PRACTICE AND INQUIRY WRITING ELECTIVE MENUS
“Practice” Writing Electives: The Practice menu includes thoughtfully designed elective courses that invite students to develop active understandings of literary genres and writing-related practices not emphasized in the core studio sequence but relevant in the rapidly changing literary world.
“Inquiry” Writing Electives: The Inquiry menu includes courses that are investigations into specific theoretical, literary, and aesthetic questions, giving students the opportunity to deepen their understandings of the many fields of inquiry in which they participate as writers, with an emphasis on inclusive study and opportunities to further their creative practice.
**Please note that while four Practice/Inquiry electives are required overall in the BFA, you can choose your four courses freely from either or both menus: in other words, you are not required to take a certain number of Practice electives nor a certain number of Inquiry electives. You should be guided by your own interests and goals in choosing from these menus.
WRITING LIVES MENU
The Writing Lives Pathway threads consideration of professional preparation, community engagement, and sustainable, lifelong creative practice across the degree. The pathway begins with Community as Classroom and continues through Writer as Worker (both required courses) and then concludes with two courses selected from the Writing Lives Menu, a menu that includes Internship I and II as well as other opportunities for hands-on community engagement and/or professional preparation. Please consult with the Internship Coordinator/Writer as Worker instructor, as well as with your department advisor, for guidance and approval regarding your choices from the menu. If a student wishes to take a non-Writing class rather than a course from the Writing Lives menu because a select course serves their specific professional goals, they may discuss that option and seek approval for it with the Internship Coordinator and department advisor.
This menu will include a curated list of HMS courses designated of particular interest and use for BFA Writing students. View HMS course descriptions.
Below are the Fall 2020 Menus, followed by course descriptions for each of the Writing electives:
Fall 2020 Writing BFA Practice and Inquiry Menus
**for students currently pursuing the new BFA curriculum
WR 320 01: Screenplay Writing
WR 320 02: Children’s Book Writing
WR 320 03: 1st Chapters Start your Novel
WR 320 09: The Playwright's Workshop
WR 320 28: Graphic Novel
WR 320 11: Writing for Podcasts: The Basics
WR 325A 01: Prattler
WR 360 01: Student Teaching: Saturday Writing School
WR 320 04: Poetry by Strange People
WR 320 05: Silence
WR 320 08: Young Writers Going Mad in Big Cities
WR 320 10: Experimental Fiction
WR 320 13: Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll
WR 320 17: Fabric book
WR 320 19: Unworthy Subjects
WR 320 20: Reading Memoir
WR 320 23: Storytelling Lab
WR 320 24: Poetics of Love
WR 320 25: Fantastic Voyagers
WR 320 26: Composition is a Glimpse: Writing out of Artists Writing
WRITING LIVES MENU
WR 320 11: Writing for Podcasts: The Basics
WR 320 21: Internship II
WR 360 01: Student Teaching: Saturday Writing School
WR 325A 01: Prattler
HMS-261A: Intro to Public Speaking
HMS-262A: Introduction to Acting
HMS-300A: Children's Literature
HMS-301B: Modernist Drama
HMS-305A: New Wave Deafness in the Arts
HMS-311B: Detective Fiction
HMS-360D: Introduction to Performance Studies
HMS-404D: Girl in Am Lit/Art
HMS-404E: Photography & Am Lit
HMS-410S: Whitman, Dickinson & Co.
HMS-430D: Psychoanalysis and Art
HMS-431S: Magic, Art, Religion and Science
HMS-431S: Writing about Art and Culture
HMS-431S: Fashion, Labor, Justice
HMS-430S: Postcoloniality & Aesthetics
HMS-440B: Cinema & the City
HMS-440S: Deleuze, Art & Cinema
HMS-441A: Global Cinema
HMS-460S: Walkscapes: (Re)mapping a City
HMS-490A: Electro-Acoustic Music
HMS-491A: The Artist's Book
HMS-492A: Animating Narrative
BFA in Writing
Fall 2020 updated July 2020
Special Topics Course Descriptions
All Courses Run for the full semester.
WR 320 – Screenplay Writing
1 – Don Andreasen
This course will introduce students to the fundamental techniques of screenwriting. We will study formatting, the use of setting, location, narrative structure, conflict, character development and dialogue. In the first half each student will write short scenes in order to explore and develop various aspects of screenwriting. In the second half students choose one scene to develop into a script for a short film approximately 7-15 minutes in length. Throughout the semester, students will read and discuss their work in class as well as view and discuss various films and topics. The class will be divided into 2 groups who submit their work on alternating weeks. Each script is read aloud by fellow classmates who are assigned their characters by the writer of the script. A discussion and critique immediately follows each reading.
WR 320 – Children’s Book Writing
2 – Peter Catalanotto
This course will focus on writing a timeless story that will appeal to children and resonate with adults. Through exercises, discussions, the workshop method and in-class assignments, students will mine their lives and imaginations for a story that will enchant and empower children; a story that will inspire discussion stemming from the adult and child's shared experience. Students will discover the importance of brevity, pattern and cadence and how to create writing that supports and enhances images. This course will also offer avenues for submitting stories to agents and publishers.
WR 320 – 1st Chapters Start Your Novel
3 – Gabriel Cohen
Every novel has to hook the reader within the first few pages. How do you get a strong story rolling? How do you establish the characters and their world without slowing things down? We’ll take a look at a number of different opening gambits through reading excellent first chapters from novels by such authors as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kate Atkinson, Jane Austen, Ron Hansen, Elena Ferrante, and Daniel Woodrell. Students will write opening chapters of their own and get detailed feedback. We’ll also discuss strategies for how to push on and finish a whole novel.
WR 320 – Poetry by Strange People
4 – Maria Damon
If, as Allen Ginsberg proposed performatively with the publication of “Howl” in 1956, an animal scream can be a poem, what else can a poem be? If, as Stephen Henderson proposed in Understanding the New Black Poetry, James Brown is a poet, who else is a poet? We will read unorthodox work by people acknowledged as writers and people who have made their names (if indeed they have) in other ways. Opal Whiteley, Will Alexander, Sun Ra, Minou Drouet, Hannah Weiner, Cecil Taylor, John Wieners, Ernst Herbeck are some possibilities, though I am open to other work people might want to bring to the table. While there is no good term for what could be called “outsider writing,” the strange effects wrought by the cross between brilliance and unorthodox intellectual wiring makes for a potent brew for which it may be useful (or not?) to develop an analytical language. The wider category, provisionally considered “micropoetries,” comprising found but also non-human and asemic phenomena, will also be studied.
WR 320 – Silence
5 – Claire Donato
In 1987, six New York City activists founded the Silence = Death collective as a means of mutual support amidst the AIDS epidemic. Adopted by ACT UP, their slogan became ubiquitous. This course—a poetics laboratory and experiment in kinship—will start with the equation Silence = Death, invoking the myriad ways silence is bound up in subjugation, shame, and self-abnegation. Subsequently, we’ll traverse metaphors and verbs, aesthetics and cultural devices, vows and spiritual states to flower alternate solutions: Silence = Listening; Listening = Space; Space = Love; Love = Light. “In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot,” wrote John Cage. The course will imbue extended periods of meditation and other quiet lessons.
WR 320 – Young Writers Going Mad in Big Cities
8 – David Gordon
This course will explore an odd but powerful “sub-genre” that runs through modern literature. Each of these works is a first or early attempt by a younger writer, which has since become a groundbreaking and influential classic. Each revolves around a central figure, a young writer who slowly loses his or her grip in a modern metropolis. How does this concept emerge? How has it changed and mutated over time? What other formal and thematic developments come into play (collage, fragmentation, black humor, subjective first person, autobiography, etc.)? Is it somehow inherently modern or Modernist, and if so, is it on its way out? Finally, it is an excellent way to introduce a number of important and inspiring books to a new generation of young writers who are creating their own “early works.” Class will combine discussion of the readings and materials with work-shopping student submissions. Authors and artists include: Charles Baudelaire, Rainer Maria Rilke, Knut Hamsun, Henry Miller, Joan Didion, Clarice Lispector, Djuna Barnes, Yoko Tawada, Jean Genet, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Louise Bourgeois, John Cassavetes.
WR 320 – The Playwright’s Workshop
9 – Jeremy Kamps
This course is workshop-based, culminating in completed ten-minute plays and a second project of the student’s choosing (i.e. one act play, full-length, experimental, etc.). Our final class will be a public showcase in which professional actors perform a staged reading featuring each of the student’s work. Along the way we will focus on the artist’s process. Our workshop feedback approach seeks to empower the writers and give us new ways in thinking about plays and how we give/receive feedback both as artists and people in the world. We emphasize that writing IS re-writing and encourage making bold choices in the creative process.
WR 320 – Experimental Fiction
10 – Robert Lopez
All writing is experimental but what exactly is “Experimental Fiction”? Samuel Beckett wrote, "To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now." The mess can consist of anything but how do we harness this into form? We will study writers who challenge established conventions in any number of ways, blurring the lines of prose and poetry, questioning what makes a story a story. We will read with an eye towards stealing from great experimental writers such as, Donald Barthleme, David Markson, Valeria Luiselli, Percivall Everett, and Grace Paley.
WR 320 – Writing for Podcasting – The Basics
11 – Eric Rosenblum
This course is an introduction to podcasting. Every week, students will listen to and examine popular podcasts such as Serial, Two Dope Queens, Radiolab, WTF, and The Mystery Show. They will also learn basic recording and editing skills, interviewing techniques and how to outline a segment and episode. The class will include visits from professional podcasters and podcast producers. Over the course of the semester, each student will develop, record and edit their own 3-5-minute segment. Segments might include recorded personal essays or short stories; comedy sketches; interviews; radio plays; conversations; or something more experimental.
WR 320 – Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll
13 – Max Luddington
Sex, intoxication, physical and emotional pain, trauma, violence, mortal fear, spiritual revelation, romantic obsession. These are just some of the extreme experiences that have fascinated writers and readers since stories have been told. Whether positive or negative, these episodes map the depths and horizons of human experience and give us raw insight into our nature. How do we learn to translate those experiences into good writing without becoming melodramatic or overwrought? Great writers have grappled with that question, and have found answers that we can learn from. Students will be asked to draw upon some of their own most extreme experiences in order to find ways to use them in fiction. Also we’ll discuss the practice of imagining extremes without actually undergoing them. We will read writers past and present, and study them as models.
WR 320 – Text[ile]: The Fabric Book
17 – Sofi Thanhauser
From medieval tapestry and Navajo weaving to contemporary artists like Louise Bourgeois and Keith Smith, textiles and language have an interwoven history that students in The Fabric Book will explore as makers and as theorists. We will read weavings as texts, explore 20th century artists books that use fabric as a substrate, and produce original works that employ modern digital fabric printing technologies alongside more traditional binding, weaving, dyeing, and printing techniques. Research into historic, economic and conceptual ties between text and textiles will fuel our own creative discoveries as we delineate and produce work within a canon that is unfolding in real time.
WR 320 – Unworthy Subjects
19 – Fulla Abdul-Jabbar
In this course, we will explore a fundamental question of writing: How do you write without having something good to write about? In this class, we will focus on the idea of adoxography—writing about worthless subjects—to redirect our efforts away from subject itself and towards the nature of attention, engagement, and obsession. We will look at examples of works that engage with seemingly worthless subjects—be they frivolous, meaningless, uninteresting, or unlovable. We will encounter work about dogs, clingfilm, oranges, stripes, and heart-shaped potatoes. Through studying works across writing, visual art, and film, we will learn how these artists are able to use specificity, analysis, and close observation to create works that surprise us and enrich our understanding of the world around us. We will learn how to use the techniques we encounter in our own projects so that we can write with insight, attention, and a love for our subjects. We will engage work by J.R. Ackerley, John McPhee, Maggie Nelson, Virginia Woolf, Agnes Varda, Khadijah Queen, and others.
WR 320 – Reading Memoir
20 – Andrew Barnes
In this class we will look at contemporary memoirs to see how structure informs memory. From Jacqueline Woodson verse memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, to Carmen Maria Machado’s catalogue book In the Dream House, to Édouard Louis’s short and segmented autobiographical novel Who Killed My Father, and Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Persepolis 1 and 2, we will examine how these authors use structure to get at the emotional truths of their life events.
WR 320 – Storytelling Lab
23 – Ellery Washington
The Storytelling Lab is an interdisciplinary, project-based course in which students engage in “building” the narrative structures within a visual, literary, poetic, design, multiple-form or other experiential piece that engages outward communication through implicit or explicit storytelling. The course combines narrative theory and practice in a studio environment where the development of varied projects can benefit from both individual and collective instruction and feedback. Throughout the semester, visiting lecturers, readers, artists and instructors are routinely invited to the course in order to provide additional, often layered perspectives related to participants work.
WR 320 – Poetics of Love
24 – Claire Donato
“I dread falling in love,” wrote the poet Robert Duncan. “Falling in love means losing my being. Love exposes us to the first body and to the light; we might even fall in love with what we hate or what hates us.” The Poetics of Love seeks to engage the transformative potential of love—from eros to philia, philautia to agape—and emotional interdependence, while simultaneously considering attachment’s affective underbellies: fear, anxiety, hatred. As we seek to understand our collective social consciousness around love, we will construct new metaphors of it that undermine heteropatriarchy, female subjugation, and interpersonal and systemic violence.
WR 320 – Fantastic Voyagers
25 – David Gordon
This course will explore works that engage with the “fantastic,” – fantasy, magic, the supernatural, futuristic or speculative – but which lie outside the conventional genres of sci-fi/fantasy/horror. These outlier writers and artists, drawing on their different cultures as well as on religion, folk tales, history science, move freely between “realistic” and “imaginary,” between the “literary” and “popular” even between the "earthly" and the "spiritual" to create powerful, original, and deeply effective work. We will consider how fantastic elements can be integrated with both traditional narratives, realism and experimental writing with a view toward enriching our own practice. Authors/works might include: The Arabian Nights, Amos Tutola, Bruno Schulz, Kafka, IB Singer, Muriel Spark, Penelope Fitzgerald, William Burroughs, Juan Rulfo, Angela Carter, Flann O’Brien, Yeats, James Merril, PK Dick, Ursula K LeGuin. Film, video and visual art will also be viewed and discussed.
WR 320 – Composition is a Glimpse: Writing out of Artist Writings
26 – Anselm Berrigan
This elective will explore writing by painters, composers, filmmakers and other artists – talks, interviews, statements, essays, diaries – in order to engage their questions and methods of composition, & through that engagement invent ways to write from previously unexplored angles. Questions on the table include: How do we translate or transform material questions across the arts? How do we write out of and/or parallel to what we experience by seeing, as opposed to writing ekphrastically? And how can we, as writers, find ways to articulate the experience of being alone with our work as it takes or refuses to take shape – ways that get at the depths and corners of what we do – in order to change? We may read a few things by writers that lend themselves to these questions as well, and we will respond to and invent writing ideas and prompts as we go. Amy Sillman, Werner Herzog, Thornton Dial, Adrian Piper, Willem de Kooning, Jack Whitten, Pauline Oliveros, Robert Bresson, Martin Wong, Moyra Davey, and Agnes Martin will be among the artists we read and converse with.
WR 320 – Graphic Novel
28 – Sofi Thanhauser
Is a picture worth a thousand words? What is the relationship between prose & pictures? In this course, students will read and dissect some of the best graphic novels of our time, from Art Spiegelman’s biography of his holocaust survivor father, Maus, to Alison Bechdel’s groundbreaking memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Students will create their own graphic novel chapter, or a complete graphic short story or novella.
WR 325A - Prattler
01 – Eric Rosenblum
This unique journalism workshop gives students the chance to think broadly about the art of newspaper and magazine writing and to write for Pratt's nearly century-old publication, The Prattler. Most classes take the form of editorial meetings in which the group discusses the upcoming issue of The Prattler and workshops student contributions, often consisting of personal essays, opinion pieces, news stories, and art, music and film criticism. Assigned readings from publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Vice, as well as visiting journalists, will help students to understand the ethics and process of writing for publication.
WR 360 – Student Teaching: Saturday Writing School
01 – Sofi Thanhauser
Pratt's Saturday Writing School is a teaching laboratory that provides writing classes for local adolescents. Depending on program enrollment, each pair of writing major undergraduates is assigned a class of between three and six middle school students. Writing undergrads are responsible for the planning and teaching of a ten-week sequence of writing lessons guided by the theory and strategies presented by the instructor. The instructor supervises and advises student teachers and will visit them in their classroom during each two-hour session. A seminar immediately following each class is a forum for reflection on common issues and problems, both classroom and societal, emerging from the Saturday Writing School experience.