Spring 2017 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: February 24, 2017

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.

Arts Core Courses

CRWR 12122 Introduction to Genres: Parody

Beginning writers are often told to “imitate” the work of “great authors” in order to discover their own voices.  One way to enliven this artistic apprenticeship 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 make mockeries of poetry, fiction, and essayistic nonfiction from the history of Western literature in order to learn how art works.  Parodying Gertrude Stein’s parallax portraiture can illuminate the inner workings of literary mimesis itself.  Satirizing Clarice Lispector’s proliferating points of view can teach us about the limits of perspective in narrative art.  Satirizing Junishiro Tanizaki’s essayistic praise of shadows, we can study the role of polemic in literary nonfiction.  By the end of the quarter, you’ll have written several imitations of major literary works, and, en route, you will have hopefully learned something about your own voice as a literary artist.

Instructor: Srikanth Reddy

Day/Time: Thursday, 1:30-4:20 pm

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Course meets the General Education requirement in the Dramatical, Musical and Visual Arts.

 

CRWR 12125 Ready as a Writer: From Page to Film

We often say of film adaptations: it’s not as good as the book.  But what can we, as readers and writers, learn from that unsuccessful transition to the screen?  And more intriguingly, what can we learn from the successful ones, the films that are just as good if not better than the original written work—or so vastly different that they become their own entity?  In this class, we will be reading works of short fiction and also “reading” their film adaptations, focusing on this relationship between storytelling on the page and storytelling on the screen and what is both lost and gained in that transition.  If filmmaking requires a different language than fiction writing, a different approach to things like character, plot, atmosphere, even thematic development, what can we learn from that approach that we can apply to our own fiction, even if we have no interest in making films?  We’ll investigate this question in the work of writers like James Joyce, Andre Dubus, and Stephen King, and filmmakers like Hitchcock, Huston, and Wilder.

Instructor: Vu Tran

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

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Course meets the General Education requirement in the Dramatical, Musical and Visual Arts.

 

Fundamentals Courses

CRWR 10205/30205 Fundamentals of Fiction, 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, Mary Gaitskill, Ben Fountain, Z.Z. Packer, George Saunders, and Sherman Alexie. 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.

Instructor: Will Boast

Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20pm

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 10205/30205 Fundamentals of Fiction, section 2

In this course 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 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 complete 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/Time: Monday, 10:30-1:20 pm

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 10255/30255 Fundamentals of Fiction: CW Track

Writing the Short Story: “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 to 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/Time: Thursday, Noon-2:50 pm

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

CRWR 10305/30305 Fundamentals of Poetry

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/Time: Tuesday, 1:30-4:20 pm

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 10405/30405 Fundamentals of Nonfiction

The Personal Essay: A personal essay can employ a chain of events, but it’s essentially a train of thought. Like thought, it’s protean, able to take any shape and yet remain an essay. In this workshop you’ll write two drafts of your own essai, or attempt, at the form, while line editing and critiquing your classmates’ attempts. You’ll also do close readings, starting with “Why I Write,” by George Orwell, and “Why I Write,” by Joan Didion. Then James Baldwin’s “Autobiographical Notes.” Once we’ve had a taste of the present we’ll go back four thousand years to the essay’s beginnings in Babylon, following its evolution in Greece and Rome—Heraclitus, Plutarch, Seneca—then Europe: Montaigne, Max Beerbohm, Walter Benjamin, and Natalia Ginzburg, returning to contemporary English-language writers, including Adrienne Rich and Margaret Atwood, ending with Didion’s “Goodbye to All That,” paired with Eula Biss’ contemporary cover version, also titled “Goodbye to All That.” 

Instructor: Dan Raeburn

Day/Time: Wednesday, 9:30 am-12:20 pm

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Special Topics Courses

CRWR 12018/32018 Special Topics in Fiction: the Young Adult Novel

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 advanced 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 book-length 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. Students will read at least one or two novels during the quarter as well.

Instructor: Michelle Falkoff

Day/Time: Wednesday, 3-5:50 pm

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

CRWR 12020/32020 Special Topics in Fiction: Literary Horror

Fiction has many strategies for defamiliarizing the familiar, for destabilizing the ways we habitually think and feel about ourselves and our realities.  Horror stories, considered broadly, go about this estranging work in more concerted ways, luring their characters into zones of emotional and perceptual extremity, violence, and metaphysical dislocation.  In this course, we will pinpoint techniques used by (mostly) contemporary writers to deliver shades of fear in narratives rich enough to reward multiple readings.  We’ll examine ways writers have engaged the tropes familiar to horror—e.g., doppelgangers, paranoia, the uncanny, the proximity of evil—in stories with complex characters, immersive sensory worlds, realistic social milieux, and potent ideas.  Special attention will be paid to the uses of voice, atmosphere, and narrative architecture.  Readings may include Henry James, Paul Bowles, Angela Carter, Ian McEwan, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, William Gay, David Foster Wallace, Reynolds Price, Mary Gaitskill, Kevin Brockmeier, and Karen Russell.  While the course topic is meant to provoke and inform your own writing, the original fiction you submit for workshop need not be limited by theme or aesthetic.

Instructor: Brian Booker

Day/Time: Thursday, 3:00-5:50 pm

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

CRWR 13017/33017 Special Topics in Poetry: Image, Perception, Sense

In this special topics course we will investigate and experiment with various approaches to imagery. Some fundamental questions will include: What are the variants of the image in poetry, and how do these variants create different stances in the poem? How does the image interface with formal attributes, such as sound, rhythm, and line breaks? Does a poetic image necessarily entail a representational mode of thinking, or are their variations that resist literary mimesis? Is abstraction really antithetical to the image, as is often assumed, or are there ways that, in poems, abstraction and imagery work in chorus? We will discuss radically different approaches to poetic image making (e.g. synesthetic, collaged, surrealist, eco-poetic, iterative, abstract, juxtapositional, absurdist, haiku, etc.) and the aesthetic effects and values that they entail. We will also compare poetry’s sensory images to select practices in music, painting, photography, and film. Workshop discussions will focus on sensory elements of students’ poems and the poem as an organ of perception and feelings. Readings may include work by Bernard Badiou, Charles Baudelaire, André Breton, Mark Doty, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, H.D., Elizabeth Bishop, Jared Stanley, Mei Mei Berssenbrugge, Francis Ponge, and others. Students should plan to submit a poem a week, write a short craft essay, serve once as a discussion leader, comment on peers’ work, and participate in workshops.

Instructor: Nate Hoks

Day/Time: Thursday, 1:30-4:20 pm

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

CRWR 14015/34015 Special Topics in Nonfiction: W. G. Sebald & Teju Cole

While they are both fiction writers, these men employ many classic non-fiction techniques as they tell stories of different diasporic communities. We will analyze these different techniques with a focus on each of the writer's narrator/characters. We will try to emulate these two writers through essays that engage walking and dialogue as primary shaping devices. We will also discuss the beauty and grace found in their sentences. 

Instructor: David MacLean

Day/Time: Monday, 10:30-1:20 pm

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

 

CRWR 27006/47006 Special Topics in Playwriting: Verse Forms in Theater & Spoke Word Traditions

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/Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20 pm

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

 

Advanced Classes

CRWR 21501/41501 Advanced Translation Workshop: Found in Translation

The current dominance of English makes it hard for English speakers to see the work translators do in making possible the worldwide circulation of ideas and forms. By some reports, the share of translated works in US publishing amounts to no more than five percent of new books. Yet theoretical and empirical studies of translation are on the rise, particularly in places where English is one of several linguistic options. This course will offer opportunities to think through both the theory and practice of this art form and means of cultural transmission, focusing on the problems of translation of and by poets in a variety of languages: it will emphasize precisely the genre most easily “lost in translation,” as the truism goes. It will offer students a chance to try their hands at a range of tactics of translation. Invited speakers with expertise in different languages and methods of translation will supplement our group readings in such authors as Dante, Petrarch, Chaucer, Wyatt, Shelley, Paz, Weinberger, Benjamin, Venuti, Celan, De Campos, Zukofsky, Erin Mouré, Etel Adnan, Anne Carson, and John Cayley.

Instructor: Jennifer Scappettone

Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20 pm

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

CRWR 22100/42100 Advanced Fiction Workshop

This course is intended as an extension and, in some ways, a reconsideration of many of the lessons learned in introductory fiction courses. While primarily a workshop, we will also be considering a good deal of outside reading, including texts by Edward P. Jones, Kelly Link, Anton Chekov, and Tillie Olsen. We will also pause to consider the intertextuality of works by the likes of Gustav Flaubert and Julian Barnes. 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/Time: Tuesday: 1:30-4:20 pm

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

 

CRWR 22118/42118 Advanced Fiction Workshop: Constructing a Full Length Novel

In this workshop, students will write two chapters and the outline of a full-length novel. We will employ the fundamentals of fiction: plot, characters in conflict, dialogue, and dramatic tension to shape and raise the stakes of our stories. Readings include Danticat, Diaz, and Stegner.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin

Day/Time: Thursday, 10:30-1:20 pm

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

 

CRWR 23112/43112 Advanced Poetry Workshop: Letters to Young Poets

From Horace onward, poets have imagined verse as a form of correspondence, sent and unsent, answered and unanswered, and sometimes unanswerable.  In this course, we will read widely in the “epistolary tradition” of Western verse, but we’ll also pay special attention to real letters written by poets throughout history as a practical forum for investigating the theory and techniques of literary composition.  Entering into an imaginary correspondence with writers like Rainer Maria Rilke, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Langston Hughes, Lorine Niedecker, and others, we will consider “the Burden of the Mystery” of literary creation as it was articulated by some of the major authors of modernity.  In one week, you may write a letter in reply to John Keats’s famous epistle on negative capability; in another, you may correspond with Gerard Manley Hopkins on questions of poetic form.  By the end of the quarter, you will have written several creative writing exercises, and your own letters to poets, both present and past.  You will also be on intimate terms with the work of major writers from the British, American, and European literary traditions, including contemporary voices across the spectrum of American poetry.

Instructor: Srikanth Reddy

Day/Time: Tuesday, 1:30-4:20 pm

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

 

CRWR 24001/44001 Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: Aiming for Publication

This workshop is for students who are about to enter the real world and want to leave the ivory tower with a realistic view of their strengths and limitations. A forewarning: I can’t get you an editor or an agent. The only way to do that is to have a forceful and beautifully-written manuscript. This class is about how to begin that manuscript. It’s a workshop, meaning that you’re responsible for generating the majority of our text and our discussions. Every week we’ll read and discuss successful published work I’ve selected to specifically illustrate solutions to the problems that have come up in you and your classmates’ work. That’s because the best way to become a better writer is to become a better reader. If you learn nothing else in this class, you’ll learn that. 

Instructor: Dan Raeburn

Day/Time: Friday, 9:30am-12:20 pm

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

 

CRWR 24002/44002/ARTH 24002/34002 Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: Writing About the Arts

Writing about the arts has long been a way for writers to investigate the wide world, and to look inward.  In this course, we’ll be focusing on the visual arts, and we’ll try to see how reflecting on painting, photography, installation art, and those arts that get called “decorative” gives us ways to consider the object in space, and also history, war, friendship, education, material culture, aesthetics, and coming-of-age.  In writing, we will practice all kinds of forms: lyric fragments; polemics; reviews; catalog essays; museum wall texts; personal meditations on a single work; documentation of lost techniques and lost works; and history, criticism, and biography written for readers outside the academy. Students will also write a longer essay to be workshopped in class. We’ll read and discuss writers such as Susan Sontag, Geoff Dyer, Claudia Rankine, Tiana Bighorse, Rebecca Solnit, Zbigniew Herbert, Donald Judd, Octavio Paz, Mark Doty, Hervé Guibert, Kevin Young, Lawrence Weschler, and Walter Benjamin.  Students will make some guided and some independent visits to museums including the Art Institute, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Smart Museum of Art, the Oriental Institute, and the National Museum of Mexican Arts. 

Instructor: Rachel Cohen

Day/Time: Wednesday, 10:30-1:20 pm

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