Winter 2015 Courses

Beginning Fiction Writing (CRWR 10200/30200, section 1)

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, 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.

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

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 (CRWR 10200/30200, section 2)

“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 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.

Honors Beginning Fiction (CRWR 10250/30250)

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, Alison Bechdel, Ha Jin, Alice Munro, Annie Proulx, and Edith Wharton. 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: Rachel DeWoskin. 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)

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 sounds of poetry? This course invites students to experiment with both the audible music and inaudible music of poetry. We’ll practice traditional devices, such as rhythm and rhyme, at the same time that we discover the musical movements of mind that poems can make. The class is focused around student writing and workshop sessions, but we’ll also read widely, including work by Stevens, Hopkins, Stein, Yeats, Ashbery, Hejinian, Haryette Mullen, and Lisa Jarnot.

Instructor: Nate Hoks. Day and Time: Wednesdays from 12:30 pm to 3:20 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)

Students in this course will explore different methods of crafting poetry and the aesthetic and philosophical consequences of these approaches. 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 in order to learn the process of self-critique and to inquire into the balance between self-expression and the demands of communicative art. Readings for the course will largely be drawn from 20th century American poetry, including poetry by James Wright, Allen Ginsberg, Lucille Clifton, Russell Edson, Adrienne Rich, Joy Harjo, Agha Shahid Ali, Ai, and many others, giving students a sense of the particular socio-cultural history of poetics in America. 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: 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.

Beginning Nonfiction Writing (CRWR 10400/30400)

In this course, we will look at the history and expanse of Creative Non-Fiction and examine it 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 will also be writing our own essays in response to prompts and the readings.

Instructor: David Stuart MacLean Day and Time: Tuesdays from 10:30 to 1:20pm

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.

Intro to Genres: Science Fiction (CRWR 12106)

A monolith manifests in orbit around Jupiter, emitting a signal. A beacon? A man spontaneously discovers the ability to teleport. An evolutionary accident? A planet demonstrates consciousness to a cosmonaut. Madness? Space travel is enabled by the ingestion of enormous quantities of a geriatric spice a messianic figure suddenly learns to manipulate. A drug trip?! Among popular genres, science fiction is the riskiest conceptually and among the trickiest to master. The difference between an amazing idea and a rotten story is often slim. What makes good sci-fi work? And how best to write it? Let’s put on our gravity boots and solar visors and see what we can discover. In this course, you’ll read some novels (by Frank Herbert, Alfred Bester, and Ursula K. LeGuin), poetry (by Andrew Joron), a graphic novel (by Chris Ware), and screenplays (by Andrei Tarkovsky, and Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke). And all the while, you’ll try your hand at bending each other’s minds with your own science fiction.

Instructor: Peter O'Leary. Day and Time: Tuesdays from 1:30 to 4:20pm

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.

Reading as a Writer: Crime & Story (CRWR 12107)

If prostitution is the earliest profession, then crime is probably the earliest narrative engine. Crime has always been a driving force behind story, a vehicle not only of plot but of human psychology, social exploration, philosophical investigation, and just plain old suspense. There’s something about the darker side of human nature that invites explorations of characters pushed to their extremes. Through analyzing the writing techniques and processes—such as point of view, scene, setting, voice, narrative structure and research methodologies—of such writers and poets as Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oats, Denis Johnson, Carolyn Forché, CK Williams, Nami Mun, James Ellroy and Richard Price among others, students will examine how elements of crime in story can be transformed beyond simple genre. By examining writers’ choices, students will explore how they may use these techniques to develop such mechanics of writing as point of view, poetics, dramatic movement and narrative structure in their own work.

Instructor: Gus Rose. Day and Time: Tuesdays from 10:30 to 1:20pm

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: Refining Your Voice (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 (Raymond Carver, Paul Bowles, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, Lorrie Moore, et al.) 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: Vu Tran. Day and Time: Thursdays 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: Documentation, Clarification, Illumination—Snapshot. (CRWR 13000/33000)

John Ashbery stated in an interview, “I can concentrate on the things in this room and our talking together, but what the context is is mysterious to me. And it's not that I want to make it more mysterious in my poems—really, I just want to make it more photographic.” In this course, we will consider snapshot photography as a touchstone for capturing the spontaneous and personal in poetry writing; as Sontag asserted, the camera made us “tourists of reality…. reality is understood as plural, fascinating, and up for grabs.” Departing from the bleak overlay of banal repetitions in social media imagery, we will undertake poetic and photographic practice in more hermetic, ritualistic terms. We will investigate ambitious projects such as The Americans, Robert Frank’s snapshots of the US in 1955, and Bernadette Mayer’s Memory—1,116 snapshots of July in 1971, augmented by audiotape recordings and written word. We will encounter the works of important Chicago photographers, such a selection of Vivian Maier’s images from the Jeffrey Goldstein collection, as well as Barbara Crane’s People of the North Portal, hundreds of snapshots of museum visitors exiting The Museum of Science and Industry (1970-71). Students will execute a ritual writing project using some aspect of photography (whether it be snapshots from cell phones. film cameras, or sun sensitive paper). As Barbara Crane intends, through her photographic practice, to “eradicate previous habits of seeing and thinking,” we will take snapshots to renew and redefine our poetic vision. The major portion of our class time will focus on reading and viewing students’ original poems and photographs, and offering creative guidance to one another. Course materials will include selections from Postmodern American Poetry, edited by Paul Hoover, Bernadette Mayer’s Memory, and Photographs Not Taken, edited by Will Steacy.

Instructor: Jessica Savitz. Day and Time: Thursdays from 9:00 to 11:50am

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

Intermediate Nonfiction Workshop (CRWR 14000/34000)

Balancing the Factual and the Personal In this course we will write so-called creative nonfiction and examine what, exactly, is creative about it. What makes a 'personal' narrative or 'literary' journalism different from journalism, scholarship, or editorializing? What makes nonfiction artful? Through daily and weekly reading, writing, and editing you'll learn to combine the facts of the matter you've chosen to write about with your own retrospection and reflection. Your grade will be based on the artistry you display in balancing the two and in recognizing how they can both complement and contradict one another. This is a workshop, so come to the first day of class with ideas and work underway and ready to share. Be prepared to write every day of the week and to ruthlessly edit your own work, as well as that of your classmates. We will also study published work that illustrates solutions to the problems you've chosen to tackle.

Instructor: Dan Raeburn. Day and Time: Wednesdays from 9:30 pm to 12:20pm.

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

Advanced-Level Courses

Adaptation: Text / 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. Day and Time: Mondays 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.

Thesis Development / Major Projects in Fiction (CRWR 29200/49200, section 1)

This advanced fiction course is for BA and MA students writing a creative thesis or any advanced student working on a major fiction project. It is primarily a workshop, so please come to our first class with your project in progress (a story collection, a novel, or a novella), ready for you to discuss and to submit some part of for critique. As in any writing workshop, we will stress the fundamentals of craft like language, voice, and plot and character development, with an eye also on how to shape your work for the longer form you have chosen. And as a supplement to our workshops, we will have brief student presentations on the writing life: our literary influences, potential avenues towards publication, etc.

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.

Thesis Development / Major Projects in Fiction (CRWR 29200/49200, section 2)

This advanced fiction course is for BA and MA students writing a creative thesis or any advanced student working on a major fiction project. Each of you will work on two chapters and the outline of an individual, book-length manuscript. Together, we will use the workshop to explore strategies for creating new material and revising the pages you have, toward writing 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 perspective, difference, and sameness. How do novelists create and refine narrative voices? What do our characters want, and what obstacles do they face? What are the relationships of your characters to each other, and to the worlds they inhabit? Readings include works by Anne Carson, Ralph Ellison, Aleksandar Hemon, Mo Yan, Vladimir Nabokov, and Akhil Sharma.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin. 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.

Thesis Development / Major Projects in Fiction (CRWR 29200/49200, section 3)

This advanced fiction course is for BA and MA students writing a creative thesis or any advanced student working on a substantial fiction project. In workshop discussions, we'll read and critique student work with an eye toward solidifying what you've learned and produced in previous writing courses. We'll continue to address fundamental principles of storytelling and prose writing, but hope to bring a further degree of subtlety and curiosity to our discussions. We'll also look to refine and expand our tastes as readers and writers by considering fiction by the likes of Tolstoy, Roberto Bolaño, Lydia Davis, Alice Munro, and James Baldwin.

Instructor: Will Boast. Day and Time: Wednesdays from 1:30 to 3:20pm

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

Thesis Development / Major Projects in Poetry (CRWR 29300/49300)

This advanced poetry course is for BA and MA students writing a creative thesis or any advanced student working on an extended poetic series or sequence. Because it is a thesis seminar, the course will focus on various ways of organizing larger poetic "projects." We will consider the poetic sequence, the chapbook, and the poetry collection as ways of extending the practice of poetry beyond the individual poem. We will also problematize the notion of broad poetic "projects," considering the consequences of imposing a predetermined conceptual framework on the elusive, spontaneous, and subversive act of poetic writing. Because this class is designed as a poetry workshop, your fellow students' work will be the primary text over the course of the quarter.

Instructor: John Wilkinson. 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.

Thesis Development / Major Projects in Nonfiction (CRWR 29400/49400)

This advanced nonfiction course is for BA and MA students writing a creative thesis or any advanced student working on a long piece of nonfiction. It can be an essay, a memoir, a travelogue, narrative journalism, or a collection of various pieces. This class is a workshop, so come to the first day with your work underway and ready to share. Be prepared to edit your classmates' writing as thoroughly as you edit your own. I focus on editing because writing is, in essence, rewriting. Only by learning to edit other people's work will you gradually acquire the objectivity you need to skillfully edit your own. This course teaches you to teach each other and thus yourselves, preparing you for the real life of the writer outside the academy. You'll begin by designing your own syllabus.

Instructor: Dan Raeburn. Day and Time: Fridays 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.