Fall 2019 Creative Writing Courses

English 010.301 Intro to Creative Writing: Sports Narratives Jamie-Lee Josselyn M 2:00-5:00
English 010.302 Intro to Creative Writing: Extreme Noticing Sam Apple T 4:30-7:30
English 010.303 Intro to Creative Writing Weike Wang M 2:00-5:00
English 112.301 Fiction Writing Workshop Marc Anthony Richardson W 6:00-9:00
English 113.301 Poetry Writing Workshop Laynie Browne T 1:30-4:30
English 115.301 Advanced Fiction Writing Max Apple T 1:30-4:30
English 115.302 Advanced Fiction Writing: The Novel Weike Wang M 5:00-8:00
English 116.401 Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve M 2:00-5:00
English 116.402 Screenwriting Scott Burkhardt W 2:00-5:00
English 116.403 Screenwriting Scott Burkhardt R 4:30-7:30
English 117.301 The Arts and Popular Culture Anthony DeCurtis R 1:30-4:30
English 120.401 The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation Taije Silverman TR 12:00-1:30
English 121.301 Writing for Young Adults Nova Ren Suma R 1:30-4:30
English 126.301 The Art of Editing Julia Bloch TR 10:30-12:00
English 127.301 Writing and Witnessing Rachel Zolf T 1:30-4:30
English 128.301 Magazine Writing Avery Rome M 2:00-5:00
English 129.401 Across Forms: Art and Writing Sharon Hayes and Rachel Zolf W 2:00-5:00
English 130.401 Advanced Screenwriting Kathleen DeMarco Van Cleve W 2:00-5:00
English 135.301 Creative Nonfiction Writing Max Apple R 1:30-4:30
English 135.302 Narrative Nonfiction: The Art of Experience Jay Kirk T 4:30-7:30
English 135.303 Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels Marion Kant M 4:30-7:30
English 138.401 Writing Center Theory and Practice Kristen Gay TR 10:30-12:00
English 144.301 Speculative Fiction Carmen Machado T 1:30-4:30
English 145.301 Advanced Nonfiction Writing Buzz Bissinger R 4:30-7:30; F 2:00-5:00
English 158.301 Journalistic Storytelling Dick Polman M 2:00-5:00
English 159.301 Political Writing in the Digital Age Dick Polman W 2:00-5:00
English 165.301 Writing through Culture and Art: Mamas of Dada Kenneth Goldsmith R 1:30-4:30

LPS Courses

English 010.601 Introduction to Creative Writing: Extreme Noticing Sam Apple W 5:30-8:30
English 412.640 How a Story Works: The Art of Fiction Elysha Chang W 5:30-8:10
English 435.640 Writing and Remembering: A Memoir Workshop Kitsi Watterson R 5:30-8:10

Descriptions

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English 010.301
Intro to Creative Writing: Sports Narratives
Josselyn
M 2:00-5:00

We use sports to shape our lives as individuals, as families, and as communities. Whether a runner completing a marathon for charity, a high school hopeful’s quest for a scholarship, or a pro team clinching a title (or falling short), the highs and lows of an athletic journey, when combined with literary devices, insightful reflection, and occasionally just the right amount of indulgence, make for stories that teach and inspire. Even those of us who are true amateur athletes or exclusively spectators tap into the emotions that sports evoke. Additionally, sports provide a crucial platform for social, political, and cultural issues via circumstances both on and off the court, field, or track.

Over the course of the semester, students in our workshop will compose a personal essay from the perspective of an athlete or fan, a reported piece on an athlete, team, or sporting event, and a short story that centers around athletics. For their final project, students will complete a longer piece in one of these modes, along with a revision of an earlier draft. As students work on their own sports stories, we will read the work of great storytellers like Grantland Rice, Toni Cade Bambara, Roger Angell, Leslie Jamison, Bill Simmons, and Penn’s own Buzz Bissinger, Sam and Max Apple, Dan McQuade, and Doug Glanville. We will also look to professional athletes whose words and gestures have made an impact, from fan favorites like Philly’s own Jason Kelce to athlete activists like Kathrine Switzer, Abby Wambach, and Colin Kaepernick.

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English 010.302
Intro to Creative Writing: Extreme Noticing
Sam Apple
T 4:30-7:30

In the words of novelist Alice LaPlantte, “our first job as writers” is “to notice.” We all notice the world around as we make our way through each day, but “noticing” as a writer is different. Whether working on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or any other genre, the writer has to pay attention to the very small, to zoom in on the specific detail or insight that can make even the most mundane moment feel entirely new. Noticing in this way is a skill that, like most skills, is developed with practice. In this class, we’ll practice paying attention to the small with weekly writing prompts and take occasional “noticing excursions” around campus. Along the way, we’ll review student writing as a group and read works by great contemporary noticers, including Karl Ove Knausgaard, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ben Lerner, and Miranda July. Questions? Contact me at samapple@gmail.com.

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English 010.303
Intro to Creative Writing
Wang
M 2:00-5:00

In this course, students will read contemporary fiction writers such as Nunez, Beattie, Hempel, Shepard, and Moody, among others. Students will be introduced to the craft of writing through discussions on plot, character, dialogue and voice. Students will also be encouraged to explore different kind of fictional writing from flash to ‘pseudo memoir.’ The second half of the semester will be dedicated to workshopping the works of peers. Each student will be expected to turn in biweekly short assignments (1-2 pages) as well as two creative pieces for workshop (8-12 pages).

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English 010.601
Introduction to Creative Writing: Extreme Noticing
Apple
W 5:30-8:30

In the words of novelist Alice LaPlantte, “our first job as writers” is “to notice.” We all notice the world around as we make our way through each day, but “noticing” as a writer is different. Whether working on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or any other genre, the writer has to pay attention to the very small, to zoom in on the specific detail or insight that can make even the most mundane moment feel entirely new. Noticing in this way is a skill that, like most skills, is developed with practice. In this class, we’ll practice paying attention to the small with weekly writing prompts and take occasional “noticing excursions” around campus. Along the way, we’ll review student writing as a group and read works by great contemporary noticers, including Karl Ove Knausgaard, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ben Lerner, and Miranda July. Questions? Contact me at samapple@gmail.com.

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English 112.301
Fiction Writing Workshop
Richardson
W 6:00-9:00

In this fiction writing workshop, we will be making a conscious effort to transcend our personal reading and writing preferences in order to be apprenticed by divergent literature—aesthetic achievements centered around objective reality, subjective life, and ecstatic confession and play! Most of the works that tend to affect us deeply are the ones that might have wearied us, or even greatly disturbed us. But in time, upon further reflection, we find them rather informative—or even illuminating! We will do a lot of new weekly writing, which will result in a draft and a final version of an original story. You and another classmate will be “hosting” at least one class in open discussion of a weekly reading, and critiquing each other’s drafts—focusing on craft, rather than content. You will challenge your self-censorship in a safe and supportive environment, and will read weekly what you write to develop your observational and listening skills in determining the effects of the spoken word.

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English 113.301
Poetry Writing Workshop
Browne
T 1:30-4:30

This is a course for students who are interested in exploring a variety of approaches to poetry. Students will encounter a diverse series of readings, in-class writing activities, weekly writing assignments and creative methods for heightening your abilities as a reader. Writing prompts will include ideas generated in class, along with procedural experiments and investigations of poetic form. Students will be encouraged to discover new territory, to collaborate, play, and unhinge conventional assumptions regarding what is possible in poetry.

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English 115.301
Advanced Fiction Writing
Max 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. Permit from the instructor is required. Please submit a brief writing sample to maxapple1@verizon.net.

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English 115.302
Advanced Fiction Writing: The Novel
Wang
M 5:00-8:00

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 selected readings from contemporary novels in addition to craft essays. Each student will be expected to turn in a novel outline and two novel excerpt submissions (each submission 20 pages). By the end of the course, students should expect to have a polished outline as well as 40 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 to kathydemarco@writing.upenn. Permit from the instructor is required. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.

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English 116.402
Screenwriting
Burkhardt
W 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 bujo@sas.upenn.edu. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.

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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 bujo@sas.upenn.edu. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 116.

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English 117.301
The Arts and Popular Culture
DeCurtis
R 1:30-4:30

This is a workshop-oriented course that will concentrate on all aspects of writing about artistic endeavor, including criticism, reviews, profiles, interviews and essays. For the purposes of this class, the arts will be interpreted broadly, and students will be able—and, in fact, encouraged—to write about both the fine arts and popular culture, including fashion, sports and comedy. Students will be doing a great deal of writing throughout the course, but the main focus will be a 3,000-word piece about an artist or arts organization in Philadelphia (or another location approved by the instructor) that will involve reporting, interviews and research. Potential subjects can run the full range from a local band to a museum, from a theater group to a designer, from a photographer to a sculptor.

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English 120.401
The Translation of Poetry/The Poetry of Translation
Silverman
TR 12:00-1:30

“No problem is as consubstantial with literature and its modest mystery as the one posed by translation.”—Jorge Luis Borges

In this class we will study and translate some of the major figures in 19th- and 20th-century poetry, including Gabriela Mistral, Wislawa Szymborska, Mahmoud Darwish, Anna Akhmatova, Rainer Maria Rilke, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Arthur Rimbaud, and Shu Ting. While the curriculum will be tailored to the interests and linguistic backgrounds of the students who enroll, all those curious about world poetry and the formidable, irresistible act of translation are welcome. Those wishing to take the translation course should have, at least, an intermediate knowledge of another language. We will study multiple translations of major poems and render our own versions in response. Students with knowledge of other languages will have the additional opportunity to work directly from the original. A portion of the course will be set up as a creative writing workshop in which to examine the overall effect of each others’ translations so that first drafts can become successful revisions. While class discussions will explore the contexts and particularity of poetry writen in Urdu, Italian, Arabic, French, Bulgarian, and Polish, they might ultimately reveal how notions of national literature have radically shifted in recent years to more polyglottic and globally textured forms. Through famous poems, essays on translation theory, and our own ongoing experiments, this course will celebrate the ways in which great poetry underscores the fact that language itself is a translation. In addition to the creative work, assignments will include an oral presentation, informal response papers, and a short final essay. This course is cross-listed with Comparative Literature.

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English 121.301
Writing for Young Adults
Suma
R 1:30-4:30

Young adult literature is powerful, inventive, and worthy of respect—and those writing it have enormous potential in their hands. This writing workshop will explore the craft of YA literature through creative assignments, generative exercises, assigned readings of texts by both giants in the field and emerging voices, and discussions of student work in a constructive environment. Students will focus on craft concerns that are crucial to writing about and for teens, such as: voice, point of view, immediacy, pacing, and opening hooks. Students will create writing of their own that delves deeply into character and pushes the boundaries of form and content, drawing on the many possibilities available in YA literary fiction: blurred genres, unreliable narrators, surrealism, retellings, and issues of identity and self-discovery. We will look beyond straightforward prose into forms such as epistolary and verse novels and other experimental mashups. We will consider how tolerant YA literature can be of ambiguity, and address the handling of hard issues and so-called taboo subject matter. Authors we will study as inspirations and models may include Elizabeth Acevedo, Laurie Halse Anderson, Elana K. Arnold, Libba Bray, Christine Heppermann, Malinda Lo, Maria Dahvana Headley, A. S. King, Randy Ribay, Neil Schusterman, Adam Silvera, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Ibi Zoboi. Come ready to challenge any preconceptions you may have about YA literature—beyond the commercial juggernauts and movie franchises—and examine what some believe is this genre’s greatest potential: to offer young readers a vehicle for recognizing themselves, and for reflecting and even transforming the world around them. By the end of the semester, students will complete a portfolio of creative work that showcases their own unique YA voice, with potential for further exploration beyond the confines of this class.

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English 126.301
The Art of Editing
Bloch
TR 10:30-12:00

This course takes a critical and practical approach to the art of editing. Is the editor simply a “failed writer,” as T. S. Eliot claimed, or is good editing the key to a writer’s clarity and integrity? In addition to exploring theories and histories of the red pen, we will consider a few case studies of editorial interventions, such as Ezra Pound’s excisions and revisions of Eliot’s The Waste Land, Marianne Moore’s five-decade quest to revise a single poem, and the editor who was discovered to have invented Raymond Carver’s distinctive narrative style. We will immerse ourselves in the technical aspects of editing, covering such topics as the difference between developmental and line editing, the merits of MLA and Chicago style, proofreading in hard copy and digital environments, and when to wield an em dash. Students will gain practical editing experience, learn about a range of different levels of editorial interventions, and investigate the politics of language usage and standards, reading from literary texts such as Gloria Anzaldúa’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary, and Dohra Ahmad’s Rotten English anthology to ask crucial questions about what “standard English” really means. This course counts toward the Journalistic Writing Minor.

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English 127.301
Writing and Witnessing
Zolf
T 1:30-4:30

This course will explore one of the fundamental questions we face as humans: how do we bear witness to ourselves and to the world? How do we live and write with a sense of response-ability to one another? How does our writing grapple with traumatic histories that continue to shape our world and who we are in it? The very word “witnessing” contains a conundrum within it: it means both to give testimony, such as in a court of law, and to bear witness to something beyond understanding. In this class, we will explore both senses of the term “witness” as we study work by writers such as Harriet Jacobs, Paul Celan, M. NourbeSe Philip, Bhanu Kapil, Layli Long Soldier, Claudia Rankine, Juliana Spahr, and others that wrestles with how to be a witness to oneself and others during a time of ongoing war, colonialism, racism, climate change, and other disasters. Students are welcome in this class no matter what stage you are at with writing, and whether you write poetry or prose or plays or make other kinds of art. Regardless of your experience, in this class you’ll be considered an “author,” which in its definition also means a “witness.” We will examine and question what authorship can do in the world, and we will analyze and explore the fine lines among being a witness, a bystander, a participant, a spectator, and an ally. In this class you will critically analyze and write responses to class readings; you’ll do writing exercises related to the work we read; and you’ll complete (and be workshopped on) a portfolio of creative writing (and/or art) that bears witness to events that matter to you. This class also has an optional Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) component for students who choose to do community work during the semester (organized through the Netter Center or on your own) and write about that community work for this class. Fulfills Sector IV: Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Science of the General Education Requirement.

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English 128.301
Magazine Writing
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 129.401
Across Forms: Art and Writing
Hayes and Zolf
W 2:00-5:00

What if a poem spoke from inside a photograph? What if a sculpture unfurled a political manifesto? What if a story wasn’t just like a dance, but was a dance—or a key component of a video, drawing, performance, or painting? Many artists employ writing in their practices, but may not look at the texts they create as writing. And many writers have practices that go beyond the page and deserve attention as art.

In this course, which is open to all students interested in art and writing, regardless of experience, students will develop multiple creative projects that integrate the forms, materials, and concerns of both art and writing. As a class we will employ critique and workshop, pedagogic methodologies from art and writing respectively, to support and interrogate cross-pollinations between writing and art practices. We will also study a field of artists and writers who are working with intersections between art and writing to create dynamic new ways of seeing, reading, and experiencing.

This course is cross-listed with Fine Arts 315/615. Permission to enroll is required; please submit a short description of your interest in the class to zolfr@writing.upenn.edu.

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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 students’ 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. Applications should be sent to kathydemarco@writing.upenn.edu. Permit from the instructor is required. This course is cross-listed with Cinema and Media Studies 130.

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English 135.301
Creative Nonfiction Writing
Max Apple
R 1:30-4:30

Each student will write three essays and the class will offer criticism and appreciation of each. There will be some discussion of and instruction in the form, but the course will be based on the student writing. Attendance and participation required.

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English 135.302
Narrative Nonfiction: The Art of Experience
Kirk
T 4:30-7:30

Every work of nonfiction is a writer’s attempt to reconstruct experience. But experience can be an elusive thing to capture: a strange hybrid of the highly subjective and the more tangible zone of perceptible fact. How do we strike a balance in narrative nonfiction? For one, we employ the same devices that we already use to navigate our way through the world—that of our senses. The more vivid the details of sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound, the more immersed the reader will become in the author’s re-created world of words. But what of the more abstract, less concrete sixth sense of thought? After all, it is our mind that perceives and finds the subjective meaning in experience. In this narrative nonfiction writing workshop, we will look at craft, literary technique, the mechanics of building vivid and powerful scenes, discuss the role of story-logic, and the importance of hard fact-checking. Yet, the student is also urged to pay close attention to their own internal narrator, and to be mindful of the intuitive (and unconscious) powers at play in their writing. Each week we will review classics in the genre, do in-class writing exercises, go on periodic “experiential” assignments, and explore how the art of playing around with the raw material of everyday life (i.e., “reality”) can make for great and unexpected stories.

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English 135.303
Creative Nonfiction: Writing Your Travels
Kant
M 4:30-7:30

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 138.401
Writing Center Theory and Practice
Gay
TR 10:30-12:00

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) 138. For more information, visit the Critical Writing Program.

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English 144.301
Speculative Fiction
Machado
T 1:30-4:30

In contemporary literature, “realism” is often used as shorthand for “literary.” The implication is that serious writing happens only within a faithful representation of reality. But this is a strictly modern idea—and a false one. Literature is historically filled with ghosts, gods, magic, talking animals, and the walking dead. Some of the most powerful and popular storytelling of our time has examined the nuances of the human condition in our own future, in alternate realities, and on other worlds. In this course, we will read and discuss different kinds of fantastic literature, and use those influences to tell our own stories. Students will learn techniques to help them weave their own supernatural tales, bust through genre tropes, and explore their obsessions. Permit from the instructor is required. Please submit a writing sample of up to 10 pages to machadoc@sas.upenn.edu.

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English 145.301
Advanced Nonfiction Writing
Bissinger
R 4:30-7:30; F 2:00-5:00

This is a course for students who love the written word and desire to advance their ability to write and craft narrative nonfiction. It is a course in applying devices of fiction to nonfiction writing without compromise of facts. Writing will be emphasized, and so will avenues of storytelling through such components as creating a narrative spine, building a dramatic plot, character development, scene-setting and use of quotes. Students must be willing to do significant reportage, since narrative nonfiction cannot exist without it. There will be heavy concentration on writing assignments and workshopping. We will also examine the work of authors such as Katharine Boo, Isabel Wilkerson, Monica Hesse, Lillian Ross, Lorene Cary, Gay Talese, David Foster Wallace, Richard Ben Cramer, Matthew Desmond, Truman Capote, John Hersey and JR Moehringer. We will also examine some of my own books, such as Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City, as well as magazine pieces from Vanity Fair, for candid discussions on what the author was trying to do and whether it was achieved. Each writing assignment will be roughly a thousand words. A comprehensive narrative nonfiction piece of somewhere around 5,000 words will be required at the end of the semester. Opportunities also exist for exemplary student work about Philadelphia to be professionally published as part of a collaboration with the Kelly Writers House and the daily online publication The Philadelphia Citizen. Class attendance and participation are essential.

The course will meet on Thursdays 4:30-7:30pm and Fridays 2-5pm on the following days: August 29 and 30, September 12 and 13, September 26 and 27, October 17 and 18, October 31 and November 1, November 14 and 15, December 5 and 6. I will be available for one-on-one discussions: November 7 and 8 and December 12 and 13. A nonfiction writing sample of any type (reported piece, narrative, essay or personal) is required for acceptance into the class. Please send your writing samples to Mingo Reynolds at mingo@writing.upenn.edu. Permit from the instructor is required.

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English 158.301
Journalistic Storytelling
Polman
M 2:00-5:00

The key issue: “How does the writer hook the reader, and how does the writer keep that reader hooked to the end?” English 158 is about mastering the mechanics of effective nonfiction narrative storytelling. Imagine that you are writing general-interest feature articles for a general-interest publication or website: What are the best ways to put the reader into your story? What are the elements that make a piece work? What are the elements of a good opening? When is it better to “show” as opposed to “tell”? When is it best to use first, second or third person? When is it best for the writer to use your own voice—or keep that voice at a distance? When is it best to use humor, and when to avoid it? When is it best to use anecdotes and scenes—both of which are staples of narrative storytelling? What are the “universal” themes that exist between the lines? We’ll work in different genres: observational pieces, profiles, personal pieces, long-form third-person pieces—and guest professionals will visit to share their expertise. An editor of mine used to say, “Good writing can be nurtured, cultivated, and encouraged.” That’s what I try to do. And I always say, “Journalistic writing is the most fun you can have working hard, and the hardest work you can do while having fun.”

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English 159.301
Political Journalism: Prelude to the 2020 Presidential Race
Polman
W 2:00-5:00

What’s the most professionally honest and effective way to cover the historically unique Trump administration? Do the traditional rules of “objectivity” work anymore, when writing about a president who breaks the norms of communication and governance? What’s the most honest and effective way to harness the technological revolution—the impact of Facebook, Twitter, and the rest of social media; the megaphone of ideological media—that has already upended the old norms of coverage?

We’ll tackle these issues by writing about the Trump White House, Congress, the nascent 2020 presidential campaign, and the tribally partisan national landscape, where even empirical facts are often deemed to be in dispute. Students will write stories in two formats: “straight” news blended with analysis; and, later, opinion commentary. The stories—posted to a closed website—will be workshopped in class.

The prime goal of this course is to help students develop political writing skills—most importantly, a respect for factual reporting, context and perspective, and informed opinion. This course will explore the daunting challenges that political journalists face when writing about polarizing topics for polarized audiences—while grappling with the thorny issues of “objectivity” and “balance,” the cultural influences of snark and irony, and the fog of “fake news.”

This course is designed to be timely, so we’ll closely monitor breaking stories as they arise. In other words, this course requires close attention to the political news—because we’ll be living off the news. And given the volatility of the 24/7 cycle, we reserve the right to improvise on this syllabus.

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English 165.301
Writing through Culture and Art: Mamas of Dada
Goldsmith
R 1:30-4:30

This yearlong course, presented in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will focus on the vital contributions that women have made to the 20th-century avant-garde. Women were essential participants in male-dominated movements such as Dada, Surrealism, Futurism, and Constructivism; they made art in every conceivable genre and media including literature, performance, film, painting, movement, and design. Our focus will be global, exploring the roles that women have played in experimental art movements across Europe, Africa, the Americans, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia, with an emphasis on how these works intersected with and responded to art produced by indigenous cultures. We will mine this rich vein of artistic production as the inspiration for our own weekly creative writings and reflection. We will have access to the treasures of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as personal interactions and class visits from the curatorial and educational staff of the museum. In addition, we’ll be making trips to New York to visit the studios of contemporary women artists—musicians, dancers, painters, performers—to find out how they connect with the tradition of women in the experimental arts. The class will culminate in a paper-bound publication to be copublished by the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Note: This is a two-semester course. Students will enroll in 165 in the fall and then re-enroll in 165 in the spring.

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English 412.640
How a Story Works: The Art of Fiction
Chang
W 5:30pm-8:10pm

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 James Baldwin, Alexander Chee, Yiyun Li, Lesley Nnecka Arimah, Edna O'Brien, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Kirsten Valdez Quade, 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
Writing and Remembering: A Memoir Workshop
Watterson
R 5:30pm-8:10pm

Whether you’re a new or experienced writer, this seminar will help you explore the elements that go into creating an effective memoir—the storytelling that creates for your readers events/people/places that have helped shape your inner life and sense of self. Memory is a dynamic force, and as we move and grow through our lives, our perspectives shift and change our relationships with the past. Through exercises and assignments, you will tap into your imagination and learn not only how to explore the mysteries that have helped to shape your own life and others’ lives, but how to write vividly about them. We will focus on details, pace, and tone, as well as on research and revision and the ethics of how to write “truths” that may effect other people’s lives. We also will mine a deeper understanding of the art and craft by writing from a wide range of authors, including Maxine Hong Kingston, Kaye Gibbons, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, and Zora Neale Hurston. In addition to in-class writing, students are asked to a maintain a daily practice of free-writing; write reading responses (2-3 pages weekly) to assigned books, essays, and stories; participate in workshop discussions and peer review, and write and revise three stories or personal essays (4-5 pages) during the semester.