Spring 2015

Beginning-Level Courses

Beginning Fiction Writing: On Character & Conflict

CRWR 10202 / 30202

This reading and writing workshop will acquaint students with the essential tools of fiction writers: narrative voice, plot, character, and language. We will strive to write stories that have meaning and momentum, and to create dramatic stakes by putting characters in conflict with each other and the world. Each student will complete a short story and a significant revision to that story, guided by readings and feedback from the workshop. Required works include novels and stories by James Baldwin, Ha Jin, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Munro, and Edith Wharton.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin

Day and Time: Wednesdays 1:30–4:20 PM

PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to inquire about the wait list.

Beginning Fiction Writing

CRWR 10200 / 30200

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.

Instructor: Gus Rose

Day and Time: Mondays, 10:30–1:20 PM

PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to inquire about the wait list.

Honors Beginning Fiction Writing

CRWR 10250 / 30250

Introduction to Fiction Writing: This course will be roughly one-third lecture/discussion and two-thirds workshopping of student work. We'll read and analyze primarily contemporary short fiction by writers like Edward P. Jones, Deborah Eisenberg, Ben Fountain, Daniel Orozco, Mary Gaitskill, and William Gay. Discussions will tend to be focused around one particular subject each week: setting, dialogue, character, perspective, etc. We'll also address more subtle concepts like psychic distance, free-indirect style, and movement through time. Students will present their own work to the group for critique and discussion. We'll seek to both hone our skills as attentive readers and to further develop as writers of clear, sophisticated prose.

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: Will Boast

Day and Time: Tuesdays. 1:30–4:20 PM

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

 

Beginning Poetry Writing

CRWR 10300 / 30300

In this course, we will consider the memory of childhood as a touchstone for generating images, metaphors, and sensory data for our own original poetry. Encountering Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, Alice Notley’s Mysteries of Small Houses, and The Wilds by Mark Levine, we will imagine the realm of childhood in terms of adventure, eruptions in consciousness, and domestic spaces that may or may not “shelter daydreaming.” More expansive than strict autobiography, we will craft poetry rich in symbolic action, considering the personal and cultural revelations in such poems as Doty’s “A Replica of the Parthenon” and Roethke’s “Child On Top of a Greenhouse.” Students will develop a substantial portfolio of original work, and will refine their knowledge of poetic craft, history and theory.

Instructor: Jessica Savitz

Day and Time: Thursdays, 9:00–11:50 AM

PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to inquire about the wait list.

Honors Beginning Poetry Writing: Sound, Music, Depth

CRWR 10350 / 30350

The idea that poetry animates the music of language is commonplace. And yet, Aimé Césaire provocatively suggests that “The only acceptable music comes from somewhere deeper than sound. The search for music is a crime against the music of poetry which can only be the beating of the mind’s wave against the rock of the world.” What is this music “deeper than sound”? How is it related to the more obvious “audible” sounds 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 the musical movements of mind and the moods that lyricism makes available. The class will practice literary community building by discussing peers’ poems in workshops, by attending readings and lectures on campus, and by responding to poems and essays by contemporary and modern poets and critics. While students’ original poems will be the primary texts, additional readings will likely include diverse texts, including poetry by John Yau, Rosemarie Waldrop, Peter Gizzi, Lisa Jarnot, and Barbara Guest, and critical work by Agamben, Baudelaire, Adorno, and Deleuze and Guatarri.  

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: Nathan Hoks

Day and Time: Wednesdays, 12:30–3:20 PM

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

Beginning Nonfiction Writing: Memoir

CRWR 10403 / 30403

In this course, we're going to take a survey of a particularly American genre: memoir. We'll start with Frederick Douglass and then move on to modern examples of Laurie Slater, Nick Flynn, Geoffrey Wolfe, Alison Bechdel, and Domingo Martinez, as well as writing several memoir pieces.

Instructor: David Stuart MacLean

Day and Time: Tuesdays, 10:30–1:20 PM

PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu. No prerequisite required. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to inquire about the wait list.

Honors Beginning Nonfiction Writing: The Personal Essay

CRWR 10450/30450

In this workshop we will study and practice nonfiction's fundamental form, the personal essay. Unlike other forms of prose, the personal essay does not derive its narrative power from actions, events, or plot. Instead it is driven by rigorous reflection and total honesty. Its story is the story of thought itself. Like thought, its form is protean, its structure elastic, making it the perfect vehicle for clarifying and challenging your own thinking, as well as the assumptions of our culture and time. This is a workshop, so come to the first day of class with ideas and work underway and ready to submit. You will write every day and finish three thorough rewrites of your essay. You will also read and write about published exemplars of the form. You'll leave this class with a polished work sample and the skills you'll need to apply for more advanced workshops.

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: Dan Raeburn

Day and Time: Wednesdays, 9:30–12:20 PM

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

 

Core Courses

Reading as a Writer: Poetic Series and Sequences

CRWR 12116

This course is for students interested in poems that stretch beyond the 1-2 page lyric, or who want to eventually write poem sequences or series. We begin with writings, primarily by poets, about seriality and sequentiality. We will attempt to articulate the differences between these modes and their areas of overlap. Then we turn to modern and contemporary poets who work in long poetic form – Gertrude Stein, Muriel Rukeyser, George Oppen, Bernadette Mayer, Clark Coolidge, Alice Notley, and others. What modes of attention are sustained in the reading and writing of long poems? What is the temporality of a poetry sequence? We will examine archival material to elucidate various processes of composition, and through attentive reading and research, uncover practices and techniques that we can then employ in our own work.

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

Instructor: Stephanie Anderson             

Day and Time: Thursdays, 1:30–4:20 PM

PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu. No prerequisite required. Attendance on first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to inquire about the wait list.

Introduction to Genres: “Division & Western”

CRWR 12117

This course explores literary responses to Chicago’s boundaries and sites of contention.  We’ll examine work by writers and artists including Studs Terkel, Saul Bellow, Eliot Asinof, and Bayo Ojikutu.  How does one map the city’s conflicts along zoning ordinances, street corners, playgrounds, and rumors?  What histories undergird the city’s racelines?  In exploring these aspects of the city, where does a writer draw the boundary between fiction and nonfiction?  Engaging these larger questions, participants will develop their own individual and collaborative creative responses to “the city in a garden.”

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

Instructor: Garin Cycholl             

Day and Time: Mondays, 3:00 – 5:50 PM

PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu. No prerequisite required. Attendance on first day is mandatory. If class is full, email the instructor to inquire about the wait list.

 

Intermediate-Level Courses

Intermediate Fiction Workshop

CRWR 12004 / 32004

In this intermediate fiction course, students will explore strategies for creating and revising stories that move in contexts that matter. We will work with the goal of writing fresh perspective into experiences and topics that are antique: coming of age, culture, politics, and family. One of the ways in which we’ll experiment will be to consider inside and outside perspective in our narrators and characters. How do novelists create and refine authorial voices? What are the relationships of characters to each other, and to the worlds they inhabit?  Readings include works by James Baldwin, Anne Carson, Edith Wharton, Aleksandar Hemon, Mo Yan, and Akhil Sharma.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin

Day and Time: Thursdays, 10:30–1:20 PM

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

Intermediate Poetry Workshop: Poetic Sequences

CRWR 13007 / 33007

“My plan is / these little boxes / make sequences…” writes Robert Creeley in his book-length poetic sequence Pieces.  Multiple short poems gathered into a single yet open-ended structure—this way of working has been remarkably productive for 20th- and 21st-century poets (though we might trace its history back as far as Renaissance sonneteers).  In this course, you will experiment with ways of writing, accruing, counting, dispersing, shuffling, stacking, and otherwise arranging your own “little boxes.”  We’ll read and discuss a range of modern and contemporary poetic sequences by William Carlos Williams, Lorine Niedecker, George Oppen, Robert Creeley, Fanny Howe, Ed Roberson, Michael O’Brien, Harryette Mullen, and George Albon, paying particular attention to matters of craft: How are syllables, words, lines, and stanzas effectively arranged within a short poem?  How are short poems effectively arranged in relation to one another?  What’s the relation of parts to wholes in a poem or a sequence?  What roles might repetition, variation, and echo play?  We’ll also think about ways the poets we study and we ourselves can use the poetic sequence as an instrument of attention: How might writing “in pieces” help us notice and name things, events, feelings, and ideas that otherwise remain unnoticed or inarticulate?  How might sequential composition open our writing to improvisation, unpredictability, and generative bewilderment?

Instructor: Patrick Morrissey

Day and Time: Wednesdays, 9:30–12:20 PM

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

 

Advanced-Level Courses

Advanced Fiction: 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 works of fiction 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 and Time: Tuesdays, 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 Fiction Workshop

CRWR 22111 / 42111

This advanced fiction workshop is for students who have taken Beginning or Intermediate Fiction Writing and wish to continue to refine and develop their understanding of the art form. This course will examine some of the historical roots of the short story in 19th century "tales" by the likes of Flaubert and Gogol. Then we'll look at a couple of classic Saturday Evening Post stories by O. Henry and F. Scott Fitzgerald, before taking a brief look at the 1960s/70s avant garde. Because short stories share a great deal with essays, we'll also dip into that fertile realm between nonfiction and fiction and look at pieces by the likes of Lydia Davis and Harry Mathews. The goal of the course is to help you develop a broader, more nuanced understanding of the theories and techniques underpinning fiction writing and to open up your aesthetic interests. For our workshop sessions, you will complete two full-length pieces and present them for class critique. Full, highly active participation will be expected in all aspects of the course.

Instructor: Will Boast

Day and Time: Mondays, 1:30–4:20 PM

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

 

Advanced Poetry Writing: Orphic Voices

CRWR 23109 / 43109

The myth of Orpheus covers impressive range: the greatest poet and musician of the mythical age, he married Eurydice after voyaging with the Argonauts, his song capable of taming wild nature, drawing listening animals into his aura, only to have his beloved slain by a serpent’s bite. From there, he charmed his way into the underworld with his lyrics, gaining permission to bring Eurydice back to the world on the condition he not look back, one that he couldn’t abide. In his grief, he sang mournful chants and praised Apollo above all, inspiring the wrath of Dionysus, who compelled his Maenads to thrash him to pieces. The legend concludes with Orpheus’ head bobbing down the Hebrus River, to wash finally to a cave on Lesbos, where it prophesied for ages until quieted by a command from Apollo. But was Orpheus’ voice ever truly silenced? There are four kinds of Orphic poets: the poet who sings plaintive songs of love; the poet who sings the glories of nature; the poet who, having visited the underworld, reveals its mysteries; and the poet-prophet. In this advanced poetry workshop, we will examine the works of five modern poets who exemplify one or more of these traits: Mina Loy (love and mysteries); Lorine Niedecker (nature); Ronald Johnson (nature, mysteries, prophecy); and Rainer Maria Rilke and Robert Duncan (all four traits). In addition to modeling their work after these poets, students will fashion their own version of the Orpheus myth.

Instructor: Peter O’Leary

Day and Time: Tuesdays, 1:30 – 4:20 PM

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

 

Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: Aiming for Publication

CRWR 24001 / 44001

The goal of this workshop is to produce the kind of nonfiction published by magazines aimed at the smart, general reader: the New Yorker, Harper's, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as smaller journals. You may write a personal essay, argument, memoir, character study or travelogue, as well as reportorial, researched, and investigative pieces. No matter what rubric your nonfiction falls under, we will help you to distinguish between the situation--the plot or facts at hand--and the story, which is the larger, more universal meaning that arises naturally from these facts. By developing both these strands and tying them artfully together you will make your piece as appealing as possible to editors and a discerning audience. Come to the first day of class with work underway and ready to share. Be prepared to edit and critique every one of your classmates’ drafts and to finish three full revisions of your own work in progress. We will also read and discuss successful published work. You will leave this class with a polished sample of your best work.

Instructor: Dan Raeburn

Day and Time: Fridays, 9:30–12:20 PM

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