Spring 2019 Creative Writing Courses

For information on upcoming for-credit Bassini Apprenticeships with Sam Apple, Janice Lowe, and Weike Wang, click here.

English 016.301 First-Year Seminar: First-Person Storytelling Jamie-Lee Josselyn M 2:00-5:00
English 010.301 Intro to Creative Writing: Writing and Performance Janice Lowe W 2:00-5:00
English 010.302 Intro to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction Jeff T. Johnson M 2:00-5:00
English 010.303 Intro to Creative Writing: Memoir and Creative Nonfiction Carmen Machado TR 10:30-12:00
English 111.301 Interventionist Writing: Writing Off the Page Kenneth Goldsmith R 1:30-4:30
English 112.301 Fiction Writing Workshop Karen Rile M 2:00-5:00
English 113.301 Poetry Writing Workshop Herman Beavers W 2:00-5:00
English 114.401 Playwriting Jackie Goldfinger M 2:00-5:00
English 115.301 Advanced Fiction Writing Max Apple T 1:30-4:30
English 115.302 Advanced Fiction Writing: The Novel Weike Wang W 2:00-5:00
English 116.401 Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve M 2:00-5:00
English 116.402 Screenwriting Scott Burkhardt W 5:00-8:00
English 116.403 Screenwriting Scott Burkhardt R 4:30-7:30
English 117.301 The Arts and Popular Culture: Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground Anthony DeCurtis R 1:30-4:30
English 118.301 Advanced Poetry Workshop Ron Silliman T 1:30-4:30
English 121.301 Writing for Young Adults Beth Kephart T 1:30-4:30
English 122.301 Making Comics Jean-Christophe Cloutier, Rob Berry MW 2-3:30
English 123.301 Advanced Writing for Children Lorene Cary W 2:00-5:00
English 127.401 Community Writing Rachel Zolf R 1:30-4:30
English 128.301 Magazine Journalism Avery Rome M 2:00-5:00
English 130.401 Advanced Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve W 2:00-5:00
English 135.301 Creative Nonfiction: Exploring the Ties that Bind Lise Funderburg T 1:30-4:30
English 135.302 Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels Marion Kant M 2:00-5:00
English 135.401 Writing Center Theory and Practice Kristen Gay TR 10:30-12:00
English 144.301 Speculative Fiction: The Art of Haunting Carmen Machado R 1:30-4:30
English 145.301 Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Xfic Jay Kirk T 1:30-4:30
English 145.302 Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Writing about Mental Health and Addiction Stephen Fried R 1:30-4:30
English 155.301 Documentary Writing Paul Hendrickson M 2:00-5:00
English 156.301 Writing from Photographs Paul Hendrickson W 2:00-5:00
English 157.301 Guinea Pig Journalism Sam Apple R 1:30-4:30
English 158.401 Science, Technology, Society Peter Tarr T 1:30-4:30
English 160.301 Long-Form Journalism Dick Polman W 2:00-5:00
English 161.301 Art of the Profile Dick Polman M 2:00-5:00
English 170.301 Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture Anthony DeCurtis TR 10:30-12:30

LPS Courses

English 010.601 Introduction to Creative Writing: Prose and Poetry Melissa Jensen W 5:30-8:30
English 135.601 Being Human: A Personal Approach to Race, Class & Gender Kitsi Watterson T 5:30-8:30
English 412.640 How a Story Works: The Art of Fiction Eve Eure M 5:30-8:30
English 435.640 The Site of Memory: A Writing Workshop Kitsi Watterson R 5:30-8:10

Descriptions

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English 016.301
First-Year Seminar: First-Person Storytelling
Josselyn
M 2:00-5:00

This interactive, collaborative nonfiction workshop will focus on the way a writer constructs characters in personal essays and other modes of creative nonfiction writing and how readers engage with these characters. Students will examine—through their own work and others’—how nonfiction writers must shape information to render people on the page in a way that is honest and engaging.

Much of this workshop will be spent on the “I” character, the first-person perspective. How do we portray ourselves, both when we’re at the center of our stories and when we’re on the edges looking in? How do we decide what to include and how do we justify what we exclude? We will think about how to integrate what we know—and, just as importantly, what we don’t know—about ourselves and the world now into stories that happened in the past. We will look to the writers Joan Didion, Phillip Lopate, Mary Karr, M.K. Asante and others for help when we need it.

We will also consider the difference between written and oral storytelling in this class, which will incorporate field trips to story slams hosted by the Moth and First Person Arts here in Philadelphia. There will definitely be extra credit for those brave enough to get up on stage at these events! (But don’t worry, introverts: public performance is not required.) Additionally, we will explore community-based storytelling projects such as the Six-Word Memoir, StoryCorps, Storiez, and other literary programming based at the Kelly Writers House. We will host organizers of these collaborations in class for conversations about how the projects came to be. The class will be responsible for planning and executing its own community-based storytelling project that will culminate in April with an event/exhibition, either on campus or elsewhere in Philadelphia.

A significant amount of our class time will be spent discussing student work. Revision will be essential. In addition to writing assignments throughout the semester, students will complete a final portfolio of revised work, along with a critical commentary on the community-based project. Fulfills Sector III: Arts & Letters of the College General Education Requirement.

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English 010.301
Intro to Creative Writing: Writing and Performance
Lowe
W 2:00-5:00

This introductory creative writing workshop includes the study of interdisciplinary work. From the Beats to the Black Arts Movement to the Language poets, writing as a multimedia entity has offered exciting ground for experimentation. Through writing, discussion, and sound work, including recording studio time at Kelly Writers House’s Wexler Studio, you will explore hybrid, multimedia texts by twentieth- and twenty-first-century writer-performers and installation artists, including Márcio-André, Jonathan Skinner, Julie Patton (visual and sound), Joy Harjo, Anne Waldman, LaTasha N. Diggs, Douglas Kearney (sound), Ntozake Shange (theater, dance), Harmony Holiday (sound and dance), Kate Tempest, and Kendrick Lamar (hip-hop) as well as Tracie Morris and musician Susie Ibarra (text-sound collaboration). You will write and make your own experiments with writing, sound, and other media. Practice will include cross-genre collaboration, playing with possibilities of music-text interaction, and critical engagement.

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English 010.302
Intro to Creative Writing: Poetry and Fiction
Johnson
M 2:00-5:00

This workshop will take a hybrid approach to reading and writing poetry and fiction: we will experiment with admixtures of poetry, prose (including the personal essay and short fiction), and visual and aural language art.

When our critical and aesthetic objectives are manifold, and outreach conventional usage, we get crafty, we improvise, and we hybridize our strategies. Rosmarie Waldrop writes about collage in terms of text and texture: language is material. Erín Moure writes about revealing the seams in language to challenge the borders inherent to conventional writing structures. M. NourbeSe Philip writes about pushing the boundaries of language, revealing hidden agendas embedded in linguistic structures. In the spirit of these tactile engagements with writing, we will practice a poetics of collage at the level of form. As we explore shifting grounds between poetry, prose, and image, we will practice moving between them and splicing their logics. If we discover new ways to write, perhaps we can discover new things to say, and even new ways of being in the world.

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English 010.303
Intro to Creative Writing: Memoir and Creative Nonfiction
Machado
TR 10:30-12

This workshop-style class is an introduction to the pleasures of the writing nonfiction. Students will read in a wide variety of subgenres, forms, and traditions (including memoir, criticism, lyrical and hermit-crab essays, and travel- and food-writing) and respond creatively with their own work. They will also learn how to mine their experiences and memories, do family-based historical research, generate brand-new material, discuss published and unpublished nonfiction in a critical way, and access the creative, playful side of their psyche that so many people leave dormant. We will talk about the craft of nonfiction and do periodic in-class exercises. No writing experience is necessary, but students must be willing to participate, revise their work, take risks, and be generous with themselves and others.

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English 111.301
Interventionist Writing: Writing Off the Page
Goldsmith
R 1:30-4:30

This class functions on one very simple premise: you will be required to write anywhere except for on the page. By studying the theory and practices of situationism, graffiti, and culture jamming, we will explore ways of detourning traditional methods of writing into an act imbued with alternative modes of social, political and aesthetic value: language as a medium and method of disruption and displacement; language as a way of upending normative modes of discourse and reception; language that insists on social interaction. You may intervene subtly or grossly, loudly or silently; your work may be visible or invisible, obviously blatant or subtly imperceptible. You may write between the cracks of sidewalks, on the leaves of trees, beneath puddles of water, or across the internet; you may shout from the rooftops of buildings or set up a short-range radio station to broadcast locally; you may jam frequencies, plant internet memes, or alter Wikipedia entries. Anything goes, as long as it's not on paper.

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English 112.301
Fiction Writing Workshop
Rile
M 2:00-5:00

Brush up your backstory and polish your point of view! In this generative, interactive workshop we’ll investigate literary fiction technique through a series of directed prompts that will produce a portfolio of work ranging from fully realized stories to quirky experiments worthy of McSweeney’s (e.g., The Bad Writing Competition). Course readings are chosen from a diverse selection of contemporary fiction to illustrate varied approaches to the techniques we’ll explore. You’ll read, write, and workshop every week. Think of this class as CrossFit for fiction writers. This class is appropriate for experienced fiction writers of every level, from intermediate through advanced. Come prepared to take creative risks, work hard, and bring your technique to the next level. Admission to this class is by instructor permit. Please email me at krile@writing.upenn.edu with a brief introduction, plus a sample of your fiction as a .doc or .pdf attachment.

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English 113.301
Poetry Writing Workshop
Beavers
W 2:00-5:00

This workshop is intended to help students with prior experience writing poetry develop techniques for generating poems along with the critical tools necessary to revise and complete them. Through in-class exercises, weekly writing assignments, readings of established and emerging poets, and class critique, students will acquire an assortment of resources that will help them develop a more concrete sense of voice, rhythm, prosody, metaphor, and images as well as a deeper understanding of how these things come together to make a successful poem. Weekly assignments will involve using familiar forms like the sonnet, as well as forms originating outside the U.S. such as the pantoum and the ghazal. Students will be asked to produce a final portfolio of poems, keep a writing journal, and participate in a public reading at the end of the term. Permission to enroll is required; please submit a writing sample of 3-5 poems (10-20 lines) to hbeavers@sas.upenn.edu in order to be granted a permit to register.

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English 114.401
Playwriting
Goldfinger
M 2:00-5:00

This course is designed as a hands-on workshop in the art and craft of dramatic writing. It involves the study of new plays, the systematic exploration of such elements as story making, plot, structure, theme, character, dialogue, setting, etc.; and most importantly, the development of students' own short plays through a series of written assignments and in-class exercises.

Since a great deal of this work takes place in class - through lectures, discussions, spontaneous writing exercises, and the reading of student work - weekly attendance and active participation is crucial. At the end of the semester, students' plays are read in a staged reading environment by professional actors.

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English 115.301
Advanced Fiction Writing
Apple
T 1:30-4:30

The class will be conducted as a seminar. Every student will write four stories during the semester; each story will be discussed by the group. The instructor will, from time to time, suggest works of fiction that he hopes will be illustrative and inspirational but there will be no required books. Attendance and active class participation are essential. Please submit a brief writing sample to maxapple1@verizon.net. Permit from the instructor is required.

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English 115.302
Advanced Fiction Writing: The Novel
Wang
W 2:00-5:00

In this course, students will make progress on a novel project. The course is ideal for those who have already thought about and have likely started their projects. Each week there will be 30-50 pages of reading from contemporary novels in addition to the works of your peers. The readings are meant to cover different kinds of novels both structurally and stylistically. Students will read Nunez, Franzen, Kaysen, Kundera, Barnes, and L’Engle, among others. Each student will be expected to turn in a novel outline and two novel excerpt submissions. By the end of course, students should expect to have a polished outline as well as 50 pages of workshopped novel material. Permit from the instructor is required. Please submit a writing sample to weike@post.harvard.edu.

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English 116.401
Screenwriting
DeMarco Van Cleve
M 2:00-5:00

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens.

Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor: Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve.

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English 116.402
Screenwriting
Burkhardt
W 5:00-8:00

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens.

Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor: Scott Burkhardt.

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English 116.403
Screenwriting
Burkhardt
R 4:30-7:30

This is a workshop-style course for those who have thought they had a terrific idea for a movie but didn't know where to begin. The class will focus on learning the basic tenets of classical dramatic structure and how this (ideally) will serve as the backbone for the screenplay of the aforementioned terrific idea. Each student should, by the end of the semester, have at least thirty pages of a screenplay completed. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class, and students will also become acquainted with how the business of selling and producing one's screenplay actually happens.

Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor: Scott Burkhardt.

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English 117.301
The Arts and Popular Culture: Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground
DeCurtis
R 1:30-4:30

This course will focus on the songs of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground as a source of creative inspiration. The course will, in part, take its shape based on the interests of the students who enroll in it: while Lou/VU obsessives—you know who you are—are, of course, welcome, if you are new to this music and these lives, curious about how these iconic musicians might inspire your own creative output, your curiosity, adventurousness and willingness to take a deep dive into this work are all that is required. We will listen to and discuss Lou Reed and Velvet Underground songs, watch films and performances, explore their influence across the arts, and meet critics and artists who have engaged their work in meaningful ways. For those reasons, the course will be more impressionistic than strictly schematic—that is, we will follow various threads in their work as they emerge in our discussions and as our fascination suggests. The goal is for us to achieve an understanding of this work and these artists that is as visceral as it is intellectual. The class will do some analytic and critical writing, but students who are so inclined will be encouraged to pursue their own creative work—which is to say that, in consultation with the instructor, fiction, songs, poems, plays, paintings or videos inspired by Lou Reed and/or the Velvet Underground will be acceptable projects to complete the course's requirements. You will be allowed a good deal of freedom in charting your own independent course, in other words, as appropriate to our subject and the gift their work has given to us all.

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English 118.301
Advanced Poetry Workshop
Silliman
T 1:30-4:30

This workshop will explore not only advanced writing techniques in poetry but also the poem’s evolving relationship to the artifact of the book in the age of the web. Poetry invariably oscillates between a focus on its materials and its capacity to invoke (and challenge) worlds. The best contemporary poetry, regardless of emphasis and commitments, no longer is simply a hodgepodge of recent writing. Students will create a manuscript of at least 20 pages that both demonstrates excellence and internal coherence, but which pushes the notion of book itself into new territory. This is not a class on intermedia. In addition to intensely workshopping our writing, we will also read texts that exemplify the book as horizon, including Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All, Lyn Hejinian’s The Unfollowing, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Divya Victor’s Kith, the conceptual anthology I’ll Drown This Book and the even more conceptual Flarf anthology.

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English 121.301
Writing for Young Adults
Kephart
T 1:30-4:30

Intelligent and searching, original and impassioned, lit from within and motivated by a desire to start a conversation about it means to be alive, to choose, to yearn, to be different, to take a stand, to get along, and to hope, the best books written for middle grade and young adult readers are, most assuredly, “big” books, the kind that live with readers long after the last pages have been read and the books slipped back onto the shelf. In this intensive (and fun) reading and writing workshop, we’ll learn from the likes of R.J. Palacio, Cece Bell, Jacqueline Woodson, Thanhha Lai, David Levithan, Sharon Creech, Ruta Sepetys, and Jason Reynolds. We’ll study the development of characters (and character), the creation of setting, the power of talk, and the secrets of narrative risk. We’ll produce a number of short pieces in a range of forms (including verse novels, multiple perspective novels, and graphic novels/memoirs) before completing a final project of 3,500 words. We’ll have the opportunity to meet and talk with mega YA star Nova Ren Suma.

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English 122.301
Making Comics
Cloutier & Berry
MW 10:30-12

This course is a creative writing workshop in the inexhaustible art of making comics. Open to both beginners and enthusiasts alike, the seminar will expose students to the unique language of comics and allow them to create their own stories in the medium. Through essential critical readings, practical homework, and lab assignments, students will develop an understanding of how text and sequential images create a unique kind of reading experience and storytelling. Over the course of the semester, students will take on a variety of roles in the making of comics (writing, illustrating, page layout, inking, character creation, and more), read groundbreaking comics theory and criticism, analyze now-classic and experimental comics, adapt a variety of prose & verse genres into comics, and, ultimately, create a longer graphic narrative project as a group. Although this is not intended as a course in drawing, all students will be expected to explore comics storytelling through the combination of words and cartoons (yes, stick figures are fine!). In-class reviews will give students direct insight into how certain choices of composition affect the storytelling process. During the first half of the semester, the course will rigorously combine theory and practice, navigating through a slew of different genres (e.g. poem, short story, journalism, memoir, etc.) and how these can be transmogrified into comics form. The second half will be dedicated to the production of the longer comic project.

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English 123.301
Advanced Writing for Children
Cary
W 2:00-5:00

English 123 is a pop-up writing community. We will focus on creating: that refers first, of course, to our stories, but also on creating the culture of an editorial and workshop group focused on collaboration and excellence. We also dip into communities around us, asking kids for critique, editing their work, sharing literary events with them. Like all writers, we write in the context of these communities—and from our own childhoods. We write, revise, delete, flush, try again. Returning to class with revisions will be a promise fulfilled, and an important marker in the literary life of everyone involved. When stories are ready, you will be invited to submit them to our editor at SafeKidsStories.com, yet another overlapping writing community.

At the end of the term, the azaleas will be in bloom, and you will have at least six good pieces of work, four substantive. You'll be graded on your portfolio; we will negotiate credit for additions to the writing, such as illustrations and multimedia. I'll also take into page-count consideration age levels and genre and your critiques and editing of other student-writers' work. We reach for freshness, and to develop initiative to keep going: cutting, researching, rewriting, risking enough to turn perfectly nice classroom prose into art. Writers come into class wondering whether we're good enough. My question to you is: Are you hungry enough?

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English 127.401
Community Writing
Zolf
R 1:30-4:30

Community Writing combines theory with practice: students will first study critical and creative writing pedagogy, and then visit a range of Philadelphia communities to write creatively together and form new kinds of community through writing. Students will have the opportunity to work and write with community members from Sayre High School, the FreeWrite Prison Writing Program, Mighty Writers West, the transcribez Writing Group for Trans and Gender Nonconforming Youth, the Write On! program with Lea middle school students, or the Writing a Life program at Kelly Writers House for people with cancer diagnoses. We will study nonhierarchical creative writing teaching techniques, such as spoken word and hip-hop pedagogy, and we will learn how to develop community-appropriate creative writing prompts that inspire people to write. We will also study a number of classic texts in radical pedagogy (by authors such as bell hooks and Paolo Freire) and generate ideas about how to harness the power of education—and creative writing in particular—for personal and social change. Community Writing is an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course. This course is cross-listed with Urban Studies 127. Fulfills Sector IV: Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Science of the General Education Requirement.

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English 128.301
Magazine Journalism
Rome
M 2:00-5:00

Magazines, a staple of mass media, play a big role in our nation’s conversation. From general-interest to niche and special-interest publications, the writing you find here draws on in-depth reporting, the use of voice and close attention to narrative structure. And the skills that make you good at this form can be useful in any career. Magazine writers play with the medium and with their readers, using tone, point of view, dialogue, suspense, the timely revelation of truths, rich characterization, vivid scenes—anything that brings the reader the texture and tangibility of what happened. Nonfiction, built upon facts and accuracy, does have its own rules. Doing it well depends on seeing the big picture and the telling detail. Every week we will read, discuss and write different types of magazine stories, drawing on publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine and their websites. We’ll explore the techniques that make a good story, from the selection of topic to the reporting required. We’ll talk to some brilliant journalists, and practice pitches to editors so we have a sense of how to enter the field. We’ll create the plan for a magazine, a mission statement, audience projection, table of contents, and sample stories—a “short” for the front, an essay for the end, and a 2,500-3,000-word cover story. Immerse yourself in a creative and surprisingly durable medium that has both depth and impact.

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English 130.401
Advanced Screenwriting
DeMarco Van Cleve
W 2:00-5:00

This is a workshop-style course for students who have completed a screenwriting class, or have a draft of a screenplay they wish to improve. Classes will consist of discussing student's work, as well as discussing relevant themes of the movie business and examining classic films and why they work as well as they do. Classic and not-so-classic screenplays will be required reading for every class in addition to some potentially useful texts like /What Makes Sammy Run?/ Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email. Please send a writing sample (in screenplay form), a brief description of your interest in the course and your goals for your screenplay, and any relevant background or experience.

Students will be admitted on the basis of an application by email briefly describing their interest in the course to the instructor: Kathy DeMarco Van Cleve.

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English 135.301
Creative Nonfiction: Exploring the Ties that Bind
Funderburg
T 1:30-4:30

We all belong somewhere. Our communities might be rooted in a sports team, religion, social identity, geography, life-altering experience, or newfound passion. What are the rituals and rites of these groups, their customs and constraints? Do we join them by choice or chance, and what happens when they intersect or overlap? In this workshop-centered class, you will enlist the creative nonfiction (CNF) genres of memoir and personal essay to explore the human condition, turning your lens both inward and outward as you look at the ties that bind us to each other. CNF calls on the literary techniques of fiction (including character, scene-setting, plot, dialogue, description, structure, narrative/thematic tension, pacing, chronology, point of view, imagery, and metaphor) and the reporting strategies of journalism (reportage, fact-checking, sourcing). You will write and revise three longer pieces (1500-2500 words each) and several shorter ones. Through assignments, exercises, critiques and reading discussions, expect to become a stronger writer, a better reader, and an enthusiastic reviser.

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English 135.302
Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels
Kant
M 2:00-5:00

In this course students will discuss what traveling means in an age when many people can get on a plane or drive on a whim to a place of their choice. Students will be asked to think about travel as a deliberate act or an act of improvisation, as never-ending process or a fixed journey. Students will observe themselves as travelers and record what they see and what happens around them when they travel. They will explore a popular form of writing and practice both—traveling and writing—as part of their own daily activities. The familiar will become strange and new as they move through Philadelphia, return home, walk through their university and explore places close to campus. The course will explore famous works by travelers who visited the USA, for instance Charles Dickens’s “On America and the Americans,” and consider recent works such as Robert MacFarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (2012).

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English 135.401
Writing Center Theory and Practice
Gay
TR 10:30-12

This course is intended for capable writers who possess the maturity and temperament to work successfully as peer tutors at Penn. The course emphasizes the development of tutors’ own writing through the process of collaborative peer-criticism, individual conferences, and intensive sessions on writing, from mechanics to style. The class meets twice weekly; tutors also work two hours weekly in the Writing Center or elsewhere, and confer regularly in small groups or one-on-one meetings with the instructor. Tutors are required to write five short papers, eight one-page peer reviews, and two responses to readings. Additionally, students keep a journal and give two class presentations. CWIC-affiliated course; fulfillment of writing requirement and permission of instructor required. This course is cross-listed with WRIT (Writing Program) 135. For more information, visit the Critical Writing Program.

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English 144.301
Speculative Fiction: The Art of Haunting
Machado
R 1:30-4:30

In this reading-intensive course, we will explore the literature and art of haunted spaces. The class will be multidisciplinary, and in addition to examining classic and contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and film, we will be discussing architecture and architecture theory (including spite houses, Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, and McMansion Hell), learning about the history of belief in ghosts and what it says about our relationship with the past, and exploring the question of what it means for something to be haunted. Students will learn to think more laterally about literature, art, space, and genre, and to respond critically and creatively to their inquiries and discoveries. This is not an introductory course—students should come prepared to read, think, research, ask questions, engage with their classmates, go out on creative and critical limbs, and geek out with their professor about this weird thing she’s obsessed with.

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English 145.301
Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Xfic
Kirk
T 1:30-4:30

This advanced creative nonfiction workshop will serve as the launch of XFic, Penn’s newest online literary journal. Xfic —a journal devoted to experimental nonfiction with a narrative bent—will allow student writers to earn course credit in English 145 and get published at the same time. While XFic will not consider memoir or fiction, it will welcome artifice, the performative, and the honorably pretentious. The course is open via permission of the instructor. Admittance to the course will be based on the strength of a “pitch” for a longform story idea. Your pitch need not include any prior writing experience, but only why the story you have in mind ,must be written and why you are the writer who must write it. Each accepted story idea will then serve as the assigned piece each student works on over the semester. The class itself will take the form of a workshop/weekly editorial meeting, where we will subject our pieces to a battery of rigorous and boundary-defying tests. Students will be paired in an editor/writer relationship. This collaboration will require students to be responsible for helping advance not only their own story, but their assigned writer’s story as well. Editors will be credited alongside the writer in the inaugural issue of XFic . One student will be appointed managing editor. Enrollment is limited to ten students. Permission to enroll is required. Please submit a story pitch before October 25, 2018, to jaykirk@comcast.net.

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English 145.302
Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Writing about Mental Health and Addiction
Fried
R 1:30-4:30

There are many reasons mental illness and addiction are so pervasive, and so difficult to treat and discuss—leading to all-time high rates of suicide and overdose. But there is one baseline problem we can immediately address: learning how to do more effective, affecting, and evidence-based writing about behavioral health. In this advanced writing course, one of the first of its kind for undergraduates in the country, students will explore some of the most powerful American nonfiction writing on behavioral health, in publications and books, and will have some of the authors as guest lecturers. During the class, each student will read and do a presentation on one major piece of mental health or addiction writing, and then will create, workshop, and rewrite one major piece of nonfiction writing of their own. Projects can be reported memoir, narrative longform, investigative reporting, medical science writing, or some combination of these. Taught by Stephen Fried, Lecturer, CPCW; Adjunct Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; Adjunct Professor of Mental Health Journalism, Columbia University Department of Psychiatry; and Co-Director, WHYY/Scattergood Behavioral Health Journalism Workshop. Permission to enroll is required; please submit a short writing sample to the instructor at stephenfried@comcast.net.

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English 155.301
Documentary Writing
Hendrickson
M 2:00-5:00

This offering in advanced nonfiction writing will function as a workshop, with a select group of students. It’s a course that will honor the spirit and tradition of “documentary” writing. The word “documentary” has meant many things over time. Here, it means a kind of nose-close observation and reportage. It means a level of being with one’s subject matter in a way that other creative writing courses don’t allow because of their format and structure. In English 155, a student writer at Penn will dare to “hang” with a topic—a girl’s high-school basketball team; a medical intern in a HUP emergency room; a cleaning lady doing the graveyard shift in a classroom building; a food-truck operator crowding the noontime avenues; a client-patient in the Ronald McDonald House near campus; a parish priest making his solitary and dreary and yet redemptive rounds of the sick and the dying in the hospital—for the entire term.

Yes, the whole term. And at term’s end, each writer in the course will have produced one extended prose work: a documentary piece of high creative caliber. This is our goal and inspiration. The piece will be 30 to 35 pages long.

Some people tend to think of the “documentary” genre (whether on film or in words) as work devoid of emotion—just the facts, ma’am. But in truth, emotion and deep sensitivity are prerequisites for any lasting documentary work. The nature of documentary, true documentary, implies moral and social scrutiny; means detailed fact-based reporting; depends on personal response to that factuality. This course will draw on specific literary and journalistic interests of the instructor that go back about 30 years.

The core reading models will be James Agee and George Orwell: specifically, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Agee and The Road to Wigan Pier by Orwell. Separately, across oceans, in 1936, in the belly of the Depression, these two incomparably gifted journalist/authors—one an American, one an Englishman—entered some damaged lower-class lives and proceeded to produce literary classics of the form. Agee went to Hale County, Alabama, to live with sharecroppers. Orwell traveled to the industrial grit of north England to observe coal miners.

Under the instructor’s guidance, the students will choose within the first three weeks. Choosing the subject is crucial. Access will have to be gained; cooperation assured. Within five weeks, rough drafts will begin to be produced—scenes, sketches, captured moments—and these will then be brought in to be read aloud to the group. This will be a way of finding the piece’s eventual form as well as making sure all participants are working at a level of continual intensity. The final product will be due at the 13th or 14th week of the term. Throughout the term we will constantly be consulting the various documentary reading models, even as we are concentrating on our own work.

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English 156.301
Writing from Photographs
Hendrickson
W 2:00-5:00

A creative writing course built entirely around the use of photographs, and the crafting of compelling nonfiction narratives from them. The essential concept will be to employ photographs as storytelling vehicles. So we will be using curling, drugstore-printed Kodak shots from our own family albums. We will be using searing and famous images from history books. We will be taking things from yesterday’s newspaper. We will even be using pictures that were just made by the workshop participants outside the campus gates with a disposable camera from CVS or with their own sophisticated digital Nikon. In all of this, there will be one overriding aim: to achieve memorable, full-bodied stories. To locate the strange, evocative, storytelling universes that are sealed inside the four rectangular walls of a photograph. They are always there, if you know how to look. It’s about the quality of your noticing, the intensity of your seeing.

Writers as diverse as the poet Mark Strand and the novelist Don DeLillo and the memoirist Wright Morris have long recognized the power of a photograph to launch a story. In this course we are going to employ memory and imagination to launch our stories, but most of all we are going to make use of fact: everything that can be found out, gleaned, uncovered, dug up, stumbled upon. Because first and last, this is nonfiction, this is the art of reported fact. So a lot of this class will go forward using the tools and techniques of journalism: good, old-fashioned reporting and research, legwork. And turning that reporting into writing gold. A photograph represents time stopped in a box. It is a kind of freeze-frame of eternity. It is stopped motion, in which the clock has seemed to hold its breath. Often, the stories inside photographs turn out to be at surprising odds with what we otherwise thought, felt, imagined.

Say, for instance, that you hunger to enter the photographic heart of this youthful, handsome, dark-haired man—who is your father—as he leans now against the gleaming bumper of a 1965 red-leather, bucket-seat Mustang. It was three decades before you were born. The moment is long buried and forgotten in your collective family’s past—and yet in another way, it is right here before you, on this photosensitive surface. Whether the figure in the photograph is alive or deceased, you are now going to try with all of your writing and reporting might to “walk back in.” Almost literally. You are going to achieve a story about this moment, with a beginning, middle, and end.

“Every great photograph has a secret,” a noted critic once said. An essayist for Time magazine once wrote: “All great photographs have lives of their own. But sometimes they can be false as dreams.”

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English 157.301
Guinea Pig Journalism
Apple
R 1:30-4:30

“Guinea-pig journalism” is a term sometimes used to describe nonfiction in which the author seeks out new experiences and writes about them in the first person. The genre can include everything from travel writing, to undercover investigative reporting, to comic narratives of unusual self-experiments. In its focus on the subjective experience of the author, the genre is heavily influenced by the New Journalism of the ’60s and ’70s, and readings will include early pioneers of the form such as Gay Talese, Joan Didion, and James Baldwin. We’ll also read more recent work by Barbara Ehrenreich and David Foster Wallace, among others. Students in the class will be expected to seek out their own new adventures to write about, and we’ll critique student work in class each week as a group. Questions? Contact me at samapple@gmail.com.

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English 158.401
Science, Technology, Society
Tarr
T 1:30-4:30

Millions of Americans are science-illiterate. An annual survey published by the National Science Foundation reveals that more than 50 percent of Americans over age 18 don’t understand what antibiotics are; don’t understand evolution; don’t know what a laser is. There is much confusion about science as reported in the press. What foods should we eat? Are GMOs dangerous? Does the discovery of new “risk genes” for autism or schizophrenia hold any practical significance for patients and their families? What does your online data trail reveal about you, and to whom? This workshop is intended for students interested in using popular science writing to broaden public understanding of who scientists are and what they do. The premise is that good science writing should help the public understand how to judge scientific claims, one basis of intelligent participation in debates about major policy questions such as our response to climate change or whether limits should be placed on gene editing. This is a writing workshop, and the plan is for each student to produce 3-4 polished pieces of writing (2-3 of 500-750 words and 1 of 1,500-2,000 words) about scientists (including a profile of one scientist “at work”) and scientific subject matter, based on a range of techniques that all journalists must master. Some of the skills we focus on: quickly researching a topic; identifying potential interviewees; performing interviews; focusing the story; and writing and rewriting story drafts. The object is to show improvement between first and subsequent drafts, with help from others in the workshop, who will provide periodic short critiques. This course is cross-listed with Science, Technology and Society 118.

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English 160.301
Long-Form Journalism
Polman
W 2:00-5:00

We’ll be reading and workshopping some of our most adventurous, pioneering nonfiction reporter/writers. At the same time, we’ll also shepherding semester-long projects that are due during exam period. The so-called “New Journalists” have thrived ever since the iconoclastic 1960s—the era when the craft was first developed and practiced. The term itself is very imprecise—the “New Journalists” were fiercely independent of each other, employing a wide range of reportorial and stylistic techniques not previously seen in American nonfiction—and their styles differ. But they’ve shared one fundamental trait. In the words of Marc Weingarten, who authored a book about the original New Journalists (The Gang that Wouldn’t Write Straight), they’ve all aspired to practice “journalism that reads like fiction” yet “rings with the truth of reported fact.”

We’ll closely parse some of their work, not because they are products of long-distant eras, but precisely because their novelistic techniques—narrative storytelling, dramatic arcs and scenes, structural cliffhangers, shifting points of view, author’s voice, dialogue as action—are routinely employed by the best long-form journalists today. Indeed, many contemporary journalists take these techniques for granted, perhaps unaware of their origins.

But this is not just a reading course. The ultimate goal is for each student to take the best of these techniques and use them in the reporting and writing of a long-form nonfiction piece that is due at the semester’s end. Each student will nurture one project from January to early May. And during the semester, we will schedule the time to workshop these works in progress—with class feedback and feedback from the instructor, functioning as an editor would.

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English 161.301
Art of the Profile
Polman
M 2:00-5:00

“Choose someone who touches some corner of the reader’s life.”—William Zinsser, on profile-writing

We’ll explore—and practice—some of the key elements of profile-writing: Gaining access to the profile subject; conducting an effective interview and extracting quotes that reveal the person; observing the profile subject in action, and extracting details that reveal the person; making the profile subject compelling—and, ideally, relatable—for the reader. We’ll also debate issues that have long challenged profile writers: How do you persuade complete strangers to share compelling details of their public or private lives? What are the best ways to assemble the essential ingredients of a good profile: facts, quotes, and/or anecdotes? Do you tape the interviews or just take notes? How can you best structure a profile in order to keep the reader’s attention? Is it possible to write a profile if the person won’t talk—or if the person is deceased? Is it better to quote at length—or merely to observe? When, and under what circumstance, should the writer insert his or her judgment/voice into the profile story? On the other hand, is there sometimes a problem of having too much access? Beyond all that, is it even possible to capture the essence of a person on the written page? Are you a friend, a confidante, or a manipulator? A journalist at The New Yorker once said that a writer’s relationship with the profile subject is “a kind of love affair”—but, on the other hand, a famous author once said that a profile writer is typically “gaining their trust and betraying without remorse.” Which is closer to the truth? All told, profile reporting challenges one’s social skills. How good are yours?

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English 170.301
Advanced Writing Projects in the Arts and Popular Culture
DeCurtis
TR 10:30-12:30

This advanced course in writing about the arts and popular culture (interpreted broadly) is limited in enrollment and focuses on a semester-long project that each student defines in consultation with the instructor. The course will be run something like a group independent study, in which students pursue their specific, personal projects and share their work on an ongoing basis with the class as a whole. Ideally, students will informally serve as each other’s editors, sharing suggestions, sources, approaches and encouragement. Occasional meetings of the full group will concentrate on issues relevant to all aspects of arts-and-culture writing, while meetings with individual students will focus and help realize the individual projects that will constitute the course’s main work. Most typically, the semester-long project will be a lengthy feature (6,000+ words) of the sort that regularly appears in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine or Rolling Stone, among other publications. Other approaches to the project, however, will certainly be considered. Readings for the course will be geared specifically to the interests of the students who have been selected, and will be drawn from relevant work that is appearing at that time in journalistic publications. Ideally, applicants will have already taken 117.301 with the instructor, but that is not a firm prerequisite and other students should absolutely feel free to contact the instructor for more information.

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English 010.601
Introduction to Creative Writing: Prose and Poetry
Jensen
W 5:30-8:30

Shakespeare pondered the matter (can you picture Hamlet without skull in hand?). Whitman, Woolf, Lorde. Margaret Atwood and JK Rowling. Doctor Seuss. Doctor Who. The Penn Museum has, among its collections, a thousand human skulls, because a 19th-century physician thought he could answer the question using crania and calipers.

What does it mean to be human?

In this workshop class, we will use writing to explore multiple pieces of this puzzle: identity and authority, love and death, what we make and what we break. You will read and write across form, from sonnet to lyric to flash fiction. There will be conversations with Philadelphia writers and artists and scientists; we will explore objects from our own Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (anthropology=study of human beings) to consider answers in things left behind. You will learn about the bones of writing: the basic elements on which we build. Over the term, you will put together a portfolio of original short prose and poetry, combining experience and creativity to come to your own conclusions about what it means to be.

Required: willingness to participate, to be a little bit brave in your own writing, to be thoughtful and thorough in your critique of others’. Not required: past writing experience. And skulls.

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English 135.601
Being Human: A Personal Approach to Race, Class & Gender
Watterson
T 5:30-8:30

In this workshop, we will address the ways race, class, and gender impact our lives, our work, and our culture. As a class, we will create connection and community by practicing deep listening, daily writing, deep reading, and the sharing of ideas and observations. Together we will identify stereotypes and myths embedded in systems of power and privileges that divide us from one another. We will read laws that have validated centuries of punishment and inequality based on distortions of race, gender, and sexual orientation that continue today. We’ll read personal narratives of authors who include Harriett Jacobs, James Baldwin, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jeanette Winterson, Ruth Ozaki, Tommy Orange, and Thandeka—to learn how other writers have coped with and expressed the burning realities of their lived experience. In addition to in-class writing exercises, movement, meditations and visualizations to generate new ideas, students will be asked to a maintain a daily practice of free-writing; write personal responses to assigned books, stories, documentaries, and field trips; participate in workshop discussions and peer review; and write and revise two to three stories/essays during the semester. This course is cross-listed with Africana Studies and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.

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English 412.640
How a Story Works: The Art of Fiction
Eure
M 5:30-8:30

This course will introduce you to the fundamentals of writing fiction. Over the semester, we will explore the formal underpinnings of narrative art, emphasizing craft techniques such as how characters work, the way in which a story develops, and the lyrical use of language. Together we will write, discuss, dissect, experiment, create, and read works by authors such as Dan Chaon, Alice Munro, Justin Torres, Danzy Senna, Stuart Dybek, Zadie Smith, Tejo Cole, Aimee Bender, and others. Class discussions and workshops will focus on reading the work of these writers from a writer’s perspective. We will learn from each other what we, both as writers and readers, respond to, and encourage one another to write as freely as possible. This course is appropriate both for students with previous creative writing experience and for students trying fiction writing for the first time.

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English 435.640
The Site of Memory: A Writing Workshop
Watterson
R 5:30pm-8:10pm

…All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that; remembering where we were, what valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory—what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination is ‘our’ flooding—Toni Morrison, “The Site of Memory”

In recent years, neuroscientists have been able to tell us a great deal about our memories, examine their reliability, and consider how they shape and inform us. This graduate workshop will be an improvisational journey that encourages the exploration of memory and imagination, as well as the importance of working with facts, fantasy, imitation, and identity. We will read a variety of authors who have explored time and memory in their own ways, including Zora Neal Hurston, Jeanette Winterson, Marcel Proust, Henry James, Margaret Atwood, and Toni Morrison. Your reading and writing assignments, along with in-class meditation, visualization, and movement, will help you free associate as you tap into your memories, reflect upon contradictions, and write more vividly about your own life, as well as the lives of others. We’ll focus on essential strategies of observation, description, dialogue, and action in fiction and nonfiction. Revision will be an important part of the process. In addition to in-class writing, students will be asked to establish a practice of daily free-writes (10-15 minutes/session); do close-readings and write personal responses to assigned books, readings, documentaries, and field trips; actively participate in workshop discussions and peer review; and write and revise two to three short stories or personal essays during the semester. This course is cross-listed with Africana Studies 481.640 and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies 135.640.