ENGL 384 A: The Craft of Prose

Winter 2022
MW 12:30pm - 1:50pm / MEB 102
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Syllabus for English 384, Winter 2022.

We are mortal beings. There is as yet no evidence of god. We live in a hyperdigitized culture. Art is related to the body and to the culture. Art should reflect these things. Brevity rules.

A sustained argument for the excitement and urgency of brevity; a rally for compression, concision, and velocity; and a meditation on the brevity of human existence.

Participation counts; it will affect your grade. However, please don’t comment just to comment. Try to contribute judiciously, effectively, thoughtfully, and generously.


Office hours: by appointment.

Office phone: 206.543.2247 PDLA414.

Life Is Short—Art Is Shorter—purchase from UBS or online.

Students will read the book, do the prompts suggested by the book. We’ll do as many of them as we can. Read the whole book on your own, page by page, including the commentaries by Elizabeth Cooperman and me (we are the book’s co-editors). In class, students and I will discuss individual chapters as we have time. Crucial that you read the book on your own, chapter by chapter as we go and/or all the way through. Specific assignments provided in class; don’t use assignments as described in book.

In class, students will read aloud their work and critique one another’s work. That is the core focus of the course.

Students will learn the virtue of brevity, the key principles of literary composition in general (for novels, short stories, essays, etc.), and the many gestures available to the contemporary writer.

This is not a course in fiction or nonfiction. This is a course in prose composition. In how to write. You can write whatever you want: prose-poem, essay, fiction, hybrid work.

Questions? Concerns? Requests? Suggestions?

Jan 3. Intro to course.

Jan 5. We’ll discuss the book’s introduction and the key, very short pieces in chapters 1-3

Jan 10.Object, Prose-Poem, or Image Becomes Metaphor assignment due in class. Read aloud. 100-250 words. The shorter the better. It’s harder to write short than write long. The idea here is to describe something, build in a thematic thread, and have theme “pay out” as metaphor by end of composition. Print out enough copies for everyone in the class, including me. We will follow this same procedure for each assignment, each class.

Jan 12. Object/Prose-Poem/Image Becomes Metaphor.

Jan 17. No class. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jan 19. Lovers’ Quarrel/Happiness assignment due.

Jan 24. Lovers’ Quarrel/Happiness.

Jan 26. Decades assignment.

Jan 31. Decades.

Feb 2. Collage assignment.

Feb 7. Collage.

Feb 9. Trick Story assignment.

Feb 14. Trick Story.

Feb 16. See above.

Feb 21. Presidents’ Day.

Feb 23. General discussion (unless we need it to catch up on critiques).

Feb 28. Complicity/Guilty Elegy/Criticism as Autobiography assignment.

March 2. Complicity/Guilty Elegy/Criticism as Autobiography assignment.

March 7. Parable/Metaphysical Contemplation assignment.

March 9. Parable/Metaphysical assignment.

During exam week, turn in a total of 10 pages of revision, demonstrating your improved grasp of the principles of the course and your deepening command of your craft and art. Due on Friday of exam week.

Catalog Description:
Intensive study of various aspects of the craft of fiction or creative nonfiction. Readings in contemporary prose and writing using emulation and imitation. Prerequisite: ENGL 283; ENGL 284.
GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
June 16, 2024 - 12:49 am