2000 Fellows seminar notes

This page is an archive.


Reading schedule

Position papers

Participants in the seminar will be writing FOUR short strongly interpretive essays called "position papers." (Students who are doing course projects will be writing fewer than four papers.)

Dates when position papers are due are indicated on the reading schedule by an asterisk (*).

Plan in advance when you will write your four papers. Note that students may NOT write two position papers in succession. This means, among other things, that you cannot wait until the end of the semester to begin writing your papers. Plan ahead!

If you are writing all four papers--if you are not doing a project--you must write on all three Fellows (Creeley, Paley, Wideman). If you are writing fewer than four papers, you should try to write on all three writers, but should in any case be sure to write on at least two of our Fellows.

Papers are due before noon on the day we discuss the text/topic. for instance, those writing on Paley's Enormous Changes at the Last Minute must submit their position papers before noon on Monday, January 31, which is the day we discuss that book in class begining at 2 PM.

Send your papers to whfellow@english.upenn.edu with no formatting. Do not send the papers as attachments. Unformatted text sent by email is sometimes called "plain text" or "ascii." If all else fails, simply block and copy your paper's text from the word processor you are using, and send the copied block by email to whfellow@english.

Position papers consist of between 65 and 75 lines of email text.

Position papers don't fiddle-faddle with general introductions or conclusions,

Position papers do not summarize what's in the text (assume your reader knows the text well), and be sure to

A good rule of thumb for knowing if you have a remarkable position: ask yourself, "Might others be capable of disagreeing with me?" If not, then consider that your "position" is truistic or obvious or too agreeable. (In other words, a good position paper is one someone could argue against.)

Books and bulkpack to buy

books (purchase from House of Our Own, 39th & Spruce)

bulkpack (purchase from Campus Copy Center)


  1. before January 31 | equivalent of 1 position paper | Comb the indexes (bound and on-line) of the New York Times and other indexes of mass circulation news magazines and weeklies, looking for indications of Grace Paley's political involvements. Summarize what you find in at least 90 lines of email to the listserv. Quote liberally and cite fully. (Elise)
  2. before January 24 | equivalent of 1 position paper | Paley teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Somehow find at least three of her students by email and converse with them informally about what she is like as a teacher. Report fully to us in at least 90 lines of email. (Lauren)
  3. before February 7 | equivalent of 1 position paper | Read Paley's book of essays, prefaces, reviews, and speeches, Just as I Thought. What do you find there? Is her occasional prose/journalism like or unlike her fictional writing? What themes or particular concerns emerge in this book? Summarize what you find for us, in an email posting to the listserv of at least 90 lines. (Rebecca)
  4. before January 31 | equivalent of 1 position paper | Find at least 3 contemporaneous reviews of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute. Read these carefully and report on them in at least 90 lines of email. (Ratha)
  5. before March 20 | equivalent of 2 position papers | Speak with members of the Penn faculty and staff who remember John Wideman from his days as a student and/or his days as a member of the faculty. Be sure to touch base with Bob Lucid and Peter Conn, English faculty who recall Wideman's teaching. Ira Harkavy may also remember Wideman at Penn. Seek others. Interview them. Wideman was a star player on Penn's basketball team during his student days; be sure to find out something about that as well. Write a report, quoting your informants liberally, and send to the listserv--at least 200 lines. (Jordana)
  6. before March 20 | equivalent of 1 position paper | Read at least two books--as well as newspaper and other accounts--of the MOVE bombing of 1985. Summarize what happened with special relation to how it is presented in Philadelphia Fire. Send to the listserv, in at least 90 lines of text. (Michelle and Cordie)
  7. begin immediately | equivalent of 1 position paper | Work with Adam to help create a web site that will preserve all the project reports as they are sent to the listserv, and a front-end or home page that links them and presents the whole of the course. (Tim)
  8. before March 20 | equivalent of 1 position paper | Talk to people associated with the Art Sanctuary project, as well as students affiliated with Lorene Cary's graduate seminar, and find out as much as possible about the April 2000 program that will feature John Wideman's writings as they are discussed in community reading groups. What is the objective of the project? How does it actually work? Why are Penn graduate students involved? Write a report to the listserv of at least 90 lines describing this project. (Blake)
  9. before February 28 | equivalent of 1 position paper | Read as much as you can about the radical pedagogical ideas practiced at Black Mountain College. Describe them. How did they affect Robert Creeley? Write a report to the listserv of at least 90 lines. (Sara C.)
  10. before February 21 | equivalent of 2 position papers | Read at least two novels in Wideman's Homewood Trilogy and tell us about them in a post to the listserv of at least 120 lines. What connections, if any, do they have to Brothers and Keepers? (Nicole and Sarah Z.)
  11. before March 27 | equivalent of 2 position papers | Robert Creeley has been teaching in the poetry program at SUNY Buffalo for some years. He has been crucially important to the development there of one of the finest poetics programs. Seek out and exchange emails with as many people as possible who are writing/teaching/studying at Buffalo, or who are alumni of the Buffalo program, and learn as much as possible about Creeley's influence there. Where does Creeley stand, in the world of teaching and learning about contemporary poetry, in relation to the so-called "language poetry" movement, one of whose major spokespeople is Charles Bernstein, now at Buffalo also. Summarize your findings in an email posting to the listserv of at least 120 lines. (Paul)