The following courses are open to students registered in the MFA Program. Some space may be available to English MA students by permission of Lauren Grodstein
In this workshop, students receive editorial guidance from their classmates and professor on their stories or novel excerpts. Students are required to read approximately 90 pages of their classmates’ work each week and provide typed feedback and notated manuscripts.
Poetry: Reading it, Writing it, Teaching it
This course extends the scope of the typical advanced workshop by focusing on poetry as essential to all writing, whether prose or verse, and assumes that all writing is in some sense “creative.” The course combines conventional workshop exercises, student discussions and read-round’s with glances at what’s canonical (i.e., in your Norton) and what’s not (song lyrics, lyrical prose) and supplements drawn from the pedagogy of creative writing workshops. Students will be asked to produce a body of work that reflects their encounter with the lyric (either prose or poetry), give a reading of their work, and produce a sample syllabus that shows a sense of audience, a sense of purpose, and an approach to teaching creative writing that might actually get you a job. Required texts: whatever anthology you have on hand, your own work, and the occasional download.
The ideal writing workshop is a place where a variety of forms are encouraged and respected, where we attempt to create a version of a model literary community: a thriving ecosystem, as Richard Powers might call it, rather than a monoculture. It requires an openness at every turn, a dedicated generosity, and a willingness to consider each piece on its own terms. We’ll look at a variety of nonfiction forms, including research-based writing, the lyric essay, the memoir, and travel writing, but your work will be our primary text.
This course will offer a toolkit for reading and writing screenplays. The form is surprisingly rigid in length, structure, and rules. The screenwriter needs to think very differently than the fiction writer about both plot and structure. We’ll go over the basics and then produce both step outlines (the official “vision” of a whole movie) and completed first acts. No prior screenwriting experience required, and poets/writers of creative nonfiction also welcome.
Special Topics in Craft: The Manifold Essay
The word essay comes from the French for “attempt, trial,” which makes sense, as the essay is an attempt, on paper, to understand more about a particular aspect of the world. This course will examine essays of various stripes: personal, lyric, adventure, and long-form, identifying what makes each memorable and useful. Students will be responsible for an analytic paper and a long-form essay. Readings will include works by Montaigne, Seneca, Didion, Theroux, M.F.K. Fisher, Annie Dillard, and others.
Teaching Creative Writing in Urban Schools
What does it mean to teach creative writing? Can you teach inspiration and craft? What model texts inspire our own work, our own voices? In this course, we will consider these questions as teachers of creative writing. Much of the course will be in-class facilitation of creative writing workshops with students in Camden city schools, though we will spend a considerable amount of time familiarizing ourselves with contemporary pedagogy, teaching methods, and curriculum development, as well as discussing the business of freelance creative writing instruction.
Playwriting: Tragedy and Adaptation
Cross-listed with 56:350:596:01
This is both a course in the study of tragedy as literature and a creative writing workshop focused on the creation of original adaptations. Students will read a number of works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, studying them within their own historical contexts as well as exploring their relevance to later literary / historical periods. In addition to Greek tragedies, students will read modern adaptations of these classical works and then write their own adaptations. Course requirements include one literary-analytical essay; one short adaptation in either screenplay or stageplay form; short writing exercises (literary-analytical and creative); an oral presentation; and active class participation.
In this class you’ll polish either 120 pages of prose or 60 pages of poetry for your thesis manuscript. You’ll work on strategies for finding a readership for your work and submit individual stories, essays, or poems to publications and contests. Much of your work will be individual and in conference with me, though we will meet weekly as a group. Unlike a conventional workshop, this class will require you to be responsible for reading and editing two peer manuscripts.
Thesis: Individual Research and Final Creative Thesis
Final creative project for the MFA. Credits may be taken concurrently with 56:350:560 in one semester or consecutively if more time is required for finishing thesis.