2004 Fellows seminar notes

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Papers and other requirements

Position papers

You will write a response to the readings every week (well, you may skip just one). These are informal "position papers." They are to be between 400 and 500 words in length and must be sent to the Fellows listserv any time before 6 AM on the Monday morning of the week's class. Four of these papers will be evaluated closely--at least one each on Banks, Hejinian and McPherson. Each week, bring a printed copy of your position paper to class. At the end of class you can decide if the paper you hold in your hands is one of the four you will turn in for evaluation.

Listserv responses

Each week you will be responding to one of the position papers sent to the listserv by your fellow Fellows seminarians. Send your response before noon. Your response should be sent to the listserv and should make a rejoinder to one point in one paper. These responses should be one short paragraph in length, about 100 words. Be sure, please, to make it clear which point in which person's position paper is the one to which your response is responding.


A special project will be randomly assigned to you. These, too, should be sent to the listserv--any time before 6 AM on the date indicate on the projects list above. Length: whatever is appropriate for fulfilling the purpose of the project but no less than 750 words. These need not be fancy or high-toned, but, rather, straightforward and lucid and, if apt, organized into short titled sections to make for easy reading. If you are not assigned a project, see Al asap so that we can devise one.

Obligations during Fellows' visits

As an absolutely vital part of the Fellows seminar, you will be called upon to volunteer during the two-day visits of the Fellows. Fulfilling this (mostly pleasurable) function is as much a requirement as the others listed here. If Blake Martin has not asked you to take on a role during the visits, be sure to ask him what you can do to help.

Final exam

There will be a wildly comprehensive, personalized final exam. It will be sent to you by email, to be written at your convenience ("take home") any time during the exam period.


  1. February 2: Watch all the films made of Russell Banks' novels and report on them for us. Is the pattern to the way Banks' writing (his language) does or doesn't translate well to the visual medium?
  2. February 9: Read Banks' Continental Drift and write to us about the book, especially in the context of the social and psychological settings of the other novels by Banks we're reading.
  3. February 9: Read Banks' early collection of stories, Trailerpark. Compare the contents of this book with the stories Banks chose to include in The Angel on the Roof. Which of these stories did he leave out? Can you characterize as a group the stories he left out? Can you speculate as to why? Look carefully at two stories that did make it into The Angel on the Roof and make a list of the revisions Banks made for the recent collection. What sort of revisions did he make?
  4. February 9: Read Banks' early collection of stories, Searching for Survivors. Compare the contents of this book with the stories Banks chose to include in The Angel on the Roof. Which early stories did he leave out? Can you characterize as a group the stories he left out? Can you speculate as to why? Look carefully at two stories that did make it into The Angel on the Roof and make a list of the revisions Banks made for the recent collection. What sort of revisions did he make?
  5. February 9: Read Banks' The Relation of My Imprisonment and tell us about the narrative experiment entailed here.
  6. February 9: Read Banks' Cloudsplitter and write a report on the novel with an eye to helping those members of the seminar who have not read the book and are not aware of its difference thematically and historically from Banks' other writings. (Note: the student who takes on this project is excused from reading Rule of the Bone.)
  7. February 23: Read the following, all pertaining to Oxata: A Short Russian Novel": "On Oxata: A Short Russian Novel" by Hejinian; excerpt from Oxata (available here); "How Russian Is It: Lyn Hejinian's Oxata," by Marjorie Perloff (available here). Write a report that tells us about this "short Russian novel." Contact Lyn Hejinian and interview her about her collaborations with the Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoschenko. In your report describe her work with Dragomoschenko in detail. Be sure to answer this question as well: How has this collaboration influenced or shaped the rest of Hejinian's writing?
  8. February 23: Read the following articles by and about Lyn Hejinian and cogently report on them for us: an interview with Lyn Hejinian by Alison Georgeson (1994); "The Word as Such: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry in the eighties" by Marjorie Perloff (from The Dance of the Intellect); Craig Dworkin's "Penelope Reworking the Twill: Patchwork, Writing and Lyn Hejinian's My Life"; and Hilary Clark, "Mnemonics & Autobiography."
  9. February 23 (for TWO people): Borrow my copy of Writing/Talks edited by Bob Perelman. Read and summarize, focusing especially on the general atmosphere of the "language writing" scene captured here and on Hejinian's role. Consult other accounts of that scene and other people who are familiar with it. Then meet with Bob Perelman to discuss the talk series out of which this book came. Describe it all fully for us.
  10. February 23 - Write a short history of the Kelly Writers House. Consult every corner of the KWH web site--starting here and moving outward among the links--and consult with at least five people who are familiar with the project, including at least a few who are its founders. Conclude by giving a short history of the Writers House Fellows programs. How do the aims of the Fellows program complement (and/or not complement) the mission and intent of the Writers House at large?
  11. March 1: Read as much as you can about Ron Silliman's concept of "the new sentence" and write a summary of what you find. Be sure in your report to define "parataxis" and to describe what poets like Silliman call "series."
  12. March 1: Read Hejinian's My Life in the Nineties and write a report on ways in which this book is different from the edition of My Life we are reading. Use whatever other sources--including reviews, articles and people who know about the overall My Life project--to give you the information you might lack after reading the text itself.
  13. March 1: Read and write a commentary upon Ann Vickery's book, Leaving Lines of Gender.
  14. March 15: Read Hejinian's book Slowly and write for us a report about it. Is there a single idea that unites the writing here? Also read Tom Devaney's short review of the book.
  15. March 15: Read Bob Perelman's The Marginalization of Poetry and convey to us your sense of Perelman's version of the story of "language writing," with a special emphasis on his many references to Lyn Hejinian.
  16. March 29: Read the special issue of Ploughshares (Fall 1990) that was co-edited by McPherson and DeWitt Henry on "confronting racial difference." What is the editors' approach generally to this topic? What can you discern from the writings they collected in this issue about the editors' general view? Be sure to report also on McPherson's contribution to this issue, "The Done Thing."
  17. April 5: Read Herman Beavers' "Wrestling Angels into Song" and report back to us on Beavers' interpretive approach to McPherson's writing. Then meet with Beavers and discuss this project. Have his views of McPherson changed? How does he read McPherson today?
  18. April 5: Discern, as fully and as best you can, where in the world of writers who identify themselves as "African American writers" McPherson fits--and/or to what extent. Has the African American literary community embraced McPherson? Is there a consensus on this point?
  19. April 12: Read The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake especially in the context of McPherson's admiration for Pancake. What about Pancake's writing seems to have attracted McPherson so utterly? Be sure to give us a general description and analysis of the stories in this book.
  20. April 12: Read McPherson's memoir, Crabcakes and report fully on this book for us. Does it correspond with the recent essays we're reading in A Region Not Home. What sort of idea about writing or the work of writers does McPherson seem to advocate here?
  21. April 12: Contact the writer Leigh Allison Wilson, who was a student and friend of McPherson, and discuss McPherson with her. Then report back to us in full.