Spring 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 Creatie Writing classes, simply go to classes.uchicago.edu 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: February 26, 2016

The course instructor will contact you by March 11 to let you know whether you've been accepted.

Email the committee coordinator with questions.

Fundamentals Courses

Fundamentals of Fiction

CRWR 10205 / 30205 01

Fiction writing is part magic and part mechanics. Because magic can’t be taught in this class we'll 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: Augustus 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, complete the Online Consent Form.

Fundamentals of Fiction

CRWR 10205 / 30205 02

In this writing workshop students will read and analyze distinct approaches to the elements of fiction such as setting, point of view, characterization and pacing in contemporary authors such as Grace Paley, Carol Shields, Joshua Ferris, Rick Moody and Laurie Colwin among others. Our aim is to read with naïve passion and then analyze with a cold, critical eye. We will read about the craft of writing and practice writing techniques that may serve as the catalyst for original stories. As writers, we’ll take a similar dual approach, writing raw first drafts of stories that feel as if they must be told and then through the workshop help each other see whether our fierce intentions meet the perceptions of those around us. How can we revise with an editorial eye and develop our stories to achieve the ends we desire? Ultimately, students must be accountable for their own authorial choices and will draft, revise and complete one short story and begin a new one during the quarter.

Instructor: Thea Goodman

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, complete the Online Consent Form.

Fundamentals of Fiction

CRWR 10205 / 30205 03

The goal of this course is to encourage and refine your skills in the art of fiction writing. Through an intensive study of short stories, and through class critiques of your own original stories, we will learn to analyze fiction from the writer’s perspective.  Our focus will be on the essential elements of craft, such as characterization, point of view, dialogue, tension, and voice.  A series of writing exercises will challenge you to practice and experiment with these elements.  Workshops will be conducted in a spirit of constructive criticism, aimed at thoughtful and honest responses to each other’s work.  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.

Instructor: Brian Booker

Day and Time: Thursdays 3:00-5:50 PM

PQ: Open bid through classes.uchicago.edu. 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

Short Story Workshop: “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.

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: Baird Harper

Day and Time: Thursdays, Noon-2:50 PM

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


Fundamentals of Poetry

CRWR 10305 / 30305

This class will introduce students to the basic principles of poetic craft through a lens of formal and free verse poetry. Moving from formal to free verse approaches, students will examine the rigors of language in each, will reflect on how formality or its absence influences the process of writing, and will consider how form and structure affect, and are themselves, expression. Moving historically and considering the major shifts in the history of the English language, we will begin with highly structured forms—the sonnet, the pantoum, and the ghazal—and then consider looser forms—the quatrain and accentual verse—and finally free verse—looking at organic form, prose poetry, and found forms. 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.

Instructor: Ariana Nash

Day and Time: Tuesdays, 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, complete the Online Consent Form.

Arts Core Courses

Introduction to Genres: Beyond the Michigan Sea

CRWR 12114

This course invites readers to reconsider Chicago as a “Great Lakes city” through a variety of genres, including nonfiction, fiction, and documentary photography.  Our study is initiated through a reading of Ted McClelland’s journalistic essays, then moves on to creative work by writers and artists including Margo Jefferson, Aaron Siskind, Stuart Dybek, and Aleksandar Hemon.  Geographically, is Chicago a Midwestern or a Northern city?  Is Chicago still (or ever) a common point of destination and experience? Under the present mayor, is Chicago a modern or postmodern city?  In exploration of these questions, participants will develop their own individual and collaborative creative responses to “the City on the Lake.”

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

Instructor: Garin Cycholl

Day and Time: Mondays, 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, complete the Online Consent Form.

Reading as A Writer: Writing as Desecration

CRWR 12120

To write in any genre is a gesture that puts one in a relationship with predecessors and precursors. While this relationship if often constructed as a dialogue, it can also be a conflict, full of clatter, disagreement and intentional offensiveness. In this sense, the writer’s mark crosses out the predecessors’ work, and functions as an act of desecration. Writing becomes an intertextual act of rebellion that calls into question the conventional, the canonical, and the sacred. Drawing on comparisons with a variety of other media, including art and pop music, this class invites students to consider creative writing as a form of desecration. We will explore various texts (mostly poetry, but also some fiction, manifestos, and drama) that deploy elements of parody, satire, irony, black humor, the absurd, obscenity, transgression, deviancy, and iconoclasm. Along with weekly readings students will be expected to write creative works in response to prompts, write an academic essay, and complete weekly reading quizzes. The prompts will form the basis of a final portfolio, which will be accompanied by an original essay.

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

Instructor: Nathan Hoks

Day and Time: Wednesdays, 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, complete the Online Consent Form.

Introduction to Genres: Parody

CRWR 12122

Beginning writers are often told to “imitate” the work of “great authors” in order to discover their own literary voices.  That’s all well and good, but a bit boring, isn’t it?  One way to make apprenticeship fun is to copy masterpieces from literary history with great care, but with a comic touch, too.  Imitation with a difference—think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies—is the soul of parody, and in this course we’ll write parodies of poetry, fiction, and essayistic nonfiction from the history of Western literature in order to learn how art works.  Parodying Elizabeth Bishop’s obsessive image-construction in a poem like “The Fish” can illuminate the inner workings of literary mimesis itself.  Lampooning Ernest Hemingway’s prose style can teach us about minimalism and perspective in narrative art.  Satirizing W.G. Sebald’s archival meditations, we can study the boundary between fact and fiction in the essay form.  By the end of the quarter, you’ll have written several imitations of major works of world literature, and, en route, you will have hopefully learned something about your own voice as a literary artist.

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

Instructor: Srikanth Reddy

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

Special Topics Courses

Special Topics in Fiction: Genre Rules and Rebels

CRWR 12013/32013

In this advanced fiction workshop, students will write two chapters and the outline for a book-length manuscript. Together, we will explore strategies for both creating new material and revising, with the goal of crafting characters whose perspectives are unique and revealing, and whose stories can unfold over the course of a novel. In order to make work specific enough to be compelling and universal enough to matter, we will place our characters in conflict with each other and the worlds they inhabit.  Readings include novels by James Baldwin, Anne Carson, Aleksandar Hemon, Ha Jin, Vladimir Nabokov, Akhil Sharma, and Edith Wharton.

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.

Special Topics in Fiction: The Numinous, the Mysterious, & the Weird

CRWR 12016 / 32016

Let’s face it. Writers are a weird bunch and there’s lots of fiction that proves it. We will be studying magical realism, strange fiction and fantasy with a literary bent, from writers such as Kelly Link, George Saunders, and J.R.R. Tolkein. Students will be analyzing short stories, excerpts from novels, poetry, cartoons (think: Calvin and Hobbes), graphic novels and non-fiction and thinking analytically about those readings with the goal of advancing your understanding of the way writing represents what is “real.” In the process, you will be generating your own weird fiction and presenting it during workshops. My hope is that your work will have derived energy and “zing” from this joyful romp through highly entertaining and wonderfully mysterious literature.

Instructor: Golda Goldbloom

Day and Time: Wednesdays, 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.

Special Topics in Poetry: Poetry Chapbooks: From Thesis to Book

CRWR 13014 / 33014

This course is designed for students who have either written creative BA theses or chapbook-length manuscripts. We will investigate the poetry chapbook as both text and texture by attending closely to the content and construction of the medium. Using students’ manuscripts-in-progress, we spend the first three weeks polishing and refining manuscript drafts. We will attempt to contextualize our efforts in the history and theories of chapbooks, editions, editing, artist’s books, and so on. Then we will move to production, where we will each use InDesign to lay out the contents of a book; we will also explore multiple technologies (old and new) to design our books’ formats and covers.  The course will culminate at the BA thesis readings, where we will celebrate each writer’s chapbook and distribute the books to a wider public.

Instructor: Stephanie Anderson

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.

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 translating current research into language accessible and enjoyable to a lay audience.

Instructor: Jeff McMahon

Day and Time: Wednesdays, 10:30-1:20 PM

PQ: Instructor consent 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 Nonfiction: The Lyric vs. The Narrative

CRWR 14013 / 34013

It has been said that there is no lyric without a narrative behind it. It's also been said that narrative is the least of the essay's abilities. Lines have been drawn. Journals have been published emphasizing one mode over the other. What are we really talking about with these two modes? Are they as opposed as people like to think? We'll read exemplars of both sides: Jenny Boully, Hilton Als, Bernard Cooper, Brenda Miller, Maggie Nelson, Edward Hoagland, Lia Purpura, Jo Ann Beard, Virginia Woolf, Albert Camus, and James Baldwin among others. We'll write in both modes and try to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Instructor: David MacLean

Day and Time: Mondays, 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.

Adaptation: Text and Image

CRWR 27002 / 47002

It is a core mystery of language why and how some words "work" with pictures (moving or not), and some are served by their absence. To understand how text is best married to image, or when it's best divorced, is to understand the writer's principle question: how do words draw? This is a course that explores all media -- films, illuminated manuscripts, court masques, comic books/graphic novels, children's picture books, contemporary theater, etc. -- that grapple with the balance and dance between story and picture. Works studied may include: William Blake's engraved poems and images, Chris Marker's La jetée,  the masques of Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, the Bayeux Tapestry, the comics of Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Chris Ware, etc.,  Alice in Wonderland, and the theatrical collaborations of the instructors themselves for Chicago's Redmoon Theatre.

Instructor: Mickle Maher and Frank Maugeri

Day and Time: Mondays, 6:00-8:50 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 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 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: Characters in Conflict

CRWR 22115/42115

In this advanced fiction workshop, students will write two chapters and the outline for a book-length manuscript. Together, we will explore strategies for both creating new material and revising, with the goal of crafting characters whose perspectives are unique and revealing, and whose stories can unfold over the course of a novel. In order to make work specific enough to be compelling and universal enough to matter, we will place our characters in conflict with each other and the worlds they inhabit.  Readings include novels by James Baldwin, Anne Carson, Aleksandar Hemon, Ha Jin, Vladimir Nabokov, Akhil Sharma, and Edith Wharton.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin

Day and Time: Wednesdays, 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 Workshop

CRWR 23100 / 43100

In this course, we will examine a range of formal, theoretical, and sociopolitical currents in contemporary poetry as a means of provoking and informing our own creative work.  The class will be a workshop first and foremost, with a range of prompts designed to defamiliarize ourselves from our own habits, as well as ample space to continue developing in-progress writings. On the premise that creative work is also social, and that writing aimed at self-expression is never conducted in a vacuum, we will also be reading expansively, while trying our hands at responses to the texts of others. We will examine a range of contemporary poems and essays on poetics by writers with varying commitments to the art, with occasional intervention by visiting and local writers (Tan Lin, Bernadette Mayer, and Fred Moten), in order to immerse ourselves in some of the questions of contemporary poetics being debated today. Throughout the semester, we will read one another’s writing within the broad context of contemporary American poetics, while making room for the vagaries and tripwires of developing an individual practice. Attendance at at least two readings and/or poetics lectures will be essential.

Instructor: Jennifer Scappettone

Day and Time: Wednesdays, 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 Poetry Workshop: The Long Poem

CRWR 23110/43110

In this course, you will propose and then begin to execute the composition of a long poem. Your proposals will focus not only on quality of inspiration in subject and idea, but also on formal concerns (in what manner to write a long poem), and issues of feasibility. The goal of the course is to have you on your way to completing your own long poem by the end of ten weeks, aided by extensive reading of long-form poetry for class discussions, and intensive mutual scrutiny of the projects of everyone involved in the class. Readings will include long poems by Wordsworth, Hopkins, Mallarmé, Loy, H.D., Moore, Jeffers, Huidobro, Césaire, Johnson, Carson, Oswald, Bitsui, Rehm, Eckermann, Clark, and Glomski.

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

What makes a piece of nonfiction good enough to publish? Many things, but if I had to put it in a word I’d say, Authority. Authoritative narration is confident but humble. It may be uncertain but it's unwavering. It makes the reader trust you. That’s why authority can’t be faked or taught, only earned. You’ll spend this class trying to earn it. You can practice with any kind of nonfiction: a personal essay, an argument, memoir, character study or travelogue, as well as reportorial, researched, and investigative pieces. (No academic papers, though.) No matter what rubric your writing falls under, we’ll help you to distinguish between its situation--the specific facts at hand--and its story, which is the larger, more universal meaning that you derive from these facts. You’ll develop both of these strands and tie them together as artfully as you can. It can take ten years to get the hang of this, and we have only ten weeks, so 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 multiple revisions of your own work in progress. Every week we’ll also read and discuss published pieces that demonstrate solutions to the problems we’ve located in your own work. You’ll leave this class with the best writing sample you’re capable of.

Instructor: Daniel Raeburn

Day and Time: Tuesdays, 9:00-11:50 AM

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