Autumn 2016 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 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. 
  • For CW Track, Special Topics, and Advanced 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 pages of 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. 

NOTE: Students may apply for no more than 2 courses in each genre.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: September 7, 2016

The course instructor will contact you by September 16 to let you know whether you've been accepted.

Email the committee coordinator with questions.

Arts Core Courses

Intro to Genres: The Surveilled City and the Googled Chicago

CRWR 12115

This course invites readers to reconsider Chicago as collage constructed through literary, real, and virtual navigation.  We’ll examine work by writers and artists including Chris Ware, Steve Bogira, Theodore Dreiser, Lauren Fairbanks, Christina Ramberg, and Arthur Siegel.  At what points does Chicago’s necropolis “peek out” here?  Versus Walt Whitman, 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, participants will develop their own individual and collaborative creative responses to “the world’s second most closely observed city.”

Course meets the General Education requirement in the Dramatical, Musical and Visual Arts.

Instructor: Garin Cycholl

Day and Time: Monday, 4:30-7:20

PQ: Open bid through my.UChicago. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, complete the Online Consent Form.

Introduction to Genres: Wizards

CRWR 12109

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, Ronald Johnson, as well as some other things too secret to reveal at present, including the nature of esotericism.

Course meets the General Education requirement in the Dramatical, Musical and Visual Arts.

Instructor: Peter O’Leary

Day and Time: Tuesday, 1:30-4:20

PQ: Open bid through my.UChicago. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, complete the Online Consent Form.

Reading as a Writer

CRWR 12103

How does a writer read?  A poet may cultivate distracted reading, a novelist may undertake research of scholarly scope and rigor. To read for writers is to read for generative use in writing. Two examples central to this course will be Lydia Davis’ translation of Flaubert's Madame Bovary with her own ‘Ten Stories from Flaubert’ and Julian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot, and Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets read alongside the poems by Frank O’Hara which they imitate. Members of this class will learn to read creatively, and to perpetrate literary (mis)readings, including translation, parody, homage, recovery of lost voices and physical treatments of books. Students will write reflections upon the experience of reading literature from the perspective of a writer throughout the quarter, on the class Chalk website, as well as experimenting with creative imitations of literary precursors.

Course meets the General Education requirement in the Dramatical, Musical and Visual Arts.

Instructor: John Wilkinson

Day and Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20

PQ: Open bid through my.UChicago. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, complete the Online Consent Form.

Fundamentals Courses

Fundamentals of Fiction

CRWR 10205/30205, Section 1

This course is meant to be an exploration of the basics of narrative design. The term will begin with a weeks-long consideration of selected works of fiction in which our discussion will aim to isolate the techniques and devices of effective storytelling. Weekly topics will range from subjects as broad as plot arrangement and character development to more highly focused lessons on scene design, dialog, language, and so on. During the middle of the term the writing process will be broken down into stages in which students will chart their processes of conceptualizing, writing, and revising their own stories. Finally, in the latter weeks of the quarter emphasis will shift to the workshopping of students’ fiction.

Instructor: Baird Harper

Day and Time: Thursday, Noon-2:50

PQ: Open bid through my.UChicago. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, complete the Online Consent Form.

Fundamentals of Fiction

CRWR 10205/30205, Section 2

The course is designed to deepen your understanding of the craft of fiction through an intensive study of modern and contemporary short stories, a series of focused writing exercises aimed at building toward a short story draft, and class critiques of your own original stories.  We will learn to analyze fiction from the writer’s perspective: less for what it means and more for how it works, elucidating the technical choices writers have made in order to achieve aesthetic and emotional effects.  Our focus will be on the essential elements of craft, such as characterization, point of view, dialogue, tension, and voice.  For the course, you will complete one full-length story, which you will present for class critique, and then, for your final portfolio, either a substantive revision of that story, or a second original story.  Workshops will be conducted in a spirit of encouragement and constructive criticism, aimed at thoughtful, nuanced, and honest responses to each other’s work. 

Instructor: Brian Booker

Day and Time: Thursday, 3:00-5:50

PQ: Open bid through my.UChicago. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, complete the Online Consent Form.

Fundamentals of Fiction: CW Track

CRWR 10255/30255

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 course is open to all students but will give priority to those who are interested in pursuing the Creative BA or Creative Writing Minor. Unlike normal Fundamentals courses, this class is not open bid and requires submission of a writing sample and the consent of the instructor.

Instructor: Gus Rose

Day and Time: Tuesday, 10:30-1:20

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

Fundamentals of Poetry: Formalities and Freedoms

CRWR 10305/30305

This class will introduce students to the basic principles of poetic craft through the lens of formal and free verse poetry. We will examine the rigors of language in each, reflect on how formality or its absence influences the process of writing, and consider how form and structure affect, and are themselves, expression. Moving historically and considering the history of the English language and of English language poetics, we will move from formal verse approaches—accentual verse, ballads, sonnets, and others—to free verse practices—organic poetry, prose poetry, and found poetry. Students will be encouraged to work within a form’s strictures but will also feel free to experiment with a form’s given rules. In this workshop intensive course, we will spend a short portion of class talking about each form generally and about the examples in each week’s reading, but we will use student work as a jumping-off point for our discussions and dedicate the majority of class to workshop. Students’ final projects will consist of a final portfolio of revised work as well as a short paper discussing their explorations of form. Our text for this course will be An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, edited by Annie Finch and Kathrine Varnes.

Instructor: Ariana Nash     

Day and Time: Thursday, 1:30-4:20

PQ: Open bid through my.UChicago. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, complete the Online Consent Form.

Fundamentals of Nonfiction

CRWR 10405/30405

We'll examine CNF from all of its sides beginning with the rhetorical precision of Aristotle and moving through the rigorous interior self-mapping of Montaigne, the looping denials of DeQuincey, and then into the modern modes courtesy of Audre Lorde, Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace, Arundhati Roy, and others. We'll write our own personal essays, workshop, and revise them.

Instructor: David MacLean

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

PQ: Open bid through my.UChicago. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, complete the Online Consent Form.

Fundamentals of Nonfiction: CW Track

CRWR 10455/30455

The personal essay is the fundamental form of so-called creative nonfiction. Unlike fiction, the essay doesn’t derive its narrative power from actions, events, or plot. Although it can use a chain of events, it’s essentially a train of thought; like thought, it’s elastic, protean, almost indefinable. It’s the ideal vehicle for clarifying and challenging your own thinking, as well as the assumptions of our culture and time. This is a workshop, so you and your classmates will provide most of our texts. You’ll submit your work-in-progress, which we’ll help you to revise. Every week we’ll also read published exemplars of the form, beginning with the essay’s origins in Sumer and ending in the present. You’ll leave this class with a polished work sample and the skills you’ll need to apply for special topics or advanced workshops. 

This course is open to all students but will give priority to those who are interested in pursuing the Creative BA or Creative Writing Minor. Unlike normal Fundamentals courses, this class is not open bid and requires submission of a writing sample and the consent of the instructor.

Instructor: Dan Raeburn

Day and Time: Wednesday, 9:30-12:20

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

Special Topics Courses

Special Topics in Fiction: The Short Story in Context

CRWR 12017/32017

This fiction workshop is for students who have taken a Fundamentals or Special Topics in Fiction course and wish to continue to refine and develop their understanding of the art form. In our outside readings, we’ll strategically pair works from the 19th and early-20th centuries with more contemporary short stories. We’ll consider, for example, Poe’s Gothic tale “William Wilson” alongside Kelly Link’s neo-Gothic “Stone Animals.” Or we’ll examine variations on the Joycean epiphany in stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ann Beattie, and Lydia Davis. Critical essays by the likes of Freud, Twain, and Charles Baxter will help us ground our exploration into the revival and modification of literary traditions over the decades and centuries. In our discussions, you will develop a broader, more nuanced understanding of the theories and techniques underpinning fiction writing and work to open up your aesthetic interests. For our workshop sessions, you might choose to in some way model your submissions off of any of the outside readings we consider, though this is not a requirement of the course.

Instructor: Will Boast

Day and Time: Tuesday, 1:30-4:20

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

Special Topics in Fiction: Crossing Genre Boundaries

CRWR 12019/32019

In this specialized fiction workshop, students will read and create works that defy neat categorization by genre. We will study the intersections between fiction, non-fiction, and poetry - in novels in verse, graphic novels, and poetic essays – and will work on importing into fiction the careful economy of poetic language and the truth-seeking clarity of nonfiction. Assignments include adaptation work; readings include Carson, O’Brien, and Pope.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin

Day and Time: Thursday, 10:30-1:20

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

Special Topics in Nonfiction: Knowledge Journalism

CRWR 14012/34012

Knowledge journalists specialize in covering complex topics for a general audience, informing their coverage with current research findings and often infusing it with advocacy. Think Walter Lippman, Rachel Carson, Joan Didion, David Brooks, Fareed Zakaria, Naomi Klein, Michael Pollan. They have been praised for bringing intelligent focus to vital issues and criticized for oversimplifying or misusing science. We will study the knowledge journalists with an eye to practicing and perfecting their craft, both in the synthesis of research and the execution of eloquent writing. Students will choose a field of expertise that regularly contributes to news (such as the sciences, health, technology, energy, the environment, economics, etc.) and practice covering current developments in an expert field using language accessible and enjoyable to a general audience.

Instructor: Jeff McMahon

Day and Time: Wednesday, 10:30-1:20

PQ: Instructor consent is required. To apply, submit a statement describing your field of expertise and your intent for practicing journalism in place of a writing sample. Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Special Topics in Poetry: Units of Composition: Rhythm, Meter, and Beyond

CRWR 13016/33016

How do poets conceive of and work with the most essential particles of poetry? That is, what are poetry’s basic units of composition, and how do their deployments affect the larger structures and rhythms of poems? This class aims to investigate, through a range of readings and writing exercises, various units of composition and the ways that they interact with each other in poems. We will study and imitate traditional approaches, such as the foot, metrical lines, caesuras, sprung rhythm, rhymed stanzas, and refrains. We also will study and imitate modernist and contemporary “units,” such as the word (approached, for example, etymologically or connotatively), the free verse line, the variable foot, vers libre, serial form, the sentence (the “New” sentence, but also basic syntax), the paragraph, the page, and forms of call and response. Readings will draw from a wide selection of work, likely including selection of Shakespeare, Donne, Whitman, Dickinson, Hopkins, Mallarmé, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, James Tate, and Harriet Mullen. Students will be expected to experiment with various units of composition, submit poems for workshop discussion, write an academic essay, and submit a final portfolio of revised material. Students should submit a writing sample of 3-5 poems to apply for the class.

Instructor: Nathan Hoks

Day and Time: Tuesday, 1:30-4:20

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

Writing Under the Influence: Exe(o)rcising Translation

CRWR 11507/31507

There is no language requirement for this unit, in case that’s a concern. This interdisciplinary and experimental writing course aims to give students a playing ground in which to redefine their parameters of what a translation is, what translation means (from the Latin translatio, to carry over). The context for this course will be other writings: they will fence off and predetermine the words, subject, narrative, characters or plotline of any given work as a means to finding new paths into truer and stronger writerly voices. We will unravel existing works to take from them what we want and make something new from it. We might turn Madame Bovary into a poem, the phone directory into a play, The Travels of Marco Polo into a cookbook, or, similarly, a set of recipes into a collection of short stories. In this way, we will further explore what writing is, and investigate the endless value of translation, experimenting, and processes and procedures as tools that enrich the art and the craft of the writer.

Throughout the course, we will challenge and open up notions of: language, authorship, originality, translation, meaning, voice, influence, literality, slang, dialects, equivalence, and their relationship to writing.

Translation is the minefield and the mud bath of writing, a rather enriching battleground, and this course offers creative writing students the opportunity to venture into the deep of what language is, what it isn’t, and what we do with it. How we carry it over, from book to book, from mind to mind to page and back again.

It is not mandatory but it is recommended to read a wide range of fiction and poetry in translation for this course (suggestions beyond reading lists will be provided).

Instructor: Amaia Gabantxo

Day and Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20

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

Advanced Classes

Advanced Fiction Workshop: Not your Native Language

CRWR 22116/42116

In this specialized fiction workshop, students will read work written in English by writers whose first languages are not English, as well as works in translation. We will explore how linguistic heritage shapes our phrases, and work to create prose that is inimitable, lyrical, and absent of cliché. Students will practice translating both from languages they know and don’t know. Readings include Xiaolu Guo, Ha Jin, Nabokov, and Pound.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin

Day and Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20

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

Advanced Fiction Workshop: Beginning a Novel

CRWR 22117/42117

This class is for any student who has taken at least one other fiction workshop at the University and is interested in or already working on a novel.  In the first few weeks of the course, we will read and discuss a selection of first chapters from some exemplary and diverse novels (like The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man, Beloved, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, The Age of Innocence, Lolita, and The Virgin Suicides) and discuss what a first chapter can—even should—do and the different ways that it can do these things.  How do certain novels introduce its characters, its plot, its setting, its principle concerns and philosophies?  How do they dive into the narrative in ways that intrigue or even challenge us? How do certain opening chapters teach us how to read the rest of the novel?  These and other crucial questions will be addressed throughout the course, particularly during our workshops, where everyone will present the first chapter or two of their novel-in-progress.  Along with the fundamentals of craft like language, characterization, plotting, and structure, etc., we will look at how we can adjust or rethink our opening chapters so that we can move forward more effectively with the larger project.   

Instructor: Vu Tran

Day and Time: Tuesday, 3:00-5:50 pm

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

Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: The Essay

CRWR 24003/44003

In this course, we will begin by reading contemporary essays and we’ll work our way backward in the history of the essay, writing as we go, and sharpening our sense of what the essay can be, and can be for us.  Every week we'll read different essays (by such writers as Edwidge Danticat, David Foster Wallace, Jamaica Kincaid, Jane Brox, V.S. Naipaul, Italo Calvino, Elizabeth Bishop, Zora Neale Hurston, Charles Darwin, Olaudah Equiano, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Francis Bacon, Michel de Montaigne).  Many of these writers wrote of traveling, and we’ll think about relationships between the essay and unfamiliar landscapes.  In written exercises and two drafts of a longer essay to be workshopped in class, we’ll work on challenges of observation, reflection, structuring the reader’s experience, and positioning the self in the landscape. 

Instructor: Rachel Cohen

Day and Time: Wednesday, 10:30-1:20

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