “the story”; and writing and rewriting story drafts. The object is to show improvement between first and subsequent drafts, with help from others in the workshop, who will provide periodic short critiques.

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English 160.301
Long-Form Journalism
Polman
W 2:00-5:00

Students will read and workshop some of America’s most pioneering long-form journalists - and tackle their own semester-long projects. 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, they’ve all aspired to practice “journalism that reads like fiction” yet “rings with the truth of reported fact.”

Students will closely parse their work, 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 working 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 twice take the time to workshop these works in progress.

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

One of the toughest challenges for any journalist is to master the art of profile-writing. In this course, students will read and critique some of the classic profile articles of the past 40 years, and, most importantly, write profile articles of their own. Writing about people is often very rewarding, but rarely easy. In this course, students will debate the questions that have plagued and energized journalists for generations:

How do you persuade somebody that he or she is a worthy topic for a profile? How do you ask sensitive questions? If the person is a celebrity, how do you avoid being manipulated into writing a “puff piece”? Do you tape the interviews or just take notes? How do you structure a profile in order to keep the reader’s attention? Is it even possible to capture the essence of a person on the written page? Are you a friend to the profile subject—or a manipulator? A journalist at The New Yorker once said that a writer’s relationship with the profile subject is “a kind of love affair.”

On the other hand, a famous author once said that a profile writer is typically “gaining their trust and betraying without remorse.” Which is closer to the truth? Students, in addition to writing their own profiles, will kick around these questions while reading some of the best contemporary profile writers, including Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, David Remnick, and Mark Bowden. And the instructor will likely offer several of his own.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: This is a two-semester course. Students who enrolled in 165 in the fall should re-enroll in 165 in the spring.

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English 170.301
Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture
DeCurtis
F 2:00-5:00

This advanced course in writing about the arts and popular culture (interpreted broadly) is limited in enrollment (by permission of the instructor) 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 117.301 with the instructor, but that is not a firm prerequisite and other students should absolutely feel free to apply.

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English 412.640
How a Story Works: The Art of Fiction
Sligar
M 5:30-8:30

This course will introduce you to the fundamentals of writing fiction. Over the semester, we will advance from writing a single sentence, to plotting and completing stories, to navigating the complexities of character and voice. In addition to writing your own stories, you will closely study works by authors such as Chang-Rae Lee, Toni Cade Bambara, Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Daniyal Mueeneddin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Virginia Woolf, Colson Whitehead, and others. Class discussions and workshops will focus on understanding what makes texts “work,” analyzing how authors use language to construct meaning, and learning to use language intentionally to create specific resonances. Because this course takes a formalistic approach to writing, it is appropriate both for students with previous creative writing experience and for students trying fiction writing for the first time.

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English 435.640
Writing through Music
Bloch
Online

“Not all that’s heard is music … Remember the little / lovely notes”—Lorene Niedecker

This writing workshop will focus on the provocative interchanges between music and creative writing. We will consider music of all kinds, all genres (jazz, classical, hip-hop, ambient, folk, electronic, experimental, etc.), as a springboard for the imagination, as a counterpoint to forms of language, and as a tool for cultivating creative writing practices; we will also explore a range of poets and prose writers whose engagement with music reveals new ways of understanding the relationship between sound and the written word. Students will craft their own original pieces in this community-based classroom, where we will read and comment on each other’s work as well as on outside readings and recordings; students will also be encouraged to explore the live music scenes where they live, and to create their own music if so inclined. Through regular weekly writing assignments in a range of genres, including poetry, essay, and fiction, we will push the boundaries of our ideas and discover and expand our own listening and reading practices. Course requirements include thoughtful and committed class participation, regular writing assignments, and a final portfolio as well as statement of creative practice.

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English 435.641
Writing and Remembering: A Memoir Workshop
Watterson
R 5:30-8:10

Whether you’re a new or experienced writer, this seminar will help you explore the elements that go into creating an effective memoir—the storytelling that creates for your readers events/people/places that have helped shape your inner life and sense of self. Memory is a dynamic force, and as we move and grow through our lives, our perspectives shift and change our relationships with the past. Through exercises and assignments, you will tap into your imagination and learn not only how to explore the mysteries that have helped to shape your own life and others’ lives, but how to write vividly about them. We will focus on details, pace, and tone, as well as on research and revision and the ethics of how to write “truths” that may effect other people’s lives. We also will mine a deeper understanding of the art and craft by writing from a wide range of authors, including Maxine Hong Kingston, Kaye Gibbons, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston. In addition to in-class writing, students are asked to a maintain a daily practice of free-writing; write reading responses (2-3 pages weekly) to assigned books, essays, and stories; participate in workshop discussions and peer review, and write and revise three stories or personal essays (4-5 pages) during the semester.