Recent Seminars and Workshops


Tony Earley and recent MFA graduate Valerie Sullivan

Tony Earley and recent MFA graduate Valerie Sullivan

ENGL 303-01, Graduate Fiction Workshop. Lorraine López

In this workshop, we will focus on the construction of effective works of fiction by encouraging writers to explore possibilities through reading published and peer narratives.  Workshop participants will produce creative and critical writing and present original fiction for workshop critique.  Over the course of the semester, participants are expected to draft a minimum of two short stories or chapters for presentation to the workshop for critique.  This workshop undertakes complex and advanced analysis of elements of craft such as structure, symbol, metaphor, and style, and presumes members are already familiar with rudimentary techniques related to the development of characters, the balance of scene and summary, and construction of the narrative arc.  Beyond elements of fiction, we will investigate tension produced by symbol, imagery, metaphor, and underlying thematic strands in published and peer-produced literature.  Debra Spark’s Curious Attractions and selected essays will guide workshop discussion along these lines.  As contemplation of craft and teaching/mentoring are critical components of the professional writer’s career, workshop members will lead presentations on elements of craft in conjunction with works of assigned reading and assign and direct in-workshop writing exercises.  Finally, becoming a writer means being a responsible member of the literary community and publishing written work.  As such, each workshop member will draft and publish a book review during the semester.

ENGL 303-01, Graduate Fiction Workshop.  Nancy Reisman

Nancy Reisman

The central goal of this graduate fiction workshop is to help graduate writers further develop their art and refine their aesthetics. This is primarily a studio course: the participants’ work-in-progress will serve as key course texts. We’ll also read and discuss published works of fiction (novels as well as short stories) and craft essays. As workshop writers present fiction-in-progress, we’ll consider artistic vision in relation to questions of form and structure, and the possibilities for invention and for reinvigorating tradition. We’ll explore the questions of perception, narrative stance, varieties of tension, dramatic and non-dramatic progression, voice, language, and other aspects of craft. What role does lyricism play? How do we represent various experiences of time? Conceptualize character? How might we consider conflicting and/or echoing movements within a given piece? Which ‘rules’ might be most interesting to explore the limits of, and which to break? Finally, how might we think about the relationships between and among our experiences of culture/cultural moments, the ways in which we tell stories, and the stories we tell? At the beginning of the semester, we’ll set up a schedule for presentation of fiction-in-progress, and throughout the term writers will also offer their written and oral responses to published works, and will meet with visiting writers.

ENGL 304-01, Graduate Poetry Workshop.  Mark Jarman

This is an intensive workshop in poetry writing.  Students are expected to complete 12 pages of poetry over the course of the semester and a statement of poetics.  We will use Twentieth Century American Poetics as a text and, in addition, individual volumes of poetry by the poets who will visit campus as part of the Visiting Writers Series.  Extensive revision and regular conferencing with the instructor are expected.

ENGL 307-01, Literature and Craft of Writing.  Topic:  Where the Girls Are:  (Some) Contemporary Women Short Story Writers and their Influences. Nancy Reisman.

In this course, we’ll explore the work of several late 20th and 21st century women short story writers, and delve into their various aesthetics, influences, formal and thematic concerns. We’ll consider generational and cultural moments (with an eye on the intergenerational links and divergences); the sense of relationship, desire, and place within writers’ works; their visions of the short story form and uses of language; their representations of power and the power dynamics within forms; and their non-literary as well as their literary influences.  Among the writers we’ll read and discuss:  Grace Paley, Alice Munro, Angela Carter, Lorrie Moore, Deborah Eisenberg, Lydia Davis, Clarice Lispector, Aimee Bender,  Jhumpa Lahiri,  and several newly emerging story writers.   Course projects will include engagement with art-making process and oral and written discussion of formal and cultural concerns.

ENGL 307-02, Literature and Craft of Writing.  Topic:  Ma & Pa Poetry: Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.  Kate Daniels.

Kate Daniels and class

In this MFA seminar, we will read the complete poetry of Emily Dickinson & Walt Whitman, along with several biographies and critical articles, addressing various aspects of each poet’s work.  Our goal will be to understand something about the startling emergence of the first original voices in American poetry, to trace the critical reception to both poets over time, to explore their influence on twentieth century poets, and to read them as writers, ourselves, examining closely selected technical aspects of their verse.  We will begin with Dickinson.  Over the summer, please read The Complete Poems of E.D., and the Sewall biography, so that we can get right to work.  During the second week of September, former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins will give a guest lecture on Dickinson and her poetry.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Thomas Johnson, editor

The Life of Emily Dickinson, Richard B. Sewall

My Emily Dickinson, by Susan Howe

Leaves of Grass, and Other Writings: A Norton Critical Edition, Michael Moon, editor

Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography, by David S. Reynolds

On Whitman: Writers on Writing, by C.K. Williams

+ critical articles to be assigned