Welcome to English 284!
This course operates under the assumption that you are here to be artists and writers, engaging with your craft in a deeply-invested way. All writing is imaginative. Well-written stories that haunt us for their truth are almost always “conceived in doubt, and fueled by an urgent desire to understand something that eludes understanding” (Burroway). First, we will immerse ourselves in the art of the short story—we will read contemporary authors written, specifically, by women and POC. While we will have exploratory writing assignments early on in the course, the second half of the course requires that you begin to see yourself as a writer. Part of our goal in this class is to figure out what feels urgent for us to explore, and write towards our own truth. Usually, it is only on revision that we learn the heart of these explorations.
To be a writer requires reading: the serious kind of reading which engages text by looking through a craft lens, one that asks: why and how does a writer make these choices? and how can I make my own choices? This is a reading-heavy course, which will immerse you in stories of authors you’ve never heard of. But anyone who reads voraciously can become a writer, and so, to that end—we will practice writing with in-class exercises, take home assignments, and drafts. We will also practice responding to one another’s work in a professional and kind way through small group workshops, and a culminating short story and final portfolio.
Goals for the Course:
∙To learn close reading skills and to understand the decisions writers make in composing short stories
∙To read and appreciate a variety of aesthetics and styles of fiction through exposure to contemporary writers (particularly focusing on writers of color, LGBT+ and women writers)
∙To improve our writing practice and understand decisions we make, keeping in mind the effect our decisions have on our readers (and asking/answering: who is your audience?)
∙To hone our working understanding of craft elements, including but not limited to: character and desire, setting, tone, pacing, time, perspective and narrative distance, dialog and subtext, imagery, rhyming action, style and syntax, sentence and scene variety, rhythm, and rhythmic mimesis.
∙To practice giving and receiving feedback and understanding the workshop process
∙To form a working knowledge of our own process with a focus on re-envisioning our work
∙To take risks in our writing by upping the stakes, understanding aboutness, and writing towards mystery and creative obsessions, all through thorough revision processes (last few weeks of class).