Department of English University of Washington
Winter 2024 The Craft of Prose
English 384B (14373)
Instructor: Professor Rae Paris Class Time/Location: W 2:30-5:20/DEN 210
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Office Hours: By Appointment/Zoom
What is your theory of change these days?
–Eve Tuck, “What is your Theory of Change These Days?”
Yet to address more intimately is not to exclude; rather, it alters the terms of inclusion.
—bell hooks, “Narratives of Struggle”, Critical Fictions: The Politics of Imaginative Writing. Ed., Philomena Mariani.
Working to Be in Good Relationship with these Lands and Peoples of these Lands
The University of Washington, like all of our lives and institutions exists on Indigenous lands. Whether virtual or in person, we’re meeting on the ancestral homelands of those who were here before us, those who still live here, and those who will continue after us. In person, we’re meeting on homelands of the Duwamish, Suquamish, Snoqualmie, Puyallup, as well as the Muckleshoot, Tulalip, and other Coast Salish peoples and their descendants. It’s important to note this naming of peoples, nations, and lands is one small act as I continue, with others, to imagine and work toward Indigenous sovereignty, justice, and liberation in institutions and a broader society that continue to live out the settler colonial legacies of land theft, genocide, and enslavement. I’m grateful to teach, learn, and live on these lands, and to continue learning and doing the ongoing work of being in good relationship with these lands and peoples of these lands; and, ultimately, toward decolonization, the return of lands. May the writing, thinking, laughter, and the relationships we co-create in and outside of this class be part of this ongoing imagining made real. If you’d like to learn more about Indigenous lands that UW occupies, you can learn more from Owen Oliver (Quinault Indian Nation and Isleta Pueblo), who recently graduated from UW, and who created an Indigenous walking tour for UW.
Living and Learning in these Times:
“This syllabus represents one possible path our course learning may take. Let us proceed with grace and understanding that the most important thing right now, as ever, is health and safety for the present and futures of our communities.” (Many thanks to Professor Django Paris for including a version of this note in his syllabus.)
We will hold weekly space for our class in person and possibly on Zoom, depending on the needs of the class. We will adjust as needed and in consideration of national safety measures, university guidelines, and most importantly our class needs. If you are unable to join a given session for any reason, please inform me before class. You do not need to provide a reason (e.g., internet access, family, community, or self-care, physical or mental health), though you are welcome to share your reason. Workshop classes depend on attendance (our class meets once a week); so we will move forward balancing the ongoing crisis of Covid along with course requirements, particularly the need for your presence in class. If you are having difficulty completing coursework, please communicate with me so we can figure out a way forward.
Covid Precautions/Face Coverings: As conditions change, the university’s policy shifts. Recently masks were strongly recommended rather than required, now they are optional in certain settings. I invite us to center an ethic of community care in all we do together. I regard currently wearing masks indoors and some public spaces an important act of such care. I’ll be wearing a mask when teaching and meeting in person, but please know while UW recommends you are not required to wear a mask. “As part of the University’s multi-layered strategy to limit the transmission of COVID-19, face coverings, particularly well-fitting, high-quality masks (e.g., N95, KN95, surgical mask) remain a useful tool in helping to limit the spread of COVID-19. High-quality masks are available at no cost in several locations on each campus.”
Please see the statement from Disability Studies, which speaks to collective care during these times: “In agreeing to support each other by wearing a mask, we recognize that there are disparate experiences of this pandemic that are shaped by underlying social inequities. Older adults, immunocompromised people, working-class people, and people of color have died at exceptionally high rates.” As well, “We also recognize that for various reasons wearing masks might create access barriers for some disabled people, so we want to make space as well for students and instructors who need to go without wearing a mask.”
It’s also important to note per UW, “…an individual’s decision to wear a mask (or not) will have no bearing on evaluation of their academic or work performance or working/learning conditions.”
This course is The Craft of Prose. In this course, you’ll read, write, and revise work. The naming above of peoples, lands, and relationships should signal our workshop will proceed with an awareness that the writing you submit and all of our discussions take place on Indigenous lands. This understanding that we’re writing in particular places at a particular moment in time, which is also connected to past(s) and future(s), will be part of our discussions of your work, as will other aspects of craft. In addition to plot, point of view, character development, pacing, dialogue, setting, voice, and so on; our discussions of the craft of your writing will necessarily consider settler colonialism, White supremacy, racism, cishetero ableist patriarchy, racial capitalism, and other intersecting systems, identities, ideas, and beliefs. I include the bell hooks quote above, a quote I’ve been including for many years, because I’d also like us to consider audience and power as you move forward with your writing; the audience(s) you’re addressing, as well as the audience(s) we’re creating together this quarter. I’d also like us to consider the choices we make in this space together. How much choice do we have in this class to create a sustaining space? And, of course, we’re doing all this work in the midst of ongoing responses to COVID, in which many of us may still be grieving the passing of loved ones; all while still living in the ongoing wake of a fraught 2016 election and subsequent presidency, which emboldened White supremacists; and in the recent wake of 2020, in which we witnessed the ongoing assaults against Black, Indigenous, and Asian lives and the resistance to this violence. Currently, many of us are witnessing a genocide in Palestine. I hope in our time together that we move with as much care for and with each other as possible, that we consider care (not in the way institutions often co-opt this language and include it as part of so-called diversity and inclusion narratives), but as part of the work of thinking about what it means to radically revision how we move in relationship with our stories, ourselves, each other, our communities, and these lands; that we consider this radical revisioning as part of deepening our understanding of craft, and part of co-creating a space where this revisioning and understanding has room to grow.
Selected readings posted on Canvas
A notebook or whatever device you write with
A device to access virtual meetings when needed
Grading and Attendance
All of the writing you do for this course must be written for this course by you. If there is work from another course that you’d like continue developing, please speak to me first.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): The purpose of our class is to learn about the craft of prose, which includes how we might center and sustain our writing through reading, viewing, listening, sharing, reflection, and other content that displays our critical thinking, engagement, and learning. Please do not use AI (such as ChatGPT) to complete work for our class, including in critical reflections, class sharings, or culminating projects. If submitted writing or other work is found to have come from AI or other predictive algorithms, the assignment will be considered missing and remain ungraded, and may be reported for plagiarism review. If AI is in some way central to the work/topic/project itself, please speak with me before using AI.
Critical Engagement: All your work should demonstrate critical engagement with readings and writing (your own and others), and should demonstrate an evolving and complex understanding of craft. The expectation is that you complete all work for the course on time, again showing critical engagement and an evolving understanding of craft, to receive full credit.
Revision: All revisions of work should show substantive changes that have taken comments from myself and others in the class into account.
Format: All work should adhere to assigned word count and format. No late assignments accepted. Please do not email assignments to me without prior arrangement. Unless directed otherwise, all work will be submitted to Canvas.
Attendance: Arriving late and/or leaving early counts as an absence. You may miss one class without penalty.
The UW grading scale may be found here.
Explanation and Format for Assignments
Statement of Aesthetics/Theory of Change (15)
Class Sharings (10)
Reading Responses (5)
Peer Critiques (10)
Workshop Draft and Revision (40)
In-Class Writing and Smaller Writing Prompts/Assignments (20)
Statement of Aesthetics/Theory of Change: The core question of this assignment: What stories do you want to tell and why? And connected, how is your response to this related to your current thinking on your theory of change? We’ll be in conversation about this throughout the quarter and it will slowly come together. Up to 1,000 words.
Class Sharings: Class Sharings give you the opportunity to deeply engage with readings, writing communities, themes, and/or issues connected to prose, or writing in general. These sessions, which you facilitate in a small group for about an hour or so, also give you the opportunity to consider an element of craft and to facilitate some of our thinking and learning for a portion of the class. These sharings will also create space for us to write or create something else in conversation with your facilitation. I’ll post a separate handout for Class Sharings.
Reading Responses: Throughout the course, I’ll ask you to respond to readings prior to class or in class. Class Sharing sessions may require to respond to readings prior to class or in class as well.
Peer Critiques: These include more formal responses to submitted drafts completed prior to workshop. They may also include more informal responses to writing in class. Please see Canvas for “A Word about Peer Critique” for more info.
Workshop Drafts and Revisions: This writing from forms a substantial part of the course. The expectation is that you complete one draft for whole group workshop with a revision of this draft at the end of the course.
Generally, submitted drafts should be no longer than 3000 words. Please include a word count on the first page. If there is something longer you’d like to submit, let us know and we can talk about if we all have the capacity for it.
Content Warnings: I appreciate how students in our grad program have advocated for this to be included. Please include a content warning on the first page or on the last page at the end of your draft. We’ll talk more about what you might consider when including a content warning.
In-Class Writing and Smaller Writing Prompts: I’m hoping our class will allow for time to create within the workshop space. I’ll be inviting you to create writing in response to readings and other content. From this writing, which we may discuss in smaller groups or pairings, you’ll select one piece to submit at the end of class.
Names and Naming
It is important we call each other by our names, by who we are and know ourselves to be in the world. As such, please feel free to communicate your name, race, ethnicity, tribal memberships, pronouns, and any other way you would like our classroom community to know and/or address you. If how you would like us to address you changes as the course continues, please let us know.
A Word about Workshop
Again, I often hope people leave workshop feeling energized, challenged, and supported. I hope you emerge from the end of a workshop feeling as if we’ve met your work where it is, and I hope you feel as if we offered comments and questions that assist you in whatever next steps you need to take going forward. But again, this doesn’t always happen. We’ll discuss possibilities for workshop, and ways to co-create a workshop that doesn’t require the writer to be completely silent as others discuss their work. I’d like to encourage you to think about what model of workshop might work best for you. We don’t have to stick to one model.
Free Speech and the Public Nature of Class Writing and Discussions
In this course, we’ll be creating a reading and writing community—always a complicated and wonderful endeavor. Please be open to listening to perspectives other than your own. This does not mean you aren’t entitled to an opinion but that you adopt positions responsibly, contemplating the possible effect on others. Unless I state otherwise, every piece of writing you do for this class may, at some point, be shared. Please avoid writing about things you may not be prepared to subject to public scrutiny, or things you feel so strongly about that you are unwilling to listen to perspectives other than your own. Our craft discussions will cover a wide range of topics (please see Course Description). Some of our discussions will be connected to trauma because the writers may be writing about trauma, so please know resources exist on campus if you need to speak to someone. Per the UW website, “Call King County Crisis Line (206) 461-3222 (after hours and weekends).”
Access and Accommodations
Please let me know if you have any issues in accessing the course content and I will work to make the content accessible for you. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or email@example.com or disability.uw.edu. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.
Observation of Religious and Cultural Practices and Holidays
UW works to accommodate the observation of religious and cultural practices and holidays. The holiday calendar can be found on the University's academic calendar page. If you’ll experience any conflict please let me know so I might make accommodations.
All students are expected to uphold the UW Student Conduct Code and fulfill their responsibility to (1) uphold the highest standards of academic integrity in the student’s own work, (2) refuse to tolerate violations of academic integrity in the university community, and (3) foster a high sense of integrity and social responsibility on the part of the university community. UW provides more information on Community Standards and Student Conduct.
Recording Class and Distributing Work You must get written permission from all class members (including the professor) to audio/video record any portion of our class meetings. You must get additional permission from all class members whose voice or likeness appears on the recording to share that recording beyond members of our class. You must also get permission to share any work from the class (including any student writing, syllabus, assignments, and so on) beyond members of the class. This includes sharing work on social media. No portion of this course may be posted on any site without written permission.
**A final note that this Course Description is a working document. The overall goal of the course is to create a space together where you’re able to write what you need to write. We’ll adjust as needed.