Student symposia

Fall 2019


WR 500S 01 - Writing As Performance

M 5:30-7:20PM - 2 credits

Instructor: Laura Elrick

In Writing as Performance, we explore what happens when we focus on the act of writing itself as a performative instance. Unlike writing for performance, which situates writing as something that happens prior to or distinct from its staged delivery or interpretation, we will be interested in looking at the work of writers and artists who deliberately collapse, enmesh or reverse this conceptual relationship. Rife with improvisatory, embodied, affective, politically imaginative and socially inventive capacities, performance-writing/writing-as-performance upsets and re-envisions normative expectations of the temporal and spatial relationships between writing and its social contexts. We’ll look at the work of numerous artists, collectives, writers, and theorists who straddle multiple disciplines (such as dance, performance art, conceptual and visual art, sound art, experimental writing, and theory) to both trouble and expand the performative dimensions of writing as a compositional practice.

WR 500S 02 - ¡Plurilingual Lit: The Revolution!   Writing with/across Languages

M 530-720 om – 2 credits

Instructor: Amir Parsa

This seminar will explore a variety of plurilingual literary pieces and practices, along with the potential of polylingualism to generate radically innovative works. Through close textual analyses, we will examine a limited number of works on a spectrum of plurilingual writing from different regions and time periods—including contemporary pieces—and centered around various languages. We will also explore the ways in which plurilingual literature: opens up paths for the creation of new genres and forms; provides opportunities for stylistic and poetic innovations unique to its realm (from multilingual puns to syntaxical fusions); and challenges nation-centric and nationalistic ventures, along with traditional forms of affiliation and allegiance.

Among other questions that will emerge: How can plurilingual literature undermine strategies and/or structures that perpetuate dominant and/or traditional narratives?  How can plurilingual texts fashion neodisciplinary formations and challenge fields like anthropology and ethnography, travel writing and journalism—all forms of writing that engage with the “other”’? How can a plurilingual poetics generate new navigations of geographical territories, as well as artistic domains and fields? How can plurilingual writing fashion new conceptual frameworks for self-identity, for authorhood, for “native” or “mother” tongues, for different forms of “cosmopolitanism,” and even for a new world literature?

We will read and reflect on a number of plurilingual texts as well as relevant and related theoretical pieces. Through a number of exercises and experiments, students will engage in brief experimental literary forays into multiple directions in ways that can nourish, inform and expand their practices. No long or “finished” writing pieces will be expected. Although familiarity with any number of languages would be useful, no knowledge of a second language is necessary for this seminar.

WR 500S 03 - Formalized Curiosity: A Seminar on Writing and Research 

TH 5:30-7:20 – 2 credits

Instructor:  Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

Of the source of her research-based poetics, Harmony Holiday refers to "my archives, your archives, our archives."  We will pursue a similar ethic, following our individual and collective yearnings, in search of points where our work speaks to the past and listens to its reply. While engaging a number of texts across genre that center the archive as form, plot, and obsession, students will choose archival sources to provoke new work, and experiment with assembling their own archives. Readings will include: Valeria Luiselli, Harmony Holiday, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, John Keene, Susan Howe, Aby Warburg, Walter Benjamin, Saidiya Hartman, Michael Taussig, Alexander Gumby and Avery Gordon, among others. Students will be offered practical instruction on research tools, as well as encouraged to follow the practicalities of intuition and coincidence. The class will include guest(s) and a field trip.


Spring 2019


WR 500S Activism and the Practice of Freedom                               

Instructor: Amin Husain

This is an interdisciplinary class that will invite you to explore what “activism” and “decolonization” look like after Occupy Wall Street. Weaving in and out of Surrealism politics and poetics and Situationists cities, we collectively consider what time is it on the clock of the world, imagining what follows.  What if, when we speak of activism after Occupy, we put “activism” under erasure? What if, we strike activism to liberate it from itself? Not to end activism, but to unleash the powers of affirmation and radical imagination. We revitalize real life by making it surreal. This surreal spirit is less that of Breton's European vanguardism than Suzanne Cesaire's freedom dream, informed as it is by the ongoing histories of slavery, imperialism, and debt. Such activism can defamiliarize life, asking us: how do we live? and why do we live this way? It challenges us to respond with direct action as we simultaneously acknowledge that we, ourselves, are responsible for freedom and oppression, rather than any pre­existing institution or ideology. And, what if,  as we act, we imagine a refugee camp collaged into the symbolic heart of finance capital. We imagine a self­organized commons installed at the ground zero of an empire, or an empty minimalist plaza flooded with bodies and voices and cameras, a de­occupation of New York City, and a never­ending process of experimentation, learning and undoing, resisting and building in the unexplored terrain of an historic rupture. 

WR 500S Trial & Error: Conversation, Essay, & Composition as Explanation   

Instructor: Tracy Grinnell

 How do we talk about what we are writing and thinking? How do we write about it? How do we talk about what others are writing and thinking? How does all this talking and writing and thinking about serve our own literary projects? This course will lay the groundwork for writing critical introductions and other exploratory writing for your final thesis and beyond.

Taking our initial prompt from Gertrude Stein’s “Composition As Explanation,” this course will engage multiple forms of the essay as it pertains to writing on writing. Through activated discussions and a series of short student dialogic talk-essays, we will explore the process of developing our own formal approaches to theoretical and critical discussions of our work. We will read essays and watch lectures and talks by NourbeSe Philip, Leslie Scalapino, Joan Retallack, Fred Moten, Dorothy Wang, Dawn Lundy Martin, among many others.


Fall 2018


WR 500S 04 – Prose Interventions

Instructor: Rachel Levitsky

What are the possibilities of expression in language in the grammar and form of prose? How can a writer write a sentence that reshapes thought, and the very consciousness that forms thinking? How are prose forms historical and social? By dual practice of reading and writing, this class will explore how prose (poetic prose, experimental prose, hybrid prose, prose narrative, prose fiction, all kinds of prose) can operate as a language opportunity that is simultaneously formal enough and flexible enough to give voice to narratives that are under erasure, hard to represent, interrupted, silenced, multiple and out-of-bounds. Selected readings will highlight work that is explicitly experimental, trans, queer, feminist, brown and black, hyphenated, translated, immigrant, multi-lingual and not popularly narrated. Authors read for the course in Fall 2018  will include: Aimé Césaire, Etel Adnan, Fred Moten, Jean Genet, Renee Gladman, Gail Scott, Bhanu Kapil, John Keene, Pamela Lu, Juliana Huxtable, Kamau Braithwaite, Herbierto Yepez and Carla Harryman.

WR 606 01 – Multilingualisms: Translation and/as Composition

Instructor: Christian Hawkey

In this seminar we will shift the focus from unidirectional translation—“source” language to “target” language—to the rich territories of polylingual texts (texts that have been translated or written in such as a way as to exist between, or include, two or more languages). We will also focus on compositional practices that make use of this multi-language, translatory approach. Questions we will explore include: What is the cultural and ideological history of monolingualism? How is it connected to the rise of 19th century nation-states and the role of national languages in various European colonial projects? What role does "normative" translation play in this history? What does it mean to translate or write multi-lingually? And if multi-language writing can be defined as "creating an environment that is favorable to abandoning the barriers between languages and dealing with the rhythm, balance, harmony of the sounds, and even meaning—but without a particular focus on any language’s identity" (Anne Tardos), then how can such an approach to translating and composing creative work challenge or dismantle monolingual nation-based colonial histories? In short, this course will trouble the boundaries between languages, between borders, and between translation and imaginative writing. Texts/authors/resources will range widely and a parallel reading list will be developed over the course of the semester. Guest authors and critics who are invested in multilingual translating and writing will visit the class. No previous experience with translation or knowledge of a second language is necessary for this seminar. 

WR 500S 12 –  SMALL PRESS

Instructor: Tracy Grinell

This course will familiarize students with the history of small publishing projects, zines, magazines, and journals, as a foundation for evaluating and participating in our current publishing landscape. Students will edit and publish an edition of The Felt, Pratt MFA in Writing Program’s annual collection of new writing, in addition to developing their own editorial projects.

Why start a magazine or journal? What are the contexts, reactions, questions and concerns that inspire writers and artists to take publishing into their own hands?  What gaps in the literary landscape have small publications historically addressed and what is needed in that landscape now? What are currents trends in digital and print publishing, including discussions of format, accessibility, cost, and distribution? How can different platforms complement one another while making new writing accessible to their communities?

Students will explore small press publishing history while considering social and political context, editorial vision, audience, production and design. Students will participate in small group discussions with one another and with experts in the field via class visits. They will also visit local resources, archives, and projects such as the Dewitt Wallace Periodical Room at the New York Public Library, Printed Matter, and The Reanimation Library at Pioneer Books. Students will research, write about and present contemporary publications as they learn to evaluate our current publishing landscape, as well as write and present their own manifestos, produce a small DIY magazine of curated work with their own articulated vision, and edit and publish an edition of the Pratt MFA in Writing Program’s annual collection of new writing.


Spring 2018


WR 500S 02 – ACTIVISM AND THE PRACTICE OF FREEDOM

Instructor: Amin Husain
Tuesday, 5–6:50 PM
2 Credits

This is an interdisciplinary class that will invite you to explore what “activism” and “decolonization” look like after Occupy Wall Street. Weaving in and out of Surrealism politics and poetics and Situationists cities, we collectively consider what time is it on the clock of the world, imagining what follows. What if, when we speak of activism after Occupy, we put “activism” under erasure? What if, we strike activism to liberate it from itself? Not to end activism, but to unleash the powers of affirmation and radical imagination. We revitalize real life by making it surreal. This surreal spirit is less that of Breton's European vanguardism than Suzanne Cesaire's freedom dream, informed as it is by the ongoing histories of slavery, imperialism, and debt. Such activism can defamiliarize life, asking us: how do we live? and why do we live this way? It challenges us to respond with direct action as we simultaneously acknowledge that we, ourselves, are responsible for freedom and oppression, rather than any pre­existing institution or ideology. And, what if,  as we act, we imagine a refugee camp collaged into the symbolic heart of finance capital. We imagine a self­organized commons installed at the ground zero of an empire, or an empty minimalist plaza flooded with bodies and voices and cameras, a de­occupation of New York City, and a never­ending process of experimentation, learning and undoing, resisting and building in the unexplored terrain of an historic rupture. 

WR-500S-05 – VISIBILITY BLUES: A SEMINAR

Instructor: Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Friday, 10–11:50 AM
2 Credits

This course is a collective inquiry into invisibility as a creative and political strategy. Through the study of undergrounds, marronnages, and disappearances, we will trace the way political actors across history and artists across genres have disrupted and refused representation as a reliable source of power. In an age of hypervisibility and self-disclosure through social media and increasing state surveillance, encryption, illegibility and unmarked-ness beckon. Further detours will have us encounter the invisible as it reigns in belief and speculative writings. Class time will be divided between readings, discussion and writing prompts.


Fall 2017

The Arab Apocalypse: Etel Adnan

WR 500S 08
Riggs, Sarah

In this in-depth approach to the writing and art practices of the extraordinary Etel Adnan, born in Beirut in 1925 and currently painting and writing in Paris, students will be asked to engage their lives as fully through a notebook or web platform that grapples with issues she raises of places, politics, genders, and forms.

Flip the Script

WR 500S 02
Hannaham, James                                                                          

In an age where social media, theater, performance, viral video, reality TV, and epic television coexist, sometimes uncomfortably, the meaning and significance of scripting is constantly changing. What is a script, why do we use one, when do we use it, and what working methods and artistic practices have been invented or are yet to be invented that bridge the various gaps between stylized authorial imprints and spontaneous utterances.

Small Press Publishing

WR 500S 12
Grinell, Tracy

This course will familiarize students with the history of small publishing projects, zines, magazines, and journals, and will be essential for any student looking to start their own journal, zine, or small press. 

Intro to Letterpress

WR 500S 05
Mazorra, Martin

This seminar is an introductory course to the techniques and applications of letterpress printmaking. Students composed with movable lead and wooden type. These are then printed on a partially automated Vandercook letterpress. Using handset type this class will explore the pragmatic, as well as the conceptual possibilities of printed forms that utilize the individual students authored text. It is structured so that discussions of the topic of text and image and class demonstrations on printing techniques are applied to group and individual assignments.