Autumn 2018 Courses

Attendance on the first day is mandatory for all classes. Participation in creative writing courses may include attendance at events that take place outside of class time. Please note that workshops in which student produce and critique original work comprise a major component of all Creative Writing workshop courses.

To bid on Beginning and Core Creative Writing classes, simply go to my.UChicago and bid on them as you would for any other class. If the class is closed and the instructor is listed as "Staff," please contact Jessi Haley for a spot on the waiting list.

For Advanced Workshops, please submit a writing sample through our online submission form. Submissions should be 3-5 pages for fiction and nonfiction classes, and 3-5 pages of poems for poetry classes. The writing sample is a mandatory component of all workshop applications.

For Technical Seminars and Fundamentals in Creative Writing courses, please fill out the online application form. A writing sample is not required for applications to these courses. Please note that Fundamentals seminars are only open to students who have declared the Creative Writing major.

Please note: All sample submissions should be double-spaced (except poetry) in Word documents using a 12-point standard font. 

Please review your full application before you submit to be sure that AutoFill has not replaced any of your answers. We cannot take factors affecting your admission into account if the information is not on the application form.

Students may apply for no more than 2 workshop courses in each genre. Please clearly indicate your preferences if you are applying to multiple courses.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: September 14, 2018

The course instructor will contact you before the quarter begins to let you know whether you've been accepted.

Email the program manager with questions.

Arts Core

CRWR 12104 Introduction to Genres: Four Western Myths

Consider the proposition that myths inform the fabric of our thought, from its structures to its particularities. If this is so, how do we understand the power these myths exert on our imaginations? Is this power always benign? Is there a malevolent shadow these myths can cast on our collective soul? Let's examine four myths that arise out of the Western tradition. Two of them are old: the story of King Oedipus and the myth of the Holy Grail. The other two are newer: the story of the Wizard of Oz, the first complete American myth, and the story of Star Wars, as much a commentary on myth as a myth itself. Both of these newer myths have insinuated themselves into the popular imagination, in ways that the earlier myths are so ingrained they have the ability to be continually made novel. In this course, you will read texts that transmit these myths (Sophocles, Chrétien de Troyes, and L. Frank Baum), you will consider films that depict these myths (Edipe Re by Pasolini, The Da Vinci Code by Howard, The Wizard of Oz by Fleming, and Star Wars by Lucas), you will examine theories that interpret these myths (Freud, Weston, Lévi-Strauss, and Campbell, respectively), and, finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will generate your own versions of these myths in various creative forms: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, screenplays, and drama.

Instructor: Peter O'Leary
Day/Time:  Thursday, 2:00-4:50

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 12109 Introduction to Genres: Wizards

Do you believe in wizards? Are you a wizard? Then pack up your talismans, fetishes, and gamelans into the mysterious little satchel you carry at your side and get ready for some incantatory magic. We will investigate the figure of the wizard as an archetype, a literary symbol, a vehicle for fantasy, and as a commanding reality, while considering such things as A Wizard of Earthsea, the figure of Merlin, The Teachings of Don Juan, The Teachings of Ogotemmeli, Harry Potter, Aleister Crowley, the poetry of W. B. Yeats, Nathaniel Mackey, Jay Wright, and Ronald Johnson, as well as some other things too secret to reveal at present, including the nature of esotericism.

Instructor: Peter O'Leary
Day/Time:  Tuesday, 2:00-4:50

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 12126 Intro to Genres: Waste

What if we think of writing poems as waste management? "To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now," said Samuel Beckett then, famously, but: What does this mean? In this course, we will explore the many ways in which poets have tried to answer this question. Students will be asked to keep a notebook, with the instruction to keep everything that is for them a signature of thought. In this way, a pinecone or a piece of garbage is as much "writing" as anything else. Together, we will create an archive for the quarter, of everything that is produced and/or consumed under this aegis of making. This class is designed to pose questions about form and the activity of writing, in turn, the modes and methods of production not only as writers, but as persons.

Instructor: Lynn Xu
Day/Time:  Thursday, 11:00-1:50

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 12128 Reading as a Writer: The Sea

What is the temporality of the sea? Its consciousness? Where does it begin? Or end? In this course, we will consider the sea both as a figure in our literary, critical, visual, political, historical, and ecological imaginations, as well as a body in itself, iridescent and gleaming at the end of the world. We will look at practices of burial at sea, the infamous "wine dark sea" of Homer, the Middle Passage, the hold and wake of the ship, necropolitics, the concept of sovereignty and bare life, stowaway and asylum seekers, piracy and floating armories, eco-materialism, the post-human and alien worlds of our oceanic origins, the moon . . . and so on. Students will be asked to keep a reading notebook as well as to produce weekly creative responses for class discussion. "And as you read /the sea is turning /its dark pages /turning /its dark pages" (Denise Levertov, from To The Reader).

Instructor: Lynn Xu
Day/Time:  Thursday, 11:00-1:50

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

 

Beginning Workshops

CRWR 10206/30206 Beginning Fiction Workshop, Section 1

Basics of Narrative Design

This course will begin with a weeks-long consideration of selected works of fiction where discussion will aim to distinguish the basic techniques and devices of effective storytelling. Weekly topics will range from subjects as broad as point of view and plot arrangement to more highly focused lessons on scene design, dialog, and word choice. Throughout the term, the writing process will be broken down into stages where written work will focus on discrete story parts such first pages, character introductions, and dialog-driven scenes before students are asked to compose full-length narratives. Along the way, students will chart their processes of conceptualizing, drafting, and revising their narratives. Finally, in the latter weeks of the quarter, emphasis will shift to the workshopping of students’ full stories.

Instructor: Baird Harper
Day/Time:  Thursday, 12:30-3:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10206/30206 Beginning Fiction Workshop, Section 2 

Writers at all levels learn through the careful reading of works they admire. We will spend more than a third of our time in this class reading stories worth learning from, both classic and contemporary, by writers like James Baldwin, Grace Paley, Steven Millhauser, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Min Jin Lee. Discussion will be lively—passionate opinions and enthusiasm are welcome—but most of our focus will be on the choices writers make, the nuts and bolts of craft, including: point of view, tone, direct and summary dialog, setting, and use of time. In-class exercises will further hone your understanding of specific techniques, fire your creativity and get you writing. We will then move to writing workshop, where you will have the opportunity to present your work to the group. Critique will be respectful and productive, with emphasis on clarity and precision. By the end of the course, you will have generated significant raw material and completed at least one story, which will be revised and handed in as a final portfolio.

Instructor: Sharon Pomerantz
Day/Time:  Monday, 1:30-4:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10206/30206 Beginning Fiction Workshop, Section 3 

Scenes are often considered the building blocks of narrative story-telling. In this course, we’ll examine short fiction through the lens of scene, starting from the basics: What are scenes, how do they work, and what should they accomplish in a story? We’ll consider the scene’s relationship with context, tension, narrative arc, and other story elements. Together we’ll examine how authors like Joyce Carol Oates, Bret Antony Johnson, and Rebecca Lee use scenes to great effect, focusing on setting, dialogue, action, image, and detail. In addition to these readings, you will complete several short writing exercises and one longer story, which you will workshop and substantially revise. You will also engage with the work of your peers, delivering thoughtful, encouraging, constructive critiques.

Instructor: Benjamin Hoffman
Day/Time:  Fridays, 10:30-1:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10306/30306 Beginning Poetry Workshop, Section 1 

The Music of Poetry

This course invites students to experiment with both the audible and inaudible elements of poetry. We’ll practice traditional music-making devices, such as rhythm and rhyme, at the same time that we explore musical movements of the mind and the moods that lyricism makes available. The class will practice literary community building by discussing peers’ poems in workshops, by attending on campus readings, and by responding to poems and essays by contemporary and modern poets and critics. Assignments will include weekly poems, commentary on peers’ work, and a final portfolio.

Instructor: Nate Hoks
Day/Time:  Wednesday, 1:30-4:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10306/30306 Beginning Poetry Workshop, Section 2

Place

This course is intended to introduce students to the fundamental elements—the “craft”—of poetry writing, both through extensive reading in contemporary poetry and through the production and workshopping of students’ own work.  We will focus, in particular, on poetries of “place”—poetry written out of, about, and sometimes against specific hometowns, campuses, cultural and geographic landmarks, trade routes, planets, airports, chat rooms, etc.  Such writing—including work from Brenda Hillman, Nate Marshall, Ariana Reines, Javier Zamora, and many others—will not only equip students with the language to talk critically about poetic craft, but help them understand how craft techniques inform a wide range of issues in contemporary poetry and poetics.  How, we will ask, does poetry of “place” engage with migrant and immigration patterns in the 21st century?  Do the environmental concerns of “ecopoetry,” likewise, alter how we consider our rootedness in place?  To what extent can poetry incorporate the “placelessness” of the internet?  While these questions are large—and largely abstract—students will engage them in concrete ways in their own poetry, writing which will be discussed—critically yet compassionately—in frequent in-class workshops.

Instructor: Chris Kempf
Day/Time:  Thursday, 9:30-1:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10406/30406 Beginning Nonfiction Workshop, Section 1 

 Writing Our Lives
The world is made up of stories, and stories about stories. Telling our stories, honoring those stories, listening actively and empathetically to the stories of others—this is all part of the propulsive work of democracy. Of course writing our stories is not a skill separate from thinking, and there’s nothing more interesting, engaging, and, yes, precarious than an intelligent mind thinking out loud. The practice of writing is a journey, not by a tourist, but by a pilgrim struggling to make sense—and the reader must actually see the struggle. We will be concerned in this workshop with writing creative nonfiction: memoirs, polemics, personal essays. We’ll consider fundamental issues in writing nonfiction—creating a credible narrator and becoming a compelling story-teller; describing a scene in sufficient detail; diving into (and not running away from) contradictions; knowing when to “show, don’t tell” and (just as important) when to “tell—synthesize, generalize, sum up—don’t show.”  We will read a few pieces on the art of writing creative nonfiction, and we will focus on engaging and responding to primary texts by several authors including Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, Jamaica Kincaid, George Orwell, Natalia Ginzburg, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jesmyn Ward, Rebecca Solnit, and Adrienne Rich. The heart of our work together will be ongoing workshops of original student writing.

Instructor: William Ayers

Day/Time: Monday, 10:30-1:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10406/30406 Beginning Nonfiction Workshop, Section 2

Writing About Place

Writing is way of seeing the physical world; it is an exploration. The process of observing, drafting, revising—that is how we make sense of the places around us. It is also how we create meaning out of our own place in the world. In this nonfiction workshop, we will write about Chicago and hometowns; we will write profiles, literary reportage and (short-distance) travel memoirs. All of these writing types involve stories being told well, and we will focus on structure, scene and voice. We will also work on strategies to draw out narratives from our surroundings—interviewing, reporting, researching—and on how to use what we gather to bring a place to life. We will read published nonfiction, analyzing it for craft and technique, and tackle our own nonfiction as editors, rewriting and making it better.

Instructor: Ben Austen
Day/Time:  Thursday, 2:00-4:50 pm

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

Fundamentals & Technical Seminars

Fundamentals in Creative Writing: Testimony (CRWR 17001)

To give testimony is to bear witness and to provide evidence. To give testimony is also to draw the reader or listener into an individual point of view. In this course, we will study the first-person voice in various forms of personal testimony. Drawing from a mix of memoirs, personal essays, letters, fiction, and other first-person narratives, we will analyze the techniques and rhetorical devices used by writers, standup comedians, memoirists in transporting the listener or reader into unknowable, unfamiliar experiences. Expect to engage with texts by authors such as Franz Kafka, Patricia Lockwood, Richard Pryor, and William Maxwell. We will compose our own personal writings through creative exercises. A critical paper is also due.

Instructor: Ling Ma
Day/Time:  Wednesday, 12:30-3:20

Students must be a declared Creative Writing major to enroll. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Technical Seminar in Fiction: Characterization (CRWR 20200/40200)

This reading and writing seminar will acquaint students with one of the essential tools of fiction writers: characterization. We will read primary texts by authors including Baldwin, Flaubert, Munro, and Wharton, as well as critical work by Danticat, Forester, and Vargas Llosa, toward exploring how some of literature's most famous characters are rendered. How do writers of fiction create contexts in which characters must struggle, and how does each character's conflicts reveal his or her nature? Students will complete both creative and analytical writing exercises, reading responses, and a paper that focuses on characterization in a work of fiction.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin
Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.


Technical Seminar in Nonfiction: Narrative Structure (CRWR 20402/40402)

In this class we’ll analyze the architecture of nonfiction. We’ll start by studying the primary elements of composition: the sentence, paragraph, and section. (Or chapter, in the case of a book.) We’ll begin with Verlyn Klinkenborg’s treatise, Several Short Sentences about Writing; also, because the sentence has so much in common with the line and thus poetry, lyric essays, which verge on verse. Sentences accrete into paragraphs, each with its own internal structure, one that leads to the next paragraph and eventually to the overall structure, one composed of every previous element, like a set of Russian nesting dolls. We’ll take apart those structures. If it’s a chain of events we’ll study their order, and ask why they’re often better out of chronologic order. If the piece is a train of thought we’ll look at the way each paragraph forms a boxcar, so to speak, in that train, one pulled along by a central, sometimes unspoken, question or conflict. In some cases—Didion’s White Album—we’ll analyze the absence of any meaningful structure. Other readings include Katherine Boo, David Grann, Natalia Ginzburg, and theoretical texts such as John McPhee’s Draft Number Four.

Instructor: Dan Raeburn

Day/Time: Tuesday, 9:30-12:20 am

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Workshops

Advanced Fiction Workshop: The Love Story (CRWR 22113/42113)

This advanced fiction workshop will examine the ways we write about love in fiction: romantic love, familial love, unconventional love, etc.  Our basis will be the notion that love is ultimately self-knowledge, which lies at the core of all great fiction, and like self-knowledge it involves an endless and inexhaustible act of seeking.  We will read and discuss stories centered on the topic of love, this act of seeking, and we will do writing exercises that help us write compellingly, convincingly, and unsentimentally about deeply sentimental things.  Every student will also complete and workshop a full-length story that explores the idea of love on some level.  They will additionally write a significant revision of this story, which they will either present for a second workshop or turn in at the end of the quarter.  Please expect a rigorous but constructive workshop environment where being a critic and an editor is as essential as being a writer.

Instructor: Vu Tran
Day/Time: Tuesday, 2:00 - 4:50 

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Fiction Workshop: Music in Fiction & Improvised Composition (CRWR 22119/42119)

This workshop-based course is suitable for any student wishing to refine and expand their understanding of how fiction gets made, and will be of particular interest to those exploring new stylistic possibilities or working in both the disciplines of prose writing and music. We'll look at the Modernists' experiments with refrain, repetition, and pure verbal music, their attempts "to find out what's behind things," as Woolf put it. We'll consider literary improvisation as Ellison meant the term: the gathering of seemingly disparate materials to synthesize something wildly new. We'll explore how musicians are often allowed (or forced) to cross cultural boundaries through texts like Baldwin's "This Evening, This Morning, So Soon" and interviews with Wendy Carlos and Fred Hersch. We'll also look at the burgeoning field of rhythmology, and use it as a bridge to examine how music also borrows from fiction, through storytelling in song and a guest lecture from a Pulitzer-Prize-nominated composer. 

Instructor: Will Boast
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30 - 4:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Fiction Workshop: Novel Writing, The First Chapters (CRWR 22128/42128)

In this workshop-focused class we will focus on the early stages of both developing and writing a novel: choosing the POV, establishing the setting, developing the main characters and the dynamics between them, setting up the conflicts and seeding the themes of book, etc. As a class we will read, break down and discuss the architecture of the openings of several published novels as you work on your own opening chapters, which will be workshopped during the course.

Instructor: Augustus Rose
Day/Time: Monday, 10:30 - 1:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Poetry Workshop: Vocabularies (CRWR 23120/43120)

In this workshop, students will explore ideas about what constitutes a poet's "voice," with particular interest in vocabularies. Where do poets find their language, and how do they change it (or how does it change them)? What constraints have poets put on themselves in order to create interesting vocabularies? We'll read work by Tracy K. Smith, Geoffrey Hill, Aaron Kunin, Catullus, Federico Garcia Lorca, Emily Wilson, Jack Spicer, Aimé Césaire, Paul Celan, Anne Carson, Jeffrey Yang, Charles Baudelaire, poets in The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, and others. Students will keep notebooks of language gathered in different locations and culled from different media. They will also make work in other media to explore different notions of vocabulary.

Instructor: Joshua Edwards

Day/Time: Friday, 10:30 - 1:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: Writing Lives (CRWR 24009/44009)

Certain lives catch and keep our attention - they seem magnetic, illustrative, confusing, broken off, revelatory. Sometimes we suspect that through studying a life we will be able to understand a scientific discovery, an artistic creation, a political issue or an historical period; sometimes we are drawn by the drama of the life the subject lived, or by the person's introspection or testimony. This is a course for students interested in writing lives - and might be of particular interest to a variety of students: creative writers from nonfiction, fiction, and playwriting with an interest in profiles, group portraits, documentary work, or historical meditation; graduate and undergraduate students of history, art, politics, medicine, or law who imagine one day writing a biography, or who are interested in oral history, portraits, medical narrative writing, testimony, case histories, or writing for general / magazine audiences. We'll work to learn methods and techniques of interviewing, quotation, portrayal and documentation from historians and journalists, and also from playwrights, psychoanalysts, documentary photographers and archivists. Students will write weekly exercises in a variety of forms, and will complete one longer essay to be workshopped in class and revised.

Instructor: Rachel Cohen

Day/Time: Monday, 10:30 - 1:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.