Creative Writing

MFA Course Descriptions

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Spring 2020

CRW 524-001 (3), -003 (2), and -004 (1) Ecotone LITERARY MAGAZINE, PHILLIPS BELL A L
[Permission of instructor required. Please write Anna Lena Phillips Bell for permission to register.]
CRW 524-003 (three credits) provides practical experience in the work of making a literary magazine, and supports the publication of Ecotone, the award-winning national literary magazine of place. Each practicum member is responsible for reading and commenting on a number of manuscripts each week. Ecotone staff members also fact-check work for upcoming issues, write front-matter copy, draft the run order for our upcoming issue, and proofread. Other work may include promotion planning and implementation. We will set aside time at least once during the semester to think about the process of sending out work to literary magazines. In addition, we will read widely, both to cultivate an understanding of Ecotone’s aesthetic and where it sits in the literary landscape, and to find new voices the magazine might publish. Practicum members will read and review one past issue of Ecotone, and will subscribe to two print literary magazines and follow one online, choosing one to review. Required texts: Subscriptions to two literary magazines from approved list; Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. Recommended text: The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition. MFA students may repeat for credit without limit.
CRW 524-001 and -002 are reserved for Ecotone’s section editors. These editorships entail a separate weekly meeting. Section editors manage digital and print submissions for a given genre—reading manuscripts, assigning work to readers, reviewing readers’ comments, recommending work for discussion by the team, leading discussions of work, and ensuring that submission responses are sent. Section editors also solicit work from new writers; work closely with the editor to learn the craft of writing editorial correspondence and marking edits; contribute ideas for special features and issue themes; and help draft and implement promotion plans for the magazine. Required texts: Subscriptions to two literary magazines from approved list; Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. MFA students may repeat for credit without limit. In spring 2020, applications will be accepted for the positions of fiction editor and managing editor. The latter position is a graduate assistantship open to students in their first year. Students interested in applying must have taken, or be currently enrolled in, the three-credit practicum course.

CRW 524-002 (3), CRW 524-005 (1), & CRW 524-006 (2): LITERARY MAGAZINE CHAUTAUQUA, GERARD J
This course is designed to give graduate students a practical magazine publishing experience. The primary work of the course is related to building the journal. Students will read and respond to submissions, work on editing and fact-checking, tackle marketing/sales issues, and provide leadership for an undergraduate team.
Opportunities exist for graduate students to explore and follow interests in publishing. Graduate students have the opportunity to work on developmental editing projects; written blog posts, press releases, and articles for Chautauqua Institution publications; design broadsides, bookmarks, and other marketing materials; help to plan a launch.
Course may be repeated for credit.

CRW 542-001: POETRY WRITING WORKSHOP, COX M
Though it is essentially a craft-oriented workshop wherein poets will critique and encourage each other's work, I am also planning to make room for a number of in-class writing/revision exercises or presentations.  I will tailor these exercises in process and revision to the group’s needs. I will provide individualized reading lists.  Student products will include a portfolio of seven finished poems, plus revision drafts. The journal will consist of:  a) responses to reading assignments in modern and contemporary poetry and poetics; b) weekly reflections; and c) extensive exploration of a craft concept of your choice.

CRW 542-002: POETRY WRITING WORKSHOP, CROWE M
In a form perhaps most essentially characterized by compression, what does it mean for poets to write at length? What kinds of storytelling, expansiveness of thought, or complexity of experience might be achieved or broached or sustained in longer poems? And how can such work cleave to standards of precision and concision, even as they extend beyond the standard one-pager? This course combines investigation of longer verse with a workshop of student poems. We’ll read as models a wide range of works “of length”—both free verse and formal approaches—by modern and contemporary poets. While we’ll workshop poems of all shapes and sizes, each student will compose and revise at least one multi-page poem during the course of the semester.

 

CRW 544-001: FICTION WRITING WORKSHOP, LEE R

 

CRW 544-002: FICTION WRITING WORKSHOP, GERARD P
Students will write an original scene and two complete pieces of original new fiction, either stories or novel chapters, and share manuscripts with their peers for written and oral critique. Using the readings as guides to storytelling technique, we will pay close attention to technical issues such as POV, story structure, tone, profluence, suspense, characterization, and narrative intelligence. Students are expected to present new work rather than revisions of formerly workshopped stories and chapters, unless the revisions have substantially changed the piece, or by prior permission of the instructor. The emphasis is on pushing each writer to dare new drafts, rather than to polish competent stories. Each member of the workshop provide each other with a written critique. In this critique, the first order of business is to notice what is going on: observe what the author is trying to do and how. Only then can we begin to make technical and aesthetic judgments about how to improve the piece in light of the author’s intention and the story’s inherent—and perhaps unrecognized—possibilities.

 

CRW 544-003 (1): FICTION WRITING WORKSHOP, with Visiting Writer
Fridays at 1:00

 

CRW 545-001: FORMS OF CREATIVE NONFICTION—THE MACABRE, DASGUPTA S
The goal of this course is to improve students’ reading, writing, research, and analysis skills by examining a variety of books, essays, and short stories that fall under the broad umbrella of “horror.” We will read a variety of subgenres (psychological, supernatural, Gothic, true crime) and pay attention to narrative decisions (backstory, framing devices, primary and secondary conflicts, foreshadowing, etc.) to see how various storytelling techniques demonstrated in these works may be incorporated into our own writing, regardless of genre. Each book will be paired with a matching writing exercise, and there will be a final assignment at the end of the semester.

CRW 547-001: FORMS OF FICTION—THE SHORT NOVEL, DE GRAMONT M
In this course we will read novels that are under 250 pages, and discuss and examine how the author constructed a complete and compelling world in such a brief span of words. Authors will include Jamaica Kinkaid, Kazuo Ishiguro, Colson Whitehead, and Ocean Vuong. Students will also outline and develop an idea for their own short novel.

CRW 548-001: WORKSHOP LONG FORM NARRATIVE II, EDGERTON C
This is the second semester of a two-semester course and our goal is to have a draft of a fiction or nonfiction book by end of this second semester. Timelines and due pages will be designed on an individual basis, but expect something in the line of 20 - 30 pages a month. Among potential class and individual activities--in addition to traditional and non-traditional workshopping of chapters, scenes, maps, outlines, etc.: 1) discussing plot, scenes, characters, and theme, 2) discussions of literary theory, 3) discussion of writing technique and craft, 4) discussions of readings (from among other books, Paris Review Interviews, Mystery and Manners, Civilization and Its Discontents), 5) dramatic reading of scenes and 6) development of an analysis and description of the writer’s esthetic.

CRW 550-001: WORKSHOP CREATIVE NONFICTION, MOEZZI M
In this course, students will write, read, revise, and critique their own creative nonfiction (CNF). Think personal essay, memoir, literary journalism, criticism, profile, and/or opinion, nature, travel, lyrical, political, observational, argumentative and descriptive writing, and so on. By the end of this semester, students will have written at least one work of original CNF that is ready to submit for publication.

CRW 550-002: WORKSHOP CREATIVE NONFICTION, WHITE M
I’d prefer to call this the Unclassified Writing Workshop. Our readings will consist of unclassifiable hybrid writing by Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Leslie Jamison, Sarah Broom, etc. Rankine’s breakthrough collection Citizen incorporates poetry, micro-memoir, film, and criticism in its unflinching study of race in America; for weeks it topped sales charts in poetry and nonfiction simultaneously. Similarly, Nelson works simultaneously in poetry, autobiography, theory; Jamison works simultaneously in memoir, journalism, criticism, etc. Our writing focus will be on unclassifiable hybrid writing, in both short- and long-forms. Workshopping will be of the fairly traditional, peer-review type.

CRW 560-001: PUBLISHING PRACTICUM: LOOKOUT BOOKS, SMITH E
[Permission of instructor required.] A select group of graduate students supports the work of the department’s award-winning literary imprint Lookout Books (www.lookout.org). This practical course functions primarily as a robust, hands-on internship at an independent publisher and provides real-world experience in everything from evaluating manuscripts to fact checking, from pitching cover concepts to developing creative marketing and publicity plans in support of the imprint’s forthcoming titles. The Lookout experience will prove valuable and rewarding for students interested in furthering their understanding of literary publishing, whether they want to enter the industry and learn about it toward their own aspirations as authors. Former students have gone on to careers in publishing at Ecco, Graywolf, Hub City Press, W. W. Norton, Orion magazine, and Southern Humanities Review, among others. [MFA students may repeat for credit without limit.]

CRW 580-001: BORDER CROSSINGS: CONTEMPORARY TRAVEL WRITING, SIEGEL R
What is travel writing? How do we define it? Does travel have to be geographic, for example? Or can it be cultural or social—vertical, rather than horizontal? This course explores travel writing of the last thirty years, with particular interest in the way boundaries blur and aesthetic strategies multiply as the genre explodes outward in a globalizing world. Readings include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by Ben Lerner, Nell Freudenberger, Jenny Xie, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and others. One creative project.

CRW 580-002: TOPIC: SUBVERSIVE WOMEN, BRENNER W
This is a reading and discussion course (elective, not workshop) open to MFA students in all genres, in which we’ll read works by women who subvert traditional literary narrative form and content in all sorts of fun and interesting ways. Although some texts we’ll read are implicitly political, our focus will be on other kinds of subversiveness: authors who break, bend, and/or ignore the rules of plot, character, genre, and so on. As always, we’ll think about how we might borrow various techniques for use in our own work, regardless of genre or sub-genre.
Book list: Confessions of a Pretty Lady (Sandra Bernhard), Two Serious Ladies (Jane Bowles), Fire Girl (Sayantani Dasgupta), The City Is a Rising Tide (Rebecca Lee), Eileen: A Novel (Ottessa Moshfegh), Oh! A Novel (Mary Robison), Valley of the Dolls (Jacqueline Susann), Ninety-Nine Stories of God (Joy Williams). We’ll also watch documentary films about playwright Lorraine Hansberry and televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. Students will write occasional 1-page creative or response papers, and one longer response essay at semester’s end.

 

 

MFA Course Descriptions Archive