Courses in the Creative Writing Minor

Courses

Intro to Creative Writing*

Writers at Newark I or II 3-credit course** (or another literature course can fulfill this requirement)

Fiction Courses

Poetry Courses

 

Intro to Creative Writing*

Introduction to creative writing is a multi-genre course divided into three sections: poetry, creative non-fiction, and fiction. Experience with these forms will ground the student in techniques useful to communicating effectively in many fields, including law, medicine, business, science, technology, and criminal justice. Each unit is based on several reading assignments and one creative written assignment. Methods of presentation of creative work will alternate between class group work; reading aloud; submission to the instructor for written feedback; and discussion with a class partner. At the end of the course students will have written a portfolio that may serve as the creative portion of the application to the creative writing minor. *Completion of Intro to Creative Writing is required for all students declaring the creative writing minor, and it may be taken in any semester. (3 cr.) 21:350:301

 

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Writers at Newark I or II  **

Reading of at least four books from the Writers at Newark Reading Series, one book per event; attend four scheduled events in the reading series; and write four responses to the readings each semester. After checking in with the M.F.A. program coordinator before each reading at the Paul Robeson Gallery, students will attend the reading and email a short response to a teaching assistant in the M.F.A. program. Readings include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by a diverse group of nationally known writers. **This course meets the literature requirement for the creative writing minor.  Another literature course may be used to replace this requirement.  Must have "Literature" in course name, or Shakespeare.
Prerequisites: 21:355:101-102 or equivalent. 

(3 cr.) 21:350:206 or 21:350:207

Writing Fiction: The Writer’s Toolbox

This course is a reading and writing intensive course covering the major craft elements in narrative fiction; structure, plot, character, description, setting, point of view, theme, voice, and more. The course is based on the textbook, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and Ned Stuckey-French. Each week students will either:

1) Read a chapter from the text and do exercises to practice the craft element presented
2) Read stories in the book, discuss, and do exercises requiring discernment of technique

This basic introduction will provide students with a basis for writing stories and reading as a writer. Students will practice giving each other feedback based in a common language. Gaining a mutual understanding of the terms used to critique a story is an important course goal.   Another important component of this course is to introduce students to the habits of writing. Students will keep a writing notebook with sections devoted to vocabulary, work habits, ideas, and photocopies of techniques they want to practice and learn. The functions of drafts and revisions will be discussed. Authors read include Annie Dillard, Joyce Carol Oates, Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Jamaica Kincaid, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver.
Sample Text List (Please check with instructor.):
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway and Ned Stuckey-French                                            

 (3 cr.) 21:350:383

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Who Says? Point of View and Forms in Fiction

Every story and novel is written from a vantage point and the decisions about who should do the telling and from what distance is one of the most important an author makes. Who is telling the story? How close or distant are they from the action? What is the effect of their angle on the information imparted to the reader? This course presents a consideration of these questions by studying points of view and forms along a spectrum from the most interior to the most exterior. The central text will be Points of View: An Anthology of Short Stories. This book presents a theory of point of view that traces the possibilities from the most interior and subjective to the most exterior and subjective. Each week a different point of view will be discussed and students will employ it in writing a short story of their own. Work will be alternately workshopped, read aloud, or critiqued with partners or in small groups. Beyond the stories in the textbook, other novels and short stories will offer supplemental examples of the techniques. By the end of the course students will be familiar with all of the major points of view.
Sample Text List (Please check with instructor.):
Points of View: An Anthology of Stories Edited by James Moffet and Kenneth R. McElheny
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid
The Color Purple by Alice Walker/ White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Jesus’s Son by Denis Johnson
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Namesake by Jumpha Lahiri
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan                                                                                                                                             (3 cr.) 21:350:384

Sentence by Sentence: Close Examination of Style in Fiction

One of the reasons great writers are great is because they work so hard on every sentence and word. This course will examine major writers on a sentence-by-sentence level. We will look at when these writers choose to follow certain rules, and when they break these rules. We will look specifically at how exactly the rules are broken. What is the situation in which this is done, and what techniques do writers deploy?  The course is divided into two halves, the short sentence and the long. In the short sentence section, we will look at Ernest Hemingway’s work. Does the flat declarative style require a particular type of character and location, perhaps an admirable character and an exotic location? We will read Raymond Carver closely. Do short sentences communicate best when the protagonist of a story is not admirable and his physical world is drab? One of the benefits of short sentences is clarity. We will look at how the clarity of short sentences can be harnessed to create eeriness. First we will look at one of Kafka's fantastical stories to see short sentences operating in a world that makes no sense. A signature quality of Kafka's world is that it does not require much physical description. After Kafka, we will look at Nathaniel West. How does having a larger and more varied physical world force the writer to use more varied sentence structures?

In the second half of the course, we will look at Henry James and William Faulkner. We are primarily interested in the use of the long sentence to mimic interiority, and to create exterior scenes from which the reader cannot escape.  As with short sentences, we are also interested in sentence structure used in atypical ways. We will examine Virginia Woolf to see how she balances interiority and exteriority and creates sentences that seem to gallop.  We will look primarily at these great writers, but we will also have supplementary readings.
Sample Text List (Please check with instructor.):                                                                                                          Ernest Hemingway :"Big Two-Hearted River” "Hills Like White Elephants”
Henry James: Daisy Miller

Franz Kafka: "The Metamorphosis"
Nathaniel West: Miss Lonelyhearts
Raymond Carver: "Cathedral""So Much Water So Close To Home"      

William Faulkner: Spotted Horses and "A Rose for Emily"
Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway                                                                                                                                                    (3 cr.) 21:350:386

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Beginnings, Middles, Ends, and Scenes

Writers are taught that stories require a beginning, a middle, and an end, and are written in dramatic scenes. What does this mean, though? What belongs in the beginning, or the middle, or the end? Where does a story start? When should it finish? What is a scene as a dramatic unit, and what are the different types of scenes? This course will answer these questions through readings and exercises. Students will study different styles of opening and closing a narrative, as well as various ways of sustaining a story, in order develop ease and familiarity with various approaches.  Theoretical essays include an analysis of endings by Chekhov, Flannery O’ Connor’s theories on endings, as well as essays by John Barth and Lan Samantha Chang. Students will practice working on these aspects of a story as separate entities; each requires its own technique. The scene as a unit will be studied closely with a view toward learning the technique of writing a tight middle of a story, and a strong climactic scene that satisfies Truman Capote’s dictum that fiction is a form of gossip.
Sample Text List (Please check with instructor.):
Various handouts and excerpts from writers such as Kawabata, Hempel, Strout, Dark, Chekhov, Fitzgerald, Lawrence, Carver, Steinbeck, Lahiri, Shelley
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones and Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote                                                               (3 cr.) 21:350:387

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Modernists, Beats and Beyond

This workshop course is a reading and writing intensive course, studying the work of American Modernists, Beats, Confessionals, & Formalists from 1910-1970.  The Penguin Anthology will be the primary text for the readings and the inspiration for the writing assignments.  Study of the Twentieth-Century poetry included in this seminal anthology will allow the class to explore the following questions: Is poetry necessary?  Who is speaking to whom and for what ostensible purpose? How are formal devices and techniques of use to a poet?  How do these devices and techniques help a poem say what it aims to say?   The answers these questions yield will apply to each student’s own poetry writing.  In short, the students will learn from the greats not how to imitate but how to utilize the tools the great poets invented. The Triggering Town is the other textbook, a masterpiece of a writing book: the lessons are as fresh and applicable as ever.  It aims to teach the “nuts and bolts” of writing poetry.  Students will write one poem per week towards a final portfolio of fourteen poems, the completion of which will count as the final exam.  Course requirements include discussion of the readings, group work, in-class writing, and take-home writing assignments.
Possible Textbooks (Please check with instructor):                                                                                                 Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century Poetry, edited by Rita Dove
The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo   (3 cr.) 21:350:304

Poetry of the People

This workshop course is a reading and writing intensive course, studying the work of Contemporary American Poets in the period 1970-2012.  In the post-Vietnam war era, heavily influenced by The New York School, the Black Arts movements—and reflecting the cultural shifts brought on by the civil rights movement, feminism and the gay/lesbian  rights movement— new generations of poets appeared with new styles, new politics, new perspectives.  Postmodern poetry, L*A*N*G*U*A*G*E poetry, and neo-formalism share the literary stage with the issues facing poets of the new millennium: changing gender norms and sexual freedoms, globalization and technology.  The Penguin Anthology will be the primary text for the readings and the inspiration for the writing assignments.  Other textbooks for the course are Mark Doty’s The Art of Description: World into Word, and the most recent issue of Best American Poetry.  Students will write one poem per week towards a final portfolio of fourteen poems, the completion of which will count as the final exam.  Course requirements include discussion of the readings, group work, in-class writing, and take-home writing assignments.
Possible Textbooks (Please check with Instructor):                                                                                                   Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century Poetry, edited by Rita Dove
The Art of Description: World into Word, by Mark Doty
Best American Poetry 2012, edited by David Lehman  (3 cr.) 21:350:305

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World Forms: Haiku, Ghazal, Sonnet and More

This workshop course is a reading and writing intensive course, studying poetic forms from around the globe.  Students will study the Japanese forms Haiku and Tanka, including the translated work of Issa and Basho, as well as contemporary Haiku practitioners. The Ghazal, celebrated Persian form, will be studied through the translated poems of Hafiz and Agha Shahid Ali’s work in English.  Other forms, such as the Pantoum (originally Malayan) and Terza Rima (originally Italian), have been absorbed by 19th and 20th century poets within the English-language tradition.  The course will also explore such English-language mainstays of poetry as the Villanelle, the Sestina and the Sonnet, ancient forms such as the abcedarian and Sapphics, and contemporary forms such as the erasure poem. Students will write one poem per week towards a final portfolio of twelve poems, the completion of which will count as the final exam.  Course requirements include discussion of the readings, group work, in-class writing, and take-home writing assignments.
Possible Textbooks (Please check with instructor.):                                                                                                          The Essential Haiku, edited by Robert Hass
Radical Disunities, edited by Agha Shahid Ali
The Art of the Sonnet, edited by Stephen Burt  (3 cr.) 21:350:307

Hybrid Forms: Prose Poetry, Flash Fiction and the Short Lyric Essay

This workshop course is a reading and writing intensive course, studying the hybrid art forms in poetry and prose that blend and blur genres.  The Prose Poem and Flash Fiction are formally closely aligned, and there is debate concerning what technical differences define one against the other.  The Lyric Essay has been described as a literary form on the border between poetry and creative non-fiction.  Studies in Prose Poetry include work by W.S. Merwin, Matthea Harvey, Rosemarie Waldrop, Russell Edson, James Richardson and other pieces included in the anthology Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present.  Pieces studied in Flash Fiction include the work of Jayne Anne Phillips, Lydia Davis, Franz Kafka, Sandra Cisneros, and other anthologized pieces in Sudden Fiction.  The unit on Short Lyric Essay will explore John D’Agata’s anthology The Next American Essay including pieces by Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, Lynn Hejinian and Annie Dillard. Students will write one piece per week towards a final portfolio of fourteen pieces, the completion of which will count as the final exam.  Course requirements include discussion of the readings, group work, in-class writing, and take-home writing assignments.
Possible Textbooks (Please check with instructor.):                                                                                                     Great American Prose Poem, edited by David Lehman
Sudden Fiction: American Short Short Stories, edited by R. Shapard and J. Thomas
The Next American Essay, edited by John D’Agata    (3 cr.) 21:350:309

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