Recent Seminars and Workshops

(Courses taught in Fall 2014 noted after the course number and name)

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 (Fall 2014)

Nancy Reisman

This workshop is intended to help Master’s level fiction writers further develop their art and refine their aesthetics.  We’ll consider the slippery and changing shapes of fiction, questions of architecture, narration and points of perception, the movements and layering of time, overall progressions and/or narrative arcs, the role of place, representations of consciousness, lyricism, prose rhythm, and more.  How do you conceptualize ‘story’? Which conventions are you most interested in exploring, reinventing, or abandoning in search of alternatives?  How might you think about your experiences of culture/cultural moments, the ways in which you tell stories, and the stories you tell?  Relationships between fiction writing and other artistic productions? We’ll read selected published texts, craft essays, and interviews as we consider the core material of the workshop: the new original fiction of workshop writers. Graduate writers will respond to other participants’ workshop fiction and published writing in written form and in class discussion.  This workshop is a required course for fiction MFA degree candidates. writers.  Potential admission to the workshop by other graduate level writers is limited and only by instructor permission.

ENGL 304-01, Graduate Poetry Workshop.  Beth Bachmann (Fall 2014).

This graduate poetry workshop will focus on class discussion of poetry written by participants. Where does a poem slip, fail, turn, reveal and what do these moments tell us about the poem not on the page? Using Jane Hirschfield’s essay “Close Reading: Windows” as our jumping off point, we will workshop poems with an eye to thresholds, places where each poem can open further into light, landscape, or precipice. Members should complete 12 pages of their poetry for the course.

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.

Mark Jarman's Graduate Poetry Workshop, Spring 2014

ENGL 307, Literature and the Craft of Writing.  Topic: Publishing and Editing. Lorraine Lopez (Fall 2014).

This course is designed to provide practical and applicable experience in editing and publishing for creative writers in the MFA program.  The seminar consists of a series of meetings on topics dealing with the pragmatic side of literature, finding suitable venues for one’s work; submitting manuscripts for publication or prizes; placing essays on craft, interviews, or book reviews in journals that pay; finding an agent or working without one; and applying for jobs in the academy and in publishing.  Additionally, the course provides an introduction to the art and craft of self-editing for creative writers, including strategies for compression and expansion, use of style guides and finer points of grammar and usage.  Finally, graduate students will collaborate to develop a workable concept for an edited multi-genre collection in order to promote their own creative work, along with the M.F.A. program.

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.

Kate Daniels and class

ENGL 307-02, Literature and Craft of Writing.  Topic: Ma & Pa Poetry: Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Kate Daniels (Fall 2014).

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.  Readings: 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; and critical articles to be assigned.