Spring 2019 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 workshop 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. If the class is closed and the instructor is listed as "Staff," please contact Jessi Haley for a spot on the waiting list.

For Advanced Workshops, 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. The writing sample is a mandatory component of all workshop applications.

For Technical Seminars and Fundamentals in Creative Writing courses, please fill out the online application form. A writing sample is not required for applications to these courses. Please note that Fundamentals seminars are only open to students who have declared the Creative Writing major.

YOU MUST SUBMIT A SEPARATE APPLICATION FOR EACH COURSE FOR WHICH YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE CONSIDERED.

Please note: All sample submissions should be double-spaced (except poetry) in Word documents using a 12-point standard font.

Please review your full application before you submit to be sure that AutoFill has not replaced any of your answers. We cannot take factors affecting your admission into account if the information is not on the application form.

Students may apply for no more than 2 workshop courses in each genre. Please clearly indicate your preferences if you are applying to multiple courses.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: March 1, 2019


The course instructor will contact you before the quarter begins to let you know whether you've been accepted.

Email the program manager with questions.

Arts Core Courses

CRWR 12107  Reading As A Writer: Crime And Story

If prostitution is the earliest profession, then crime is probably the earliest narrative engine. Crime has forever 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, detail, irony, perspective, narrative structure and research methodologies—of such writers and poets as Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Denis Johnson, Carolyn Forché, CK Williams, Ai, Jo Ann Beard, Joan Didion, 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. Students will turn in weekly reading responses and a final paper.

Instructor: Augustus Rose

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

Open bid through my.UChicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core requirement.

CRWR 12119 Intro To Genres: Walking

“Walking is the human way of getting about.” That’s Scottish poet Thomas A. Clark. “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and field, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.” That’s Thoreau. “In summer, I stalk… I have to seek things out.” That’s Annie Dillard. The textures of walking and writing are deeply woven together. In this workshop, we will walk and explore various theories and practices of walking approaching them from the angles of poetry, essay, aphorism, anthropology, architecture and hybrid writing. Including those already mentioned, we’ll read Rousseau, Whitman, Lisa Robertson, Devin Johnston, Jeffrey C. Robinson, Basho, Rebecca Solnit, Bruce Chatwin, and Shawn Micallef. Though the classroom is our workshop, the environs of Chicago will be our experimental laboratory. Classwork will involve weekly walking requirements, topological writing assignments, and regular reflections, as well as occasional group expeditions and forays in which we will explore varieties of walking: sauntering, strolling, strutting, foraging, skulking.

Instructor: Peter O'Leary

Day/Time: Tuesday, 2:00-4:50

Open bid through my.UChicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core requirement.

CRWR 12128 Reading As A Writer: The Sea

What is the temporality of the sea? Its consciousness? Where does it begin? Or end? In this course, we will consider the sea both as a figure in our literary, critical, visual, political, historical, and ecological imaginations, as well as a body in itself, iridescent and gleaming at the end of the world. We will look at practices of burial at sea, the infamous “wine dark sea” of Homer, the Middle Passage, the hold and wake of the ship, necropolitics, the concept of sovereignty and bare life, stowaway and asylum seekers, piracy and floating armories, eco-materialism, the post-human and alien worlds of our oceanic origins, the moon . . . and so on. Students will be asked to keep a reading notebook as well as to produce weekly creative responses for class discussion. “And as you read /the sea is turning /its dark pages /turning /its dark pages” (Denise Levertov, from To The Reader).

Instructor: Lynn Xu

Day/Time: Tuesday, 11:00-1:50 

Open bid through my.UChicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core requirement.

CRWR 12130 Intro To Genres: Love

What is love? How does it speak? To whom does it speak and how do we, let’s say, begin to speak about it? “One finds that love is not a state, a feeling, a disposition, but an exchange,” write Judith Butler, “uneven, fraught with history, with ghosts, with longings that are more or less legible to those who try to see one another with their faulty vision.” In this course, we will pursue this faulty vision with a vengeance, following love’s many apparitions -- its voices, bodies, and forms -- through various discourses (poetry, philosophy, films, artworks, and so on) into ecstatic swirls of self-possession and apocalyptic visions of self-doubt. Students will be asked to keep a reading notebook as well as to produce weekly creative responses for class discussion. 

Instructor: Lynn Xu

Day/Time: Thursday, 11:00-1:50 

Open bid through my.UChicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Satisfies the College Arts/Music/Drama Core requirement.

Beginning Workshops

CRWR 10206/30206 Section:1 Beginning Fiction Workshop

Basics of Narrative Design

This course will begin with a weeks-long consideration of selected works of fiction where discussion will aim to distinguish the basic techniques and devices of effective storytelling. Weekly topics will range from subjects as broad as point of view and plot arrangement to more highly focused lessons on scene design, dialog, and word choice. Throughout the term, the writing process will be broken down into stages where written work will focus on discrete story parts such as first pages, character introductions, and dialog-driven scenes before students are asked to compose full-length narratives. Along the way, students will chart their processes of conceptualizing, drafting, and revising their narratives. Finally, in the latter weeks of the quarter, emphasis will shift to the workshopping of students’ full stories.

Instructor: Baird Harper
Day/Time:  Thursday, 9:30-12:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10206/30206 Section:2 Beginning Fiction Workshop

In this beginning writing workshop students will write two short stories and focus on process. Through various exercises including automatic writing and dream journals students will discover their own obsessions and what to write about, develop central characters, and explore aspects of voice, sequence, plot, point of view and tense to find the forms that best serve the stories they want to tell. Readings will include contemporary American short stories by authors such as Alice Munro, ZZ Packer, Akhil Sharma, and others as well as books about elements of fiction such as Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forester, writings by James Wood, and others.
 
Instructor: Thea Goodman
Day/Time: Wednesday, 9:30-12:20
 
Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.
 

CRWR 10206/30206 Section:3 Beginning Fiction Workshop

“All writers are exiles wherever they live and their work is a lifelong journey toward a lost land.” So wrote Janet Frame, a singularly talented author who was institutionalized at the age of 21, then saved from a lobotomy only because she won a literary prize. In keeping with Frame’s reflection, this craft-based course will focus on strategies for saving our lives through fiction writing: how to cultivate a convincing voice; how to extract strength from our writerly weaknesses; and, ultimately, how to forge a home for ourselves in our own words. Through a combination of creative exercises and workshops, we will explore and examine the craft components of strong, original fictions, including character development, descriptive detail, compelling dialogue, and rich sentences. We’ll also learn how to read the work of published writers for creative inspiration, mining texts by established masters such as Franz Kafka, Alice Munro, Julio Cortazar, Katherine Mansfield, Yasunari Kawabata, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as well as newer and lesser-known contemporary voices. We will workshop our writings throughout the term, developing a portfolio of stories that reflect our individual interests, desires, and needs as writers.

Instructor: Meghan Lamb

Day/Time: Thursday, 3:30-6:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10306/30306 Section 1 Beginning Poetry Workshop

This Beginning Poetry Workshop, open to all students, is first and foremost a generative course; the most important goal is to produce a portfolio of poems. Students are also expected to hone their critical skill for engaging with poems by familiarizing themselves with and performing close readings of contemporary poetry. The first hour of the class will be devoted to discussing the assigned reading in addition to formulating and answering meaningful questions about the poem’s techniques, themes, context, form, and language. Such “practice” for reviewing a poem is to help the student not only consider the ways they might emulate or subvert the poem’s effects for their own work, but also become a sharper editor for peer work and make constructive comments supported by notes on the poem’s use of voice, perspective, imagery, and other devices. The remaining two hours of class are for workshopping student poems. At the end of the quarter, students will walk away with 4 original poems, and an enhanced ability to analyze literary texts that will aid them in future endeavors in creative or other humanities research.

Instructor: Emily Jungmin Yoon

Day/Time: Thursday, 12:30-3:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

CRWR 10406/30406 Section 1 Beginning Nonfiction Workshop

Details tbd.

CRWR 10606/30606 Section:1 Beginning Translation Workshop

This workshop will explore literary translation as a mode of embodied reading and creative writing. Through comparative and iterative readings across multiple translations of both poetry and fiction, we will examine the interpretive decisions that translators routinely encounter when assigning an English to a work of literature first written in another language, as well as the range of creative strategies available to translators when devising a treatment for a literary text in English. Students will complete weekly writing exercises in retranslation and English-to-English translation, building to the retranslation of either a short piece of fiction or selection of poems. No foreign language proficiency is required to participate in this course.

Instructor: Anne Janusch

Day/Time: Monday, 1:30-4:20

Open bid through my.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory. Contact the instructor for a spot on the waiting list.

Fundamentals & Technical Seminars

CRWR 17003 Fundamentals In Creative Writing: Truth

In this class we’ll study how writers define and make use of truth--whatever that is. In some cases it’s the truth, singular; in others a truth, only one among many. Some writers tell it straight, others slant. Some, like Tim O’Brien, advocate story-truth, the idea that fiction tells deeper truths than facts. To get at the heart of these and other unanswerable questions we’ll read writers who’ve written about one event in two or more modes. Nick Flynn’s poems about his father, for example, which he’s also set down as comic strips as well as in prose. Jeanette Winterson’s first novel as well as her memoir, sixteen years later, about what she’d been too afraid to say in it. Karl Marlantes’ novel about the Vietnam war, then his essays about the events he’d fictionalized. Through weekly responses, creative exercises, and longer analytic essays you’ll begin to figure out your own writerly truths, as well as the differences—and intersections—between them.

Instructor: Daniel Raeburn

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

Students must be a declared Creative Writing major to enroll. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 20207/40207 Technical Seminar In Fiction: Auto-Fiction & Nonfiction Novels

This seminar looks primarily at fiction that blurs the line between imagination and experience. We’ll look at highly memoiristic “autofiction” by the likes of Rachel Cusk, Renata Adler, Annie Ernaux, and Hitomi Kanehara. Authors who have addressed the same subjects in both works of fiction and nonfiction, including Kathryn Harrison and James Baldwin, will also be of interest to us. As will nonfiction novels and/or highly novelistic journalism by George Orwell and Truman Capote. This course is primarily intended for fiction writing students interested in exploring different approaches to autobiography or curious about the possibilities opened up by such genre bending works. But it will also appeal to any student interested in contemporary and 20th-century literature. The emphasis will be on critical writing, but there will also be opportunities for creative exercises and responses.

Instructor: Will Boast

Day/Time: Tuesday, 12:30-3:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 20208/40208 Technical Seminar In Fiction: Structure

In conversations on literary craft, plot and structure are often used interchangeably. Yet, while plot refers to a causal sequence of events, structure is a broader term concerned with narrative patterning. This includes thematic layering, pacing, the order of scenes, perspective shifting, and more. In this course, we will examine structural arrangements in both canonical and contemporary works of fiction by Franz Kafka, Rachel Ingalls, Jenny Zhang, and others. We’ll look at scene, repetition, listings, disruptive elements, digressive voice, seemingly shapeless storylines, and how these variables factor in creating structure. In every instance, we will look at how structure accommodates and naturally derives from the story, rather than impose itself upon it like some alien force. While this is not a workshop course, come prepared to write and casually share work in class. Students will pursue both creative work and critical papers.

Instructor: Ling Ma

Day/Time: Tuesday, 3:30-6:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 20302/40302 Technical Seminar in Poetry: Units of Composition

How do poets conceive of and work with the most essential particles of poetry? 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, creative exercises, and critical writing, various units of composition and the ways that they interact with each other in poems. We will study and imitate traditional formal approaches, such as the poetic foot, meter, caesuras, sprung rhythm, rhymed stanzas, and refrains. We also will study and imitate modernist and contemporary “units,” such as the word, the free verse line, the variable foot, vers libre, the sentence (the “New” sentence, but also basic syntax), the page, and dialogue. Readings will draw from a wide selection of canonical and contemporary poetry and prose by poets.

Instructor: Nathan Hoks

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

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 20403 /40403 Technical Seminar In Nonfiction: Lyric Nonfiction 

This class will explore the intermarriage of the poem with the essay or book-length work of nonfiction. We’ll explore a range of works that share with the poetic an attention to and innovative use of form, highly imagistic language, and the use of white space or occasional line breaks. At times such works employ elevated diction; at other times vernacular prosity. Some of these works leave off narrative, others care deeply about the telling of a story. In each case, we’ll think about the intersection of form and content. Why this form for this story (or non-story)? What has been gained? What seems intentionally lost? Writers studied may include Claudia Rankine, Anne Carson, Patricia Hampl, Eve L. Ewing, Maggie Nelson, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Lia Purpura.

Instructor: Tina Post

Day/Time: Tuesday, 9:30-12:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Workshops

CRWR 21502/41502 Advanced Translation Workshop

All writing is revision, and this holds true for the practice of literary translation as well. We will critique each other’s longer manuscripts-in-progress of prose, poetry, or drama, and examine various revision techniques—from the line-by-line approach of Lydia Davis, to the “driving-in-the-dark” model of Peter Constantine, and several approaches in between. We will consider questions of different reading audiences while manuscripts for submission for publication, along with the contextualization of the work with a translator’s preface or afterword. Our efforts will culminate in not only an advanced-stage manuscript, but also with various strategies in hand to use for future projects. Students who wish to take this workshop should have at least an intermediate proficiency in a foreign language and already be working on a longer translation project.

Instructor: Jason Grunebaum

Day/Time: Tuesday, 5:00-7:50

Instructor consent required. Please submit a one-page translation sample, including the corresponding original, a brief description of the project you plan to work on, and areas of interest regarding language, writing, translation, and world literature. Once given consent, attendance on the first day is mandatory.

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

In this advanced fiction workshop, students will work on novel-length projects, completing one to two polished chapters and an outline of a full novel. We will explore how to structure a book that is both propulsive and character-driven, and how to create a compelling, unique narrative voice.  Works by James Baldwin, Edith Wharton, Ha Jin, Vladimir Nabokov, and Akhil Sharma will help us consider the crucial relationship between characters and their contexts. 

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin

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

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 22121/42121 Advanced Fiction Workshop: Young Adult Literature 

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: Monday, 5:00-7:50

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 22129/42129 Advanced Fiction Workshop: Other Storylines

As consumers of mass entertainments, we have all been indoctrinated with the traditional pyramid models of storytelling, predicated on the linearity of rising action, climax, falling action. In this workshop course, we will read and examine fiction with (seemingly) other shapes, misshapes, or perhaps no shapes. Through an eclectic mix of readings — by writers such as Lucia Berlin, Anton Chekhov, Miranda July — we will investigate alternatives to and departures from the conventional plotlines that dominate our culture, ultimately with an eye towards creating unconventional narratives of our own.

Instructor: Ling Ma

Day/Time: Thursday, 12:30-3:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 23122/43122 Advanced Poetry Workshop: The Sequence

“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. In this workshop, you will experiment with ways of writing, counting, stacking, and shuffling your own “little boxes.” We will read a range of modern and contemporary poetic sequences as models, 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 sequence can serve 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? Poets studied may include: Mina Loy, Gertrude Stein, George Oppen, Robert Creeley, Rae Armantrout, Fanny Howe, Ed Roberson, Michael O’Brien, Nathaniel Mackey, Joseph Donahue, and others.3

Instructor: Patrick Morrissey

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

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 23124/43124 Advanced Poetry Workshop: Imagination Of The Ear

The importance of sound to poetry, lyric poetry especially, is universally acknowledged, yet neither technical analysis of meter nor meticulous maps of vowel and consonant patterns satisfactorily describe how sound-making and listening shape poetic process and even, more controversially, poetic thinking. We will work with sounds luscious and austere, narcotic and precise, in a training of the ear as an organ of poesis.

Instructor: John Wilkinson

Day/Time: Wednesday, 12:30-3:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

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

The short and the long of it. In this course, we’ll be focusing on writing about visual arts by using shorter and longer forms, and while thinking about short and long durations of time. The time of encounter with a work of art, the time of its making, kinds of time the artists wanted to invoke, the endurance and ephemerality of the work, and of the experience of the work. We’ll work short: wall text, compressed review, lyric fragment, and long: involved and layered sentences and elaborations. We’ll work with and against different kinds of syntax, white space, and the unspoken, and read authors including John Yau, Lori Waxman, Zbigniew Herbert, Mark Strand, John Berger, Junichiro Tanizaki, and Dore Ashton, and ekphrastic poetry by Terrance Hayes, Tyehimba Jess, and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon.

The course hopes to support students both in developing useful practices and experimenting boldly. Every class session will begin with a student-led two-work tour at the Smart Museum, and we will spend one session on close looking at works on paper at the Smart. Students will also visit five collections, exhibitions and/or galleries and keep a looking diary. Students will write a number of exercises in different forms (wall text, review, interview / portrait), and will also write two essays (which may follow one extended line or be a mosaic composite) to be workshopped in class.

Instructor: Rachel Cohen

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

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

CRWR 24007/44007 Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: Long-Form Journalism

This workshop-based nonfiction course is suitable for any student who wants to work on long-form (1500 words and up) journalistic projects. To supplement our workshop submissions, we'll look at a variety of texts touching on (and often combining) reporting on political, cultural, and environmental subjects. We'll consider interviewing techniques and profile writing, as well works concerned with travel (of the non-touristic kind), sports, and the arts. We'll read pieces by the likes of Katherine Boo, Eula Biss, George Orwell, Ryzard Kapuchinski, George Saunders, Geoff Dyer, Ted Conover, Maggie Nelson, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The emphasis of the course will be on narrative journalism, but other approaches will be considered and welcomed. Ideally, students will come into the course with projects already in mind, but we will also work on developing stories and pitches.

Instructor: Will Boast

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

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu. Attendance on the first day is mandatory.