Recent Seminars and Workshops
(Courses taught in Fall 2016 noted after the course number and name)
English 5290 – Special Topics in Creative Writing: Creative Writing in Community
Monday (12:10 – 3:00 P.M. ~ 218 Calhoun Hall)
In this workshop/seminar, students will explore firsthand and on site a number of innovative enterprises, centers, and projects which feature creative writing and creative writers. Students will work collectively and individually on creative writing projects that serve either the Vanderbilt or greater Nashville community. The textbook for class is Creative Writing in the Community: A Guide, by Terry Thaxton (Bloomsbury, 2014).
We will begin the semester with some general investigation of the history of literary arts programming in the U.S., highlighting crucial issues like founding of the NEA; literary arts funding: public v. private; governance and organization/administrative structure; grass roots organizations; identity-based projects; special constituencies (children, patients, prisoners, the elderly, et al); and other background topics. We will also spend some time exploring the topic of literary entrepreneurship, and how the current digital era has impacted the individual literary imagination and ideas about artistic production.
Several organizations in Nashville will be identified for class members as sites for individual work as a facilitator of creative writing. Two of these include the Southern Festival of Books, a literary arts book fair that will take place in downtown Nashville from October 14-16; and Project Return, an organization that works with persons who are reentering the job market after having been released from incarceration within the preceding 12 months. At SFB, students will serve as interns. At Project Return, they will be conducting individual tutorials with PR clients, focusing on autobiography.
As a group, the class will engage in a series of site visits and classroom presentations. Organizations and entities to be explored include:
– The Porch Writer’s Collective (east Nashville): an independent center for writing, connecting, inspiring, and educating writers of all ages through classes, youth outreach programs, and innovative events.
– Global Center for Education (Nashville): a nonprofit arts education center for students, teachers, and the community in the area of multicultural, anti-bias education.
– The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy, a division of Vanderbilt, is a national policy center committed to research and teaching that challenges leaders to rethink the place of art and creativity in our world. Each year, Curb funds a third-year fellowship in Creative Writing. The Curb Fellow works in the community on creative writing projects.
– Southern Word: Nashville-based organization sponsoring spoken-word education, youth development, writing workshops, writers in schools, and other writing-based programs.
– Southern Festival of Books (Nashville): sponsored by Humanities Tennessee, SFB is an annual literary festival, featuring dozens of writers, that draws thousands of readers each October.
– Chapter 16: an online community of writers, readers, and passersby, sponsored by Humanities Tennessee.
English 7430 – Graduate Fiction Workshop
Tuesday (3:10 – 6:00 P.M. ~ 202 Furman Hall)
In this workshop, we will focus on composing effective works of fiction by encouraging writers to explore possibilities, in addition to reading published and in-progress narratives as well as article on craft. Members will produce creative and critical writing and present original fiction for workshop critique. Over the course of the semester, participants are expected to draft three short stories to present for workshop critique. This workshop undertakes complex and advanced analysis of elements of craft such as structure, symbol, metaphor, and style, presuming members are already familiar with rudimentary techniques related to the development of characters, the balance of scenery, and construction of narrative. Beyond elements of fiction, we will investigate tension produced by symbol, imagery, metaphor, and underlying thematic strands in published and peer-produced writing. Lastly, as contemplation of craft and teaching/mentoring are critical components of the professional writer’s career, workshop members will lead presentations on short stories and draft book reviews for publication in Silverfish.
English 7440 – Graduate Poetry Workshop
Monday (3:10 – 6:00 P.M. ~ 202 Furman Hall)
The primary focus of this intensive graduate workshop in poetry writing will be your poems in progress; we will also read and discuss various volumes of contemporary poetry, many in conjunction with the Visiting Writers Series. All workshop members will be expected to: participate intensely in class discussions, prepare in advance substantive and substantial written comments on peers’ works-in-progress, attend regular conferences with the workshop leader, and, by the end of the semester, produce a significant body of new poems. Additional texts include: Ross Gay’s Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, Natalie Diaz’s When My Brother Was an Aztec, Noah Warren’s The Destroyer in the Glass, and William Carols Williams’s Spring and All.
English 7460 – Literature and the Craft of Writing
Wednesday (12:10 – 3:00 P.M. ~ 337 Calhoun Hall)
Friendships between authors can be based on many things, but usually on a mutual admiration and a shared interest in a particular genre. They are most revealing historically if there is a record of correspondence and/or collaboration between the friends. Our focus will be on friendships between two poets, particularly modern poets. The most famous one in the twentieth century is between T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, notably for Pound’s work on T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Yet William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound has a long friendship, too, though the influence of each poet on the other has nothing as dramatic as the collaborative effort between Pound and Eliot on Eliot’s great poem. In more recent times, the friendships between poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop has produced a fascinating body of correspondence which allows us to consider how these poets not only critiqued one another’s work, but influenced on another’s work. That influence, present in their poems and in their correspondence, will be the focus of our seminar. There will be opportunities to consider other friendships between poets in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, Maxine Kumin and Anne Sexton, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath – yes married poets can be friends in this way – Gwendolyn Brooks and Haki Madhubuti, Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan, Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg), but Lowell’s and Bishop’s friendship will be the one we will mainly be considering. Primary texts will be Elizabeth Bishop’s Poems, Prose, and Letters, Robert Lowell’s Collected Poems, and Words in the Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. Good Biographies of both poets, Millier’s of Bishop and Mariani’s of Lowell, will also be useful. Weekly written responses to the readings, plus a presentation on another friendship between poets.