Winter 2018 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.

For Advanced and Thesis/Major Projects 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: 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 major.

Students may apply for no more than 2 courses in each genre.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: November 17, 2017

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

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? The origin of human life proves to be malicious. Divine fate? Space travel is enabled by the ingestion of enormous quantities of a geriatric spice a messianic figure auspiciously 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 Damon Lindelof, 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/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.

Reading as a Writer: City on the Remake (CRWR 12122)

This course invites writers to reconsider the influence of Chicago’s public spaces on artistic form.  In particular this quarter, we will examine aspects and depictions of a “fantastic Chicago.”  If Chicago is a city that dreams itself, what do its spaces of violence and environmental devastation say about that dream?  Students will analyze and explore Chicago writers’ work in prose and poetry, then develop their own creative responses, building connections to adopted critical approaches.  To these ends, we will examine work by writers including Michael Anania, Daniel Borzutzky, Ava Tomasula y Garcia, Philip Roth, and Erik Larson, as well as the city’s rich legacies in documentary and the visual arts.

Instructor: Garin Cycholl
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30-4:20

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

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 The Reader).

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

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


Beginning Workshops

Beginning Fiction Workshop (CRWR 10206/30206, Section 1

How to Read Like a Writer: When someone says that a piece of writing is “beautiful” what does that mean? Why do you sometimes sigh with pleasure after reading a short story? In this discussion class, we’ll be analyzing short stories (including your own) to discover the many different ways writers are able to create beautiful, moving works of art. We will be using craft analysis, the historical basis for learning to be a writer and in the process, we’ll read some playful writers such as Chekhov, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O’Connor, George Saunders and Kelly Link.  We will also be reading about the philosophy of writing, as described by Cixous, Barthes, Bachelard and Wood. And best of all, you’ll be presenting your own manuscripts for critique in this workshop-based class. By the end of the quarter, we will have honed our skills as attentive readers, developed as writers of clear, sophisticated prose, and read some fiction that will linger in our imaginations, hopefully for life.

Instructor: Goldie Goldbloom
Day/Time: Monday, 10:30-1:20

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

Beginning Fiction Workshop (CRWR 10206/30206), Section 2

This course will begin with a weeks-long consideration of selected works of short fiction where discussion will aim to isolate the basic techniques and devices of effective storytelling. Weekly topics will range from subjects as broad as plot arrangement and character development 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 students will be asked to chart their processes of conceptualizing, writing, and revising a narrative. Finally, in the latter weeks of the quarter, emphasis will shift to the workshopping of students’ own fiction.

Instructor: Baird Harper
Day/Time: Thursday, 12:30-3:20

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

Beginning Poetry Workshop (CRWR 10306/30306)
LOCATION

Poems are meeting places, Robert Creeley said. They offer locations but they also locate us, as writers and readers, in literal and figurative ways. And sometimes they dislocate us too. This beginning workshop will explore poetry writing through the lens of location, from considering place-based writing to thinking about textual and performative strategies that capture or engender movement, stasis, flux. We’ll look to artists, writers, poets, dancers for inspiration and orientation: William Cowper, On Kawara, Gertrude Stein, Marguerite Young, C.S. Giscombe, Charles Olson, Alice Notley, Tonya Foster, Virgil, Gaston Bachelard, Adrienne Rich, Robert Venturi, Sally Gross… Reading, writing, and workshopping assignments will consider “location” (and locomotion) as theme, technique, and opportunity to investigate and play with our own senses of locality as individuals and as a writing community. In addition to writing poems, weekly assignments might find you taking walks, making maps, conjuring imaginary geographies, crafting spatial histories, and discovering embodied movement practices.

Instructor: Hannah Brooks-Motl
Day/Time: Thursday, 2:00-4:50pm

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

Beginning Nonfiction Workshop (CRWR 10406/30406)

In this class you can write about anything you want, as long as you adhere to the truth. What that truth is, only you can say; our job is to help you find it, as well as the best form for conveying it. Nonfiction is inherently interdisciplinary and this class reflects that: I welcome essays, lyric essays, criticism, memoir, travelogues, oral histories, and profiles, as well as reported and journalistic features. Also rants, radio stories, and graphic nonfiction, i.e., comics. Whatever the form or format, the process is the same: you submit your work in progress and your classmates edit and critique it. These critiques aren’t for the faint of heart; they require meticulous line editing, rigorous reflection, and total honesty. They require you to put as much effort into your classmates’ work as you do into your own. We’ll start by reading foundational theoretical texts, including Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and The Story and Phillip Lopate’s To Show and To Tell. After that I’ll choose published examples that demonstrate solutions to the specific narrative problems we’ve found in last week’s student work. You’ll leave this class with the writing sample and skills you’ll need for admission to advanced workshops.

Instructor: Daniel Raeburn
Day/Time: Wednesday, 9:30-12:20


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

Fundamentals in Playwriting  (CRWR 10500/30500)

This workshop will explore the underlying mechanics that have made plays tick for the last 2,500 odd years, fromEuripedes to Shakespeare to Büchner to Caryl Churchill, Susan Lori-Parks, and Annie Baker, etc. Students will be askedto shamelessly steal those playwrights' tricks and techniques (if they're found useful), and employ them in the creation of their own piece. Designed for playwrights at any level (beginning or advanced), the workshop's primary goals will be todevelop a personal sense of what "works" on stage within the context of what's worked in the past, and to generate a one act play, start to finish.

Instructor: Mickle Maher
Day/Time: Thursday, 3:30-6:20

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


Fundamentals & Technical Seminars

Fundamentals in Creative Writing: Literary Empathy (CRWR 17000)


In this fundamentals course, students will investigate the complicated relationship between writers, fictional characters, and readers, toward determining what place literary empathy has in our conversation about contemporary literature. James Baldwin once observed that, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” We will use weekly reading assignments including fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction to ask questions about what Virgina Woolf called “perpetual union with another mind.” Students will write critical responses, creative exercises, and a final paper on a topic to be approved by the instructor. Readings include Baldwin, Bishop, Beard, Carson, Walcott, and Woolf.

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. This is class is restricted to students who have declared a major in Creative Writing.

Technical Seminar in Fiction: The First-Person Voice (CRWR 20204/40204)

As readers, we can all sense when a narrator doesn’t seem “convincing” as a character. Would anyone say such a thing? we wonder. What makes a first-person voice seem “real” to readers? How does this voice naturally move — whether in moments of boredom, of distress, of passion? Ultimately, what we’re asking as writers is, How can interiority truly be achieved? In this reading course, we will examine the first-person voice in contemporary fiction by authors such as Garth Greenwell, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Banana Yoshimoto — always with a craft-specific eye on how we can fine-tune our own narrators’ voices.

Instructor: Ling Ma
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30-4:20

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

Technical Seminar in Poetry: The Poem That Forgot It Was a Poem (CRWR 20303/40303)

This past year, the Nobel Prize Committee controversially awarded the Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” But what does “new poetic expressions” mean? In this course, we will look at works which fall inside and outside of the poetic tradition (including artworks, films, songs, and so on) in order to ask: What are we saying when we say “poetic”? What values are we ascribing to this practice and how do we delineate its formal and/or “expressive” powers? Students will be asked to keep a reading notebook as well as to write essays on the subject.

Instructor: Lynn Xu
Day/Time: Monday, 1:30-4:20

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


Technical Seminar in Nonfiction: The Possibilities of Tone (CRWR 20400/40400)

There are choices we're making at the sentence level that conjure specific tonal environments in our Non-Fiction. These tonal choices are mostly idiosyncratic to each writer, part of our syntactic DNA.  This won't be a class in changing anyone's inherent tonal choices. It will be a class where we'll practice how to listen to our writing so that we can recognize the choices we've made and how best to accentuate them in revision. We'll look at some of the great sentence makers: Woolf, Baldwin, Didion, Sontag, Als, Sebald (still a knock-out even in translation), DFW, Rushdie, and others. We will be looking very closely at sentence level construction. We'll read some poets because they make it all look so easy sometimes. We'll analyze the interaction between the tone and content of each essay, watching how that interaction can be causal, inseparable, playful, discordant, impossible, etc.

Instructor: David MacLean
Day/Time: Monday, 10:30-1:20

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

Advanced Workshops

Advanced Fiction Workshop: Narrative Questions & Character Revelation (CRWR 22123/42123)

Students will write and turn in two full-length stories or novel chapters for this workshop-based class. While we won’t ignore such fundamental elements of fiction writing as POV and narrative distance, characterization, setting, and dialogue, the class will pay special attention to how Narrative Questions (that is, questions that sustain the tension of a narrative) as well as the rate of character revelation can be used to both drive and pace a story or novel. In addition to submitting and reading for workshop, expect to read and discuss at least one novel and a selection of short stories.

Instructor: Augustus Rose
Day/Time: Tuesday, 11:00-1:50

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Poetry Workshop: Waste, Surplus, Reuse (CRWR 23113/43113)

What do poets do with surplus, with extras, leftovers, and other excesses of production? Is there a creative use to put them to? When viewed in the context of ecology and economy, what are the ethical dimensions of working with surplus? Or are there also ethics and aesthetics of the useless? With these guiding questions, this course will introduce students to methods for a creative approach to waste, and develop revision practices that draw on the reuse of material surplus. We will consider forms of excess (literary, artistic, economic, material, etc.) and their creative applications. We’ll examine diverse types of waste and things that “waste”, including literal trash, ruins, the body, time, the dream, and everyday texts (such as emails, text messages, rough drafts, conversations, and ephemeral media). Ultimately, this course will help students engage in the revision process. Reading may include A.R. Ammons’ Garbage, Eliot’s The Waste Land, Jen Bervin’s Nets, Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day, André Breton’s Mad Love, Joyelle McSweeney’s Dead Youth, or The Leaks, George Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Instructor: Nate Hoks
Day/Time: Tuesday, 2:00-4:50

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Advanced Nonfiction Workshop: Stigma & Taboo in Creative Nonfiction (CRWR 24006/44006)

The stories we avoid are often as important as the ones we embrace. This idea can pose one of the most difficult hurdles for writers as they find and develop a distinctive voice and style. When we tell a story, whether through personal narrative, research, reportage, or criticism, we are implicitly asking for our reader’s empathy and acknowledgment. But how does one do this when the subject at hand is taboo? In this reading and writing workshop, we will explore the challenges of writing about subjects often avoided or ignored in public discourse: menstruation, lactation, childbirth, maternal ambivalence, death and dying, sex, perversion, violence, and other uncomfortable subjects that force us to forego sentimentality and received knowledge. We’ll discuss how other writers do this: reading works such as Emily Witt’s Future Sex, Meghan Daum’s Unspeakable, Rivka Galchen’s Little Labors or Barry Lopez’ Sliver of Sky. Students will choose a single topic to research and to write about throughout the quarter, both in short assignments and in a longer piece to be workshopped by the class.

Instructor: Kim Brooks
Day/Time: Friday, 10:30-1:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.


Thesis/Major Projects Workshops

***Required for all fourth-year students writing a Creative BA, fourth-year minors, and MAPH students working with a Creative Writing faculty member on a creative thesis***

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

This advanced fiction workshop is for Creative Writing majors, minors, and MAPH students and other advanced students working on a substantial 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/Time: Tuesday, 2:00-4:50

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

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

This advanced fiction workshop is for Creative Writing majors, minors, and MAPH students and other advanced students working on a substantial 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, revising the pages you have, and building structures that sustain and support long-form works. Readings include works by Baldwin, Carson, Hemon, Yan, and Wharton.

Instructor: Rachel DeWoskin
Day/Time: Thursday, 11:00-1:50

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

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

This advanced fiction workshop is for Creative Writing majors, minors, and MAPH students and other advanced students 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 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. Finally, students will choose outside texts that have in some way influenced or informed their own creative projects and present and lead discussion on them.

Instructor: Will Boast
Day/Time: Tuesday, 9:30-12:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Thesis/Major Projects Workshop in Fiction (CRWR 29200/49200, section 4)

This advanced fiction workshop is for Creative Writing majors, minors, and MAPH students and other advanced students working on a substantial fiction project. It will be primarily a workshop class and all students are expected to enter this course with a story collection, a novel, or a novella already in progress, ready to be submitted and critiqued. The class will stress narrative arc and different kinds of conflict, though we will also discuss such fundamentals as POV and narrative distance, voice, character development, structure, setting, and dialogue as needed, in order to best shape a given work toward the writer’s own vision of that work. Keep in mind that writers don’t work in a vacuum—we should have a strong sense of how our own work fits in with the work of other writers. With this in mind, each student will also be expected to make several short presentations on the writing life: literary influences, writers’ processes, explorations of craft elements, literary journals, etc.

Instructor: Augustus Rose
Day/Time: Wednesday, 10:30-1:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.


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

This course is an advanced seminar intended primarily for students writing a Creative BA or MA thesis, as well as Creative Writing Minors completing the portfolio. 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 lyric text. 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 lyric 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: Srikanth Reddy
Day/Time: Wednesday, 1:30-4:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.


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

This class is required if you’re writing a BA or MAPH thesis in nonfiction or working on your portfolio for the minor. The class itself is entirely workshop, meaning that you and your classmates will provide the vast majority of material for discussion. You’ll spend as much time editing other people’s writing as you will working on your own. I emphasize editing because writing is essentially rewriting, and editing other manuscripts is the fastest way to gain the objectivity and skill you need to edit your own. By teaching others you’ll teach yourself, preparing you for the real life of the writer outside the academy. That’s why your first assignment will be to create your own syllabus: your own, self-directed program of outside reading, with smart, succinct reasons for each choice. All writers are ultimately self-taught, and this class is intended to be a step in that direction.

Instructor: Dan Raeburn
Day/Time: Friday, 9:30-12:20

Instructor consent required. Apply via creativewriting.uchicago.edu (include writing sample). Attendance on the first day is mandatory.

Center for Disciplinary Innovation Seminar

Exploratory Translation (CDIN 42918/CRWR 42918)

Focusing on the theory, history and practice of poetic translation, this seminar includes sessions with invited theorists and practitioners from North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Taking translation to be an art of making sense that is transmitted together with a craft of shapes and sequences, we aim to account for social and intellectual pressures influencing translation projects. We deliberately foreground other frameworks beyond “foreign to English” and “olden epochs to modern”—and other methods than the “equivalence of meaning”—in order to aim at a truly general history and theory of translation that might both guide comparative cultural history and enlarge the imaginative resources of translators and readers of translation. In addition to reading and analysis of outside texts spanning such topics as semantic and grammatical interference, gain and loss, bilingualism, self-translation, pidgin, code-switching, translationese, and foreignization vs. nativization, students will be invited to try their hands at a range of tactics, aiming toward a final portfolio of annotated translations.

Instructors: Jennifer Scappettone and Haun Saussy