For students who will take courses in the new BFA curriculum, the following menus appear in Semester Three (Fall of Sophomore Year):
This menu will include a curated list of HMS courses designated of particular interest and use for BFA Writing students.
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 deep 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 solely by your own interests and goals in choosing from these menus.
Below are the Fall 2019 Menus, followed by course descriptions for each of the Writing electives:
Fall 2019 HMS Menu
For fall 2019, any 300-level or 400-level three-credit HMS course will count as an HMS Menu course (future semesters will have more curated menus).
Fall 2019 Practice Menu
WR 320: 01 Screenplay Writing
WR 320:02 Children’s Book Writing
WR 320: 03 1st Chapters: Start Your Novel
WR 320: 09 Playwriting Ritual and Practice
WR 320: 11 Podcasting
WR 320: 12 The Bigger Picture: Personal Essay
WR 320: 13 Internship II
WR 320: 14 The Fabric Book
WR 325A: Prattler I
WR 360: Saturday Writing School
Fall 2019 Inquiry Menu
WR 320: 04 The Non-Human in Literature
WR 320: 05 Poetry and Psychoanalysis
WR 320: 07 Young Writers Going Mad in Big Cities
WR 320: 08 Proust: Swann’s Way and Beyond
WR 320: 10 Experimental Fiction
WR 320: 15 Graphic Novel I
WR 320: 16 Writing for Young Adults
WR 320: 17 Poetry by Strange People
Writing Elective Course Descriptions
BFA in Writing
Special Topics Descriptions – Fall 2019
WR 320 – Screenplay Writing
Wednesday 2–4:50 PM
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.
WR 320 – Children’s Book Writing
Monday 2–4:50 PM
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
Tuesday 5–7:50 PM
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, Mary Renault, 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 – The Non-Human In Literature
Wednesday 5–7:50 PM
In this course we will examine closely the magic of utilizing non-human forms (garbage, polar bears, insects, plants, plastic, etc.) in experimental, absurd, spiritual, grotesque, and innovative worlds. We will explore how being in conversation with the non-human can enrich our own possibilities for creative work and thinking. We will consider how non-human entities may challenge our own assumptions and conceptions of what it means to be human. We may read/engage with works by Leonora Carrington, Franz Kafka, Henry Darger, Han Kang, Julio Cortázar, Kara Walker, Yoko Towada, Vik Muniz, and Samanta Schweblin.
WR 320 – Poetry and Psycholanalysis
Thursday 10 AM–12:50 PM
Poetry and Psychoanalysis will explore the unconscious mind’s relation to creative writing praxis, with emphasis on how psychoanalytic concepts—e.g., dream interpretation, free association, the uncanny, telepathy/magic, déjà vu, displacement, jokes, impossible desire, mourning, and so forth—may be adapted toward literary experiments. Together, we will consider what it means to be what Jacques Lacan neologized as the parlêtre—the speaking being, the body gripped by language—and will explore speech’s relationship to writing, revelation, and transformation. The course will provide historical background about and contemporary critique of psychoanalysis as a discipline, with emphasis on how psychoanalysis may be a socially transformative process. The course will present a selection of psychoanalytic writing as literature in conversation with other literary art. Analysts, artists, and authors we may study include Alison Bechdel, Claudia Rankine, Layli Long Soldier, Jackie Wang, Gohar Homayounpour, Joy Harjo, Jamieson Webster, Ottessa Moshfegh, Clarice Lispector, Donald Moss, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Jacqueline Rose, Gaston Bachelard, Siri Hudtvedt, and Julia Kristeva.
WR 320 – Young Writers Going Mad in Big Cities
Wednesday 5–7:50 PM
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 include: Charles Baudelaire, Rainer Maria Rilke, Knut Hamsun, Henry Miller, Joan Didion, Clarice Lispector, Djuna Barnes, Yoko Tawada, Jean Genet, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin.
WR 320 – Genre Bending
Wednesday 2–4:50 PM
This course explores genre works that were first considered “pulp” or merely “popular entertainment” – sci-fi, crime, horror, animation, Westerns, and so forth - but have since been accorded high-art and serious literary status, as well as “advanced” work, (literary, high-art, avant-garde, experimental) that draws on these lower regions. The emphasis is on the ways writers and other artists can use these forms, styles, topics to create their work, the ways they cross “genre” lines, combine elements, and blur boundaries between high and low, and on discovering the ways in which it can feed our own writing. Class will combine close examination and discussion of the readings and screenings with written responses and work-shopping student submissions. Authors include Philip K Dick, Georges Simenon, Roberto Bolano, Chester Himes, Muriel Spark, JG Ballard, Patricia Highsmith, V Nabokov, H Murakami and Jim Thompson.
WR 320 – Playwriting Ritual and Practice
Tuesday 5–7:50 PM
A course for beginner and experienced playwrights. We will investigate the fundamentals of playwriting and develop an individual voice in the medium. Students will create a substantial series of literary works including a new one-act play, with a significant focus on refining and rewriting. This course is intended for students interested in flexing their creative writing muscles in reading responses, reflective journals, and writing exercises in the craft. Students will understand the rituals of playwriting and develop their own creative writing routines.
WR 320 – Experimental Fiction
Thursday 10:30 AM-1:20 PM
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, Carole Maso, Grace Paley, and Samuel Beckett.
WR 320 – Podcasting
Thursday 9:30 AM–12:20 PM
This course provides students an opportunity to learn how to write for the radio, develop a show, and get their work out into the world. Students will develop, write and record two to three three podcast segments that, if deemed publishable by the instructor, will be posted on the Prattler website. Each student will contribute short stories, personal essays, interviews, feature stories, and/or radio plays. Students will also listen to and examine popular podcasts such as This American Life, Two Dope Queens, The Moth, Fresh Air, The Mystery Show, and Radiolab.
WR 320 – Internship II
Wednesday 2–4:50 PM
Each student is placed in an internship for one semester, and provided with a guided professional exploration course through either/both Internship I and Internship II. Internship venues are places like publishing houses, agents' offices, film/TV studios, podcast networks, public radio, news outlets and other media companies, as well as arts organizations and nonprofits.
WR 320 – The Fabric Book
Monday 10 AM–12:50 PM
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 – Graphic Novel I
Monday 2–4:50 PM
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 320 – Writing for Young Adults
Tuesday 5–7:50 PM
This course will explore what “young adult” means; what the genre is saying to its audience and why; how the topics of love, sex, family, friendships, and existential angst are packaged for young readers; how history, race, gender, media, and technology are addressed and affect those topics; and how authors of young adult literature engage their audience.
Students will read and analyze books intended for young adults. They will consider what elements are needed to creating a meaningful young adult narrative and why young adult literature speaks to readers well beyond the intended audience. Students will also be asked to reflect on their experiences as a young reader and consider what themes and characters resonated with them and why, as a means of understanding how to write about aspects of the human condition in a way that transcends age. Ultimately, students will have an opportunity to craft their own narrative intended for young readers.
WR 320 – Poetry by Strange People
Monday 5–7:50 PM
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 - Writing Evasion
Wednesday 10 AM–12:50 PM
This course will explore writing from those who don’t do what is asked of them. They evade their subjects, their callings, their responsibilities, or censorship. They refuse formal constraints, political restraints, or aesthetic ideals of beauty or coherence. They work around. They work in proximity. We will look at texts on civil disobedience, read evasive love stories, and consider the antihero. We will identify our own sites of resistance within our practice and explore how to engage them. We will look at poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and film by Osama Alomar, C.D. Wright, Herman Melville, Marguerite Duras, Derek Jarman, Jennif(f)er Tamayo, and others.
WR 320 - Unworthy Subjects
Thursday 9:30 AM–12:20 PM
In this course, we will explore a fundamental question of writing: How do you write without knowing what to write about? In this class, we will focus on the idea of adoxography—writing about worthless subjects—to learn that it is not your subject that matters, but how closely you pay attention to and engage that subject. We will look at examples of works that engage with seemingly worthless subjects—be they silly, unnecessary, uninteresting, or disgusting. We will read about dogs, oranges, stripes, and an overcoat. Through studying works of literature across several genres of writing from fiction to nonfiction to hybrid works, we will learn how the writers we encounter are able to use specificity, analysis, and close observation to create narratives 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 writing so that we can write with insight, attention, and a love for our subjects. We will engage work by J.R. Ackerley, Nikolai Gogol, John McPhee, Maggie Nelson, Virginia Woolf, Agnes Varda, Gertrude Stein, and others.
WR 325A – Prattler I
Tuesday 9:30 AM–12:20 PM
This course is focused on writing and editing content for the school’s magazine, The Prattler, and its accompanying website. Each student will write and develop three to four articles and will edit them until they are ready for publication. Led by the professor, students will navigate and consider issues of journalistic ethics and practices. Professional journalists will visit the class to talk about what it’s like to write for newspapers and magazines for a living.
WR 330 – Workplace
Wednesday 5–7:50 PM
This practical course provides juniors with concrete skills and guidance toward acquiring spring semester internships. It also introduces students to a variety of writing-related professional pathways through regular class visits from publishers, editors, agents, producers, journalists, curators, and other writing-related spheres.
WR 360—Saturday Writing School
Saturday 8:30 AM–1:20 PM
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.