Autumn 2014 Courses

Attendance on the first day is mandatory for all classes.

  • To bid on Beginning and Core Creatie Writing classes, simply go to classes.uchicago.edu and bid on them as you would for any other class. 
  • For Honors, Intermediate, and Advanced level classes, please submit a writing sample through our online submission form. Submissions should be 3-5 pages for fiction and nonfiction classes, and 3-5 poems for poetry classes. 

Please note: All submissions should be double-spaced (except poetry) in Word documents using a 12-point standard font, accompanied by a brief (one-paragraph) statement of purpose. Include your name, class you are applying for, quarter/year, and indicate whether you are an undergrad, a MAPH student, or a PhD student (plus department) on the document. Please also indicate whether you are doing a CW minor or thesis. 

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: SEPTEMBER 15, 2014

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

Email the committee coordinator with questions.

Beginning-Level Courses

Beginning Fiction Writing: The Basics of Narrative Design (CRWR 10200/30200)

The process of writing fiction is frequently analogized. Some describe it as akin to carpentry, others to driving in the dark with only your headlights to see. Hemingway had a metaphor about icebergs. Whatever the analogy, the early thrill and inspiration of a good idea wears off eventually, and when it does a writer must figure out how to finish the story anyway, and how to revise it so that its intentions are understood by an audience. This course will examine an array of short stories as well as excerpts from longer works in an effort to decipher not only what a full narrative is made of, but also how individual scenes, paragraphs, and sentences are used to move plot and develop character. In discussion we will isolate and examine the basic elements of story craft—point of view, plot, character development, etc.—with special attention to how these things change through the stages of the writing process from first conception, to drafting, to revision. Students will themselves be asked to go through this process, writing their own works of fiction, submitting them for workshop, and revising.

Instructor: Baird Harper. Day and Time: Tuesdays from 12:00 pm to 2:50 pm

PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu (undergrad) or student's graduate department. No prerequisite required. Attendance on first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to be placed on the wait list.

 
Beginning Fiction Writing: The Short Story (CRWR 10202/30202)
 
“The novel is exhaustive by nature,” Steven Millhauser once wrote. “The short story by contrast is inherently selective. By excluding almost everything, it can give perfect shape to what remains.” This course will consider the particular spaces that short fiction occupies in the literary landscape as a means toward giving students a clearer understanding of how to compose brief and high-functioning narratives. Through readings of published stories and workshops of students’ own fiction, we’ll explore the parameters of the short story, its scope and ambitions, its limitations as well. We’ll read established masters like Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, and Joy Williams as well as newer voices such as Wells Tower and Anthony Doerr, breaking down their stories, not simply as examples of meaningful fiction, but as roadmaps toward a greater awareness of what makes a short story operate. Over the course of the quarter, students will submit stories for consideration in workshop, as well as other experimental efforts in short-short and micro fiction. Discussion will revolve around basic elements of story craft—point of view, pacing, language, etc.—in an effort to define the ways in which a narrative can be conveyed with economy, precision, and ultimately, power.
 
Instructor: Baird Harper. Day and Time: Thursdays from 12:00 to 2:50pm
 
PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu (undergrad) or student's graduate department. No prerequisite required. Attendance on first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to be placed on the wait list.
 
 
Honors Beginning Fiction (CRWR 10250/30250)

Fiction writing is part magic and part mechanics. This class will forgo the magic and concentrate on how a story is built: the architecture of structure, the mechanisms of character development, the fluid dynamics of dialogue. We’ll take a close look at some of the building blocks that make up fiction writing: character, dialogue, plot, point of view, and setting. We’ll also read and discuss a variety of short stories, always with an eye to craft and to what you, as writers, can steal for your own work. That’s right, steal. Much of this class is devoted to learning how to steal the tools of great fiction writing, then to using those tools to realize your own vision. You’ll write extensively in and out of class, from weekly reading responses to writing exercises that build toward a polished piece of work. Finally, you will write a complete draft and one extensive revision of a short story or novel chapter. The last third of the class will be devoted to student workshops, where each student will turn in a draft of a story or chapter to be read and critiqued by the whole class. This Honors Beginning course is open to all students but will give priority to those who are interested in declaring a Creative Writing Minor or a creative Honors Thesis. Unlike the normal Beginning courses, this class is not open bid and requires submission material and the consent of the instructor.

 
Instructor: Augustus Rose. Day and Time: Wednesdays from 1:30 pm to 4:20 pm
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 
 
Beginning Poetry Writing (CRWR 10300/30300)
 
This course addresses a range of techniques for writing poetry, making use of various compelling models drawn primarily from international modernisms on which to base our own writing. (Our textbook is Poems for the Millennium, edited by Rothenberg & Joris.) In this sense, the course will constitute an apprenticeship to modern poetry. We will consider the breadth of approaches currently available to poets, as well as the value of reading as a means of developing an understanding of how to write poetry. Each week students will bring poems for discussion, developing a portfolio of revised work by the quarter’s end. Additionally, students will keep detailed notebooks, as well as developing critical skills for understanding poetry in the form of two short essays.
 
Instructor: Peter O'Leary. Day and Time: Tuesdays from 1:30 pm to 4:20 pm
 
PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu (undergrad) or student's graduate department. No prerequisite required. Attendance on first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to be placed on the wait list.
 
 
Honors Beginning Poetry Writing (CRWR 10350/30350)

This course will explore different methods of crafting poetry, and the aesthetic and philosophical consequences of these approaches, and inquire into the balance between self-expression and the demands of communicative art. As a class, we will immerse ourselves in the fundamentals of poetry—sensory language, imagery, turn, epiphany, line breaks, musicality, form, structure, voice, and diction—and approach poetry from the perspective of practicing poets. Students will read voraciously in order to inform their own work and workshop their poems to learn the process of self-critique. Readings for the course will largely be drawn from 20th C. American poetry, including poetry by James Wright, Lorine Niedecker, Allen Ginsberg, Lucille Clifton, Russell Edson, Ai, and many others, giving students a sense of the particular socio-cultural context of being a poet in America today. This Honors Beginning course is open to all students but will give priority to those who are interested in declaring a Creative Writing Minor or a creative Honors Thesis. Unlike the normal Beginning courses, this class is not open bid and requires submission material and the consent of the instructor.

Instructor: Ariana Nash. Day and Time: Mondays from 1:30 to 4:20pm
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 
Honors Beginning Nonfiction Writing (CRWR 10450/30450)

In this class you can write about anything you want, in any way you want, as long as you adhere to the truth. What that truth is, only you can say; our purpose is to help you find it. We welcome essays, memoirs, travelogues, oral histories, and profiles, as well as reported and journalistic stories. We also encourage radio, oral history, and comics. Nonfiction is inherently interdisciplinary, and this class should reflect that. Whatever form of nonfiction you choose, you will submit it to your classmates, who will edit and critique it. These critiques are not for the faint of heart. They require meticulous line editing, rigorous reflection, and total honesty. They require you to put as much effort into your classmates’ stories as you do into your own. Be prepared to finish multiple rewrites of your story and to edit your classmates’ drafts. We will also read and discuss published examples specifically chosen to illustrate the narrative concerns and problems that arise in the student work at hand. You will leave this class with the work sample and skills you will need to take intermediate and advanced workshops. This course is open to all students but will give priority to those who are interested in declaring a creative writing Minor or a creative Honors Thesis. Unlike other beginning courses, this class is not open bid and requires you to submit a writing sample and obtain the consent of the instructor before enrolling.

Instructor: Dan Raeburn. Day and Time: Wednesdays from 9:30 to 12:20pm
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 
 
Intro to Genres: The surveilled City and the Googled Chicago (CRWR 12115)

This course invites participants to reconsider Chicago as collage constructed through literary, real, and virtual navigation. We’ll examine work by writers and artists including Cyrus Colter, Lauren Fairbanks, Michael Anania, and Arthur Siegel. At what points does Chicago’s necropolis “peek out” here? How does the artist’s eye retain defining power in the 21st century? Is there such a thing as a “Chicago flaneur?” In exploration of these questions, writers will develop their own individual and collaborative creative responses to “the world’s second most closely observed city.”

Instructor: Garin Cycholl. Day and Time: Mondays from 3:00 to 5:50pm
 
Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core Requirement for undergraduates.
 
PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu (undergrad). No prerequisite required. Attendance on first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to be placed on the wait list.
 

Intermediate-Level Courses

Intermediate Fiction Workshop (CRWR 12000/32000)

This intermediate fiction workshop will build on the fundamental elements of craft laid out in Beginning Fiction and encourage you to cultivate your own aesthetic: not just your writing style, but more importantly your unique perspective on the world that necessarily informs and is informed by that style. We will read a selection of writers who have distinctive voices and then complement those readings with writing exercises that will help you contextualize, refine, and expand your own emerging voice. As always, there will be an emphasis on the workshop process so that you are actively engaging with the work of your peers. For the course, you will complete one full-length story, which you will present for class critique, and then write a significant revision of that story, which you will either present for a second workshop or turn into me at the end of the quarter.

Instructor: Will Boast. Day and Time: Mondays from 1:30 to 4:20pm

PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.


Intermediate Fiction Workshop: Young Adult Fiction (CRWR 12004/32004)

The books and stories we read as teenagers are often some of the most influential in developing our tastes as adult readers and writers of fiction. In this workshop class, we’ll discuss the genre of young adult literature through evaluation of your own writing: what are its defining characteristics, and what’s the difference between writing for a young adult audience versus writing books and stories about teenagers but designed for adult readers? Students should be working on projects involving teenaged protagonists, no matter the intended audience; please come to the first session with either work to submit or a sense of when you’d be able to sign up for a slot. We’ll spend most of our time evaluating student work, learning how to become both generous and rigorous critics, and we’ll also talk about the books that influenced us the most as young adult readers and the books we’re reading today, from contemporary writers like John Green and Rainbow Rowell to classic authors like S.E. Hinton and Madeleine L’Engle.

Instructor: Michelle Falkoff. Day and Time: Tuesdays from 3:00 to 5:50pm

PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.

 
Intermediate Poetry Workshop: Poetry's Pathways (CRWR 13000/33000)

One way to think of a poem is as a series of linguistic routes, or pathways, from sound to sound, word to word, line to line, image to image. Of course, these routes don’t always move in a linear fashion: they often loop, overlap, interweave, crisscross, and create enchanting entanglements. Many disciplines, such as neuroscience and geography, practice “hodology,” or the study of pathways, to assess and understand similarly interconnected pathways. In comparative fashion, this poetry workshop will borrow hodological approaches to develop the practice of poetry writing. We focus on poems’ potential pathways in an effort to expand formal, thematic, and craft choices. While this class will emphasize workshop discussions of your poems and your experiments with craft, we’ll read widely, including work by Frank O’Hara, A. R. Ammons, T. S. Eliot, Alice Notley, Emily Dickinson, James Wright, Charles Baudelaire, Gilles Deleuze, and Harryette Mullen. Students will be expected to submit poems weekly and to write two short essays on craft. 

Instructor: Nate Hoks. Day and Time: Thursdays from 10:30 to 1:20pm
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 
 
Creative Nonfiction: The Ekphrastic Essay (CRWR 14005/34005)

Ekphrasis is the act of replicating the experience of one art form in another medium. In this class we’ll be trying to write essays that behave like paintings, essays that work like pop songs, essays that elicit aesthetic responses normally reserved for sculpture. We will read Mark Doty’s Still Life with Lemon and Oysters, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, and Kevin Young’s The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness. We will also be reading poets and fiction writers who’ve used ekphrastic techniques in their work.

Instructor: David Stuart MacLean. Day and Time: Tuesdays from 1:30 pm to 4:20pm.
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 

Advanced-Level Courses

Advanced Fiction Workshop: Writing the Novel (CRWR 22106/42106)
 
In this advanced fiction workshop, students will work on novel-length projects, completing two polished chapters and an outline of a full novel. We will explore how to structure a book that is both propulsive and character-driven, and how to create a compelling, unique narrative voice. Works by authors including James Baldwin, Edith Wharton, Vladimir Nabokov, and Yan Lianke will serve as guides to understanding the crucial relationship between characters and their contexts.
 
Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin. Day and Time: Wednesdays from 9:30 to 12:20pm
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 
 
Advanced Fiction Workshop: The Importance of Plot (CRWR 22111/42111)
 
What is plot—beyond the dramatic events that take place in a work of fiction? Why is it important—beyond engaging us in what happens to a story’s characters? Can plot be just as consequential to character-driven, aesthetic-driven, or idea-driven fiction as it is to fiction that privileges incident and action? And what exactly do we mean when we label stories in this fashion? This advanced fiction workshop will examine these questions and the many others that concern this crucial but often underrated element of craft. We will begin with the basic mechanics of plot and work towards a deeper understanding of all its effects on a narrative, whether they be dramatic, formal, characterological, even philosophical. Most importantly, we will try to apply these lessons to our own work, no matter the label we assign to our narrative and aesthetic interests. For the course, students will complete one full-length story, which they will present for class critique, and then write a significant revision of that story, which they will either present for a second workshop or turn in at the end of the quarter. Students should expect a rigorous but constructive workshop environment where being a critic and an editor is as essential as being a writer. The course will also include writing exercises and readings of exceptional published fiction, all intended to advance the course’s investigation of plot.
 
Instructor: Vu Tran. Day and Time: Tuesdays from 3:00 to 5:50pm
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 
 
Advanced Poetry Workshop: Writing the Poetic Everyday (CRWR 23100/43100)
 
This course takes inspiration from the poetry of Hannah Weiner, whose work Patrick Durgin calls “avant-garde journalism.” Weiner published a series of journals documenting her daily life and the words she saw as a result of her schizophrenia; the technology of the typewriter enabled her to document the different “voices” on the page. Following Weiner’s lead, we will explore various material modes of documenting the everyday – writing on index cards, by transcription, by typewriter, etc. We will look at other daily works by Ammons, Oppen, Mayer, etc. to expand our ideas of what writing the “everyday” looks like. Students will be expected to write and read as a daily practice, as well as to participate in exercises and critique during class.
 
Instructor: Stephanie Anderson. Day and Time: Wednesdays from 1:30 to 4:20pm
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 
 
Verse Forms in Theater and Spoken Word Tradition (CRWR 27006/47006)
 
A writing workshop for poets and playwrights for the study and development of character-driven verse. Traditional verse for the stage (blank and rhymed, Elizabethan through 1900‘s) will be explored, as well as modern attempts (Eliot, Caryl Curchill, David Ives, etc.) Where does the often thin line lie between a sonnet and a soliloquy? Students will be challenged to channel their poetic voice not through the personal, confessional “I”, but through the mask, through character – as Shakespeare did with his sonnets, Blake with his Songs, and Dickenson, often, with her small ballads.
 
Instructor: Mickle Maher. Day and Time: Thursdays from 1:30 to 4:20pm
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.
 
 
Journalism: Arts Criticism (CRWR 28200/48200)

In this workshop we will study and practice the craft of arts criticism for popular media, including newspapers, magazines, and online publications. We will strive to write fair, effective criticism of film, books, theater, music, cuisine, and visual arts. We will read the leading critics in many of the arts— Pauline Kael on film, Kenneth Tynan on Theater, MFK Fisher on cuisine, William Logan on poetry, Ellen Willis on rock, Michael Kimmelman on visual arts, David Pogue on tech. We also read critics critiquing their own craft: Alan Rich and Harold Schonberg on music criticism, Martin Amis, W.H. Auden, and John Updike on literary criticism, etc. We will study and adhere to the ethical standards of the profession of journalistic arts criticism. As much as possible we will emulate the working pace of the professional critic, completing weekly reviews for a specific audience.

Instructor: Jeff McMahon. Day and Time: Wednesdays from 3:00 to 5:50pm
 
PQ: Instructor consent required. To apply, submit writing sample (details). Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.