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 includes a curated list of HMS courses designated of particular interest and use for BFA Writing students. These courses count towards the HMS menu requirement or towards the post-core SLAS elective requirement for BFA students. View HMS course descriptions.
Below are the Fall 2021 Menus, followed by course descriptions for each of the Writing electives:
FALL 2021 Writing BFA Practice and Inquiry Menus
**for students currently pursuing the new BFA curriculum
WR-320-03: Politics Poetics Translation
WR-320-14: Fabric Book
WR-325A-01: Prattler Workshop I
WR-331-01: Writer as Worker
WR 320 02: Lit That’s Lit
WR-320-04: Writers Reading
WR-320-06: Storytelling Lab
WR-320-09: First Books
WR-320-10: Small Worlds, Miniature Forms
WR-320-11: Oceanic Feeling
WR-320-12: The Unspeakable
WR-320-16: Feminist Small Press
WR-320-17: Poetry by Strange People
WRITING LIVES MENU
WR 320 1: Internship II
WR-320-03: Politics and Poetics of Translation
WR-325A-01: Prattler Workshop I
WR 331-02: Writer as Worker
WR 360 1: The Art of Teaching Writing
HMS-492A-02: Animation Narrative
HMS-431S-05: Art & Politics of Public Writing
HMS-460S-05: Artists' Sustainability
HMS-400S-01: Benjamin & Arcades Project
HMS-300A-01: Children's Literature
HMS-440B-01: Cinema & the City;
HMS-460S-02: Deep Listening
HMS-311B-01: Detective Fiction
HMS-490A-01: Electro-Acoustic Music
HMS-320B-01: Fiction Writing
HMS-441A-02: Global Cinema
HMS-232A-01: Horror & Monstrosity
HMS-303S-01: Intro to Buddhism
HMS-360D-01: Intro to Performance Studies
HMS-261A-50: Intro to Public Speaking
HMS-262A-01: Introduction to Acting
HMS-431A-01: Modernism and Postmodernism
HMS-305A-01: New Wave Deafness in the Arts
HMS-340B-01: Perspectives on U.S. Lit
HMS-440E-01: Poetics of Cinema
HMS-320A-01: Poetry Writing
HMS-430S-01: Postcoloniality & Aesthetics
HMS-390S-01: Rebel Music
HMS-320C-01: Screenwriting II
HMS-431S-01: Staging,Space & The City
HMS-434S-01: Studies of Racial Capitalism
HMS-491A-01: The Artist's Book
HMS-400A-01: The Comic Apocalypse
HMS-331S-01: The Digital Body
HMS-490S-01: The Idea of Black Music
HMS-432S-01: The Queer Sensorium
HMS-460S-03: Theater of the Ridiculous
BFA in Writing
Special Topics Course Descriptions
All Courses Run for the full semester.
Lit That's Lit
Tuesday 9:30AM – 12:20PM
We’ve all been in this situation: a book builds an incredible world, haunts you, makes you giddy, the characters practically become your besties. You love love love it or you just can’t shake it, but you can’t quite explain why or justify your feelings. In this course, you’ll work with the professor and your classmates to create a curriculum from the best of the books and stories you’re absolutely gaga over and want to share. We’ll read each approved submission together, prepare to defend the one(s) we suggested, discuss all of them critically (brace yourself!), and respond to everything in prose (nonfiction, fiction, creative nonfiction, a mix—whatevs) as a way of developing our powers of critical thinking and persuasion. Haters gonna love! Or at least, haters finally gonna “get it.”
The Politics and Poetics of Translation
Wednesday 9:30AM – 12:20PM - ONLINE
In this special topics seminar students will explore how the practice of translation can not only inform but in fact expand one’s artistic practice. We will gain knowledge – within the prism of philosophy and literature – of the most important translation theories that have shaped how translators transfer the foreign into the familiar. But what counts as foreign, and what is familiar these days? Can we still aspire to a translational practice that renders, as the German theologian and philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher postulated, one’s own language “to a foreign likeness bent”? What is likeness? And how do we achieve this bending? Does the foreign also sometimes bend? And what if things blend?
Thursday 9:30AM – 12:20PM - ONLINE
As writers, we read literature differently than other readers. We are interested in the way the short story, poem, memoir, etc. is constructed. They way in which the writer crafted the piece. We pay attention to the narrative voice, the tone and mood, the narrative arc, and the choices the writer made in making the piece. We want to know how they did it in order to improve our own writing skills. For this class, we will be using George Saunders’ book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain to learn about how he reads short stories, and then we will apply those lessons to a group of Saunders’ own work.
Monday 2:00PM - 450PM
The Storytelling Lab is an interdisciplinary, project-based course in which students engage in “building” the narrative structures within a visual, literary, poetic, design, research, multiple-form or other work. The course combines narrative theory and practice in a studio environment where the emphasis is on the exploratory, pushing beyond the original forms of inquiry in a studio environment where the development of varied projects can benefit from both individual and collective instruction and feedback. Whether working in Throughout the semester, visiting lecturers, readers, artists and instructors will be invited to the course in order to interrogate, inform and provide additional perspectives on participants work.
Ecopoetics - Interspecies World Making for City Dwellers
Monday 1:00PM – 3:50PM
In this new course, we develop an urban ecopoetics of interspecies relation. Bacterial processes, medicinal flowers and plants commonly referred to as “weeds,” migrating birds, urban infrastructures and waterways, and abandoned or derelict spaces will inspire us to practice and play with new art/forms of attention, opening our writing to the influence of the life-worlds around us in whose ongoing stories we become participants. We will, as the feminist philosopher of science and story-telling Donna Haraway puts it, “make kin” with life-forms and processes beyond the human. Structured around a series of four in-person field excursions (a guided “post”industrial walk, visits to a garden of decomposition & a bird-kin landscape, exploration of an urban waterway), and through collective discussion of accompanying readings and audio recordings, we will generate new writing (of any genre) that engages the conceptual and imaginative systems and processes of multi-species urban natures in present-day Lenapehoking. Key terms: process-based, somatic, experiential, experimental.
Wednesday 2:00PM - 4:50PM - ONLINE
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 10-15 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.
Tuesday 9:30AM – 12:20PM
How do very different poetry books take shape? How does a body of work go from states variously known as “manuscript” or “thesis” or “stuff”? How do you know anything about what you’ve got as the works accumulate? These are interesting questions because their answers can only be variable, multiple, and idiosyncratic. And so in this elective we will read around in a handful of books to see how certain poets answered these questions the first time they had a chance to make an extended shape become a book. Poets to read will include but not be limited to: John Wieners, Layli Long Soldier, John Ashbery, Solmaz Sharif, Alice Notley, Jonah Mixon-Webster, Claire Meuschke, Amiri Baraka, CA Conrad, and Hoa Nguyen.
Small Worlds, Miniature Forms
Thursday 10:00AM - 12:50PM
In the wake of COVID-19 shrinking our worlds to infinitesimal Zoom rectangles and abbreviated cities, this cross-disciplinary poetics laboratory will consider the miniature, the diminutive, and the microcosm vis-à-vis questions of imagination, perspective, and scale. Together, we will render tiny forms: aphorisms, haiku, koans, Twitter novels, one-word poems, flash fiction, crônicas, and miniature books. We will also conjure hyper-detailed descriptions, petite protagonists, and textual dollhouses. Like the moon, the miniature is both very big and very small; or, as Gaston Bachelard writes in The Poetics of Space: “If a poet looks through a microscope or a telescope, he always sees the same thing.” Bring your own magnifying glass.
The Oceanic Feeling
Tuesday 5:00PM -7:50PM
Coined in 1927 by French writer and mystic Romain Rolland in a letter to Sigmund Freud, the oceanic feeling refers to "a sensation of 'eternity,' a feeling of something limitless, unbounded, [...] of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole." This poetics laboratory is thusly concerned with ego dissolution, ecstatic joy, mystical experiences, and the possibility of connection during mass extinction. Our bodies, remark French anarchist collective Le Love Gang, "are never isolated, are always enmeshed in shifting patterns of relations. Scattered across space, our selves form patterns, trace connections ethical but unseen." Throughout this course, we will animate our writing via oceanic affects, conduct magical experiments, and commune in kinship. An abecedarian list of topics we may explore: boats, breath, climate change, critical ocean studies, eco-art, hydrofeminism, Indigenous epistemologies, love, meditation, monasteries, multispecies others, pain, sex, and silence.
Thursday 5:00PM - 7:50PM
This course will focus on literature and other artworks that attempt to articulate experience beyond the threshold of what can be directly apprehended or recounted: the uncanny, the mysterious, the terrifying, the mystical, the unreal, the irrational, the terrifying and the haunting: all that which is lost or repressed or simply cannot be articulated through conventional narrative and conventional artistic forms.
Many people feel the presence of feelings, experiences, truths and intuitions that seem beyond the rational and which we are unable to put our finger on directly. Artists and writers in particular often struggle to find ways to articulate these realms of experience or memory that seem to escape or be excluded from conventional discourse. Perhaps it is an otherworldly experience, or an idea that eludes rational thought, or perhaps it is a secret truth that has been repressed. Perhaps it is too disturbing or taboo to be allowed out into the light. This course will focus on literature and other artworks that attempt to articulate such experiences, including works by Kafka, Rilke, Stein, Sebald, Lispector, Fitzgerald, Beckett, Breton; texts by Freud, Benjamin, Bataille; films from Hitchcock, Tarkovsky, Bunuel; visual art and music. Students will be encouraged to explore and experiment with means and methods of uncovering and expressing their own unspeakable truths.
Wednesday 9:30AM – 12:20PM
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.
Not So Small: Avant-Feminist Experimentation and Small Press Publishing
Tuesday 5:00PM - 750PM
DIY publishing does not begin with access to desktop digital print technology or with the vibrant movement of 1990s zines printed on breaks from jobs at Staples. These interventions belong to a radical historical tradition. As the Eurythmics sing in 1984, women/womyn/wimmin/femmes/queers/non-binaries “are doing it (publishing) for themselves,” and have been for as long as there has been a means to publish. Autonomous and mutual aid work in publishing has always used the most accessible forms to share new ideas, formal interventions, and calls for action. In this class we will look at feminist small press publishing, its technological tools, how it forms along feminist lines of organizing, how it builds community and political conversation, how it saves legacies and lives and how it produces gorgeous, timeless works that change the world. We will read work published by small presses through the 20th and 21st century. We will write, inspired by the experimentation we encounter. The final project will be a collective publishing venture.
Poetry by Strange People
Monday 5:00 PM - 750PM - ONLINE
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.
Prattler Workshop I
Wednesday 2:00PM - 4:50PM
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.
The Art of Teaching Writing
Saturday 8:30AM - 1:20PM
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.