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Current BFA Electives

Spring 2023 at a glance:

WR-320-01: Internship – Adrian Shirk, By Appointment
WR 320-02: Children’s Book Writing – Peter Catalanotto – Mondays 10am-12:50pm
WR 320-03: Thematic Screenwriting: Story & Structure – Don Andreason – Wednesdays 2-4:50
WR 320-04 Poetry Is Not a Luxury: These places of possibility within ourselves are dark… – aracelis girmay – Wednesdays 10am-12:50pm
WR 320-05 – The First Chapters: Start Your Novel – Gabriel Cohen – Tuesdays 5-7:50
WR 320-06 – Genre Bending – David Gordon – Wednesdays 5-7:50
WR 320-07 – The Unspeakable – David Gordon – Thursdays 5-7:50
WR 320-08: Prose/Prose Poetry – Rachel Levitsky – Wednesdays 9:30am-12:20pm
WR 320-09 : Plants and Presence – Pareesa Pourian – Thursdays 5-7:50
WR 320-10: Writing For Podcasts: The Basics – Eric Rosenblum – Mondays 2-4:50
WR 320-11: Ghosts In The Machine – Samantha Hunt – Wednesdays 10:30-12:20
WR 320-12: Composition is a Glimpse – Anselm Berrigan – Mondays 4-6:50
WR 320:-13: earth time, earth building – Jasmine Reid – Thursdays 6-8:50
WR 320-14: Finding Form: Writing as a Spatial Practice – Youmna Chlala – 9:30am-12:20pm
WR 320-15: Special Topics, Berlin Program – TBA

(open to all Pratt students except Fieldwork and Speculative Futures)

Adrian Shirk
By Appointment

This course is designed for students who are choosing to pursue an independent fieldwork project that relates to their professional development. These projects may range from starting a literary journal, publishing project, podcast, video series, event, community arts workshop, collaboration with a local organization, performance production, specific form of professional development through research and mentoring (i.e. agenting, running a nonprofit, etc), and many other possibilities. (All students who wish to register for this course must contact the instructor and declare their specific content and scope of their project for approval). Similar to Internship/Seminar, this course asks: What can we learn from a fieldwork project if we treat it as an alternative type of classroom? How can we analyze and engage with our experiences “out in the field” with the rigor and curiosity we bring to other kinds of texts? Viewed this way, the fieldwork project becomes an educational opportunity that allows us to gain experiential knowledge about a particular professional sphere, and from which we can determine the kind of work-life conditions we will need as writers/artists, now and in the future. However, in even more ways than Internship / Seminar, this course offers self-reflexive assignments — the creation of a DIY syllabus, a speculative budget, the development of a portfolio that reflects the project’s scope of progress, and a journal that allows students to look critically and constructively at the content of their lives and work “outside” of their conventional classrooms, specifically pertaining to the parts of their lives that the fieldwork overlaps with.

At its core, this course offers a guided professional exploration while students carry out the labor of their independent fieldwork project. The class is designed around a seminar model with two primary goals: 1) to enable students to get the most out of their own internships/projects as modes of education; and 2) to foster communication between students about their experiences and the fields/skills/vocations they are exploring, so that each comes away with a more nuanced picture of the variety of professions, experiences and choices available to writers in the current culture and economy. Above all, this course asks students to engage critically with their experiences and to complete specific self-styled projects based on the professional and creative inquiries / excursions they’re undertaking, resulting in a significant final project that stands as a measure of their fifteen-week activity.

WR-320-02 Children’s Book Writing
Peter Catalanotto
Mondays 10:00 am – 12:50 pm

This course will focus on writing a timeless story that will appeal to children and resonate with adults. Through exercises, in-class assignments, and the workshop method, students will mine their lives and imaginations for a story that will enchant and empower children; a story that will provoke 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 inspires, supports, and enhances imagery. This course will also offer avenues for submitting stories to agents and editors for those interested in publishing.

WR-320-03 Thematic Screenwriting: Story and Structure
Don Andreason
Wednesdays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm

In this course, we will examine and explore a theme-based approach to screenwriting while developing character and plot to make stories resonate. This approach (also called non-linear storytelling) allows you to expand your creative tool set to maximize your protagonist’s inner journey, so that it connects with audiences. This course also concentrates on streamlining scripts, ridding scripts of exposition and editing scripts in much greater detail for a “tighter” and more focused script – in other words, eliminating the unnecessary yet enhancing visual impact. In the first half, we will write short scenes in order to explore and develop various aspects of screenwriting. In the second half, we will work on and develop a script for a short film approximately 7-15 minutes in length. Throughout the semester students will read and discuss their work in class along with screenings and discussions of various films and topics.

WR-320-04 Poetry Is Not a Luxury * These places of possibility within ourselves are dark…
Aracelis Girmay
Wednesdays 10:00 am – 12:50 pm

The titles of this course are words thought and dreamed by Audre Lorde in her essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” (a version of which was first published in 1977). In this essay she writes: “For within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men. But women have survived. As poets. And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already. We have hidden that fact in the same place where we have hidden our power. They surface in our dreams, and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom. Those dreams are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see, to feel, to speak, and to dare.”

In this course we will consider the powers, resuscitations, and strategies found in the dreaming, writing, and living of a small constellation of Black poets whose work grows out of Black feminist thought and practices. My hope is that together we will try to make a place of study grown out of experiments in reading and writing as ways of listening toward texts (those of others, ourselves, and our otherselves we have not met yet). In this way we will study recent works by Canisia Lubrin, Simone White, Dionne Brand, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Jasmine Reid, and Morgan Parker, among others. Through experiments in reading and writing, we will think together about the conditions and communities out of which these writers/writings emerge, working to articulate some of what this work makes it possible for us to think, to be, to dare, to feel, to write.

WR-320-05 The First Chapters: Start Your Novel
Gabriel Cohen
Tuesdays 5:00 pm – 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 interesting 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 well-known authors, and students will write opening chapters of their own and get detailed feedback. We’ll also discuss strategies for how to structure a novel, and how to push on and finish a whole book.

WR-320-06 Genre Bending
David Gordon
Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm

This course is an exploration of genre – crime, mystery, sci-fi, horror and others – and of writers who blur the lines between high and low brow, pulp and art, avant-garde, literary and popular culture. We will consider genre works that were first considered “pulp” or merely “popular entertainment” 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 film screenings with written responses and work-shopping student submissions. Writers and artists include: Simenon, Poe, Lovecraft, Delaney, Ross McDonald, Octavia Butler, PK Dick, Highsmith, Hitchcock, Murakami, Nabokov, Borges, Himes, Spark, the Coen Brothers and more.

WR-320-07 The Unspeakable
David Gordon
Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm

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.

WR-320-08 Prose/Prose Poetry
Rachel Levitsky
Wednesdays 9:30 am – 12:20 pm

The “wager” of this course is to read poetic prose and prose poetry in order to pull out the line of definition between the two. What makes one piece of writing poetic prose or prose fiction and another one poetry or a prose poem? Some writers call it all simply, “writing.” But economically, critically, and aesthetically, how something gets defined determines the course of its future life in print.

In order to investigate the question, we will closely examine the construction of sentences and paragraphs in the context of what their writers name them, for example,Leslie Scalapino’s Front Matter: Dead Souls, called by Leslie Scalapino a “serial novel written for a newspaper” or Roberto Bolaño, who names Antwerp, his slim volume of poetic vignettes, “the only novel that doesn’t embarrass me.” We’ll also consider: 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 might one invent one’s own sentence? Is there such a thing as new syntax? By means of a combinatory weekly practice of reading and writing, this class will explore how prose occupies a language opportunity that is simultaneously formal enough and flexible enough to provide space for new voices, unheard narratives. Authors may include: Anne Carson, Renee Gladman, Bhanu Kapil, John Keene, Camille Roy, Aja Couchois Duncan, Gail Scott, Claude Cahun, Leslie Scalapino, Roberto Bolaño, Gertrude Stein, Poupeh Missaghi, Lucy Ives, Madeline Gins, Clarice Lispector, Julio Cortazar, Pamela Lu, Mei-mei Bersennbrugge and others.

WR-320-09 Plants and Presence
Pareesa Pourian
Thursdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm

In this elective we will use the philosophical lens of deep ecology to approach plant identification. Rather than asking, what is it good for, we will ask, who are you? We will document our findings over the course of the semester through the production of a field guide, a book typically produced for identifying flora, that will embed exploratory writing and drawing. In addition to producing multi-genre writing, students will learn local plant identification, the basics of plant families and binomial nomenclature, and read texts by a wide range of plant and planet loving thinkers, from scientists to poets.

WR-320-10 Writing For Podcasts: The Basics
Eric Rosenblum
Mondays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm

Welcome to the art of podcasting. This hands-on course is an opportunity for students to create their own podcast and better understand how to tell stories via podcasting. As students develop original podcasting segments, they will learn how to use recording equipment, edit their material, and publish their work. By the end of the semester, each student will create and publish two podcast segments. Every week, students will listen to and examine popular podcasts to see what makes them work. The class will also include visits from professional podcasters and podcast producers. Student segments might include recorded personal essays or short stories; comedy sketches; interviews; radio plays; or something more experimental.

WR-320-11 Ghosts in the Machine
Samantha Hunt
Wednesdays 10:30 am – 12:20 pm

What story isn’t a ghost story? How do we write what is un-writable? While the dead are in everything we do, they are also nowhere. Where do the dead live? How are we haunted by ancient systems that no longer serve the people who support them? This writing course will investigate questions about the unearthly, the disembodied and the pursuit of mystery in our own writing. We will read both traditional and non-traditional ghost stories that range from the terrifying to the trickster to the tearful. We will write our own new ghost stories.

WR-320-12 Composition Is a Glimpse
Anselm Berrigan
Mondays 4:00 pm – 6:50 pm

This class will explore writing by painters (and a few sculptors, filmmakers, and other curiosities) – talks, interviews, statements, essays, notes, lists – in order to engage their questions and methods of composition. The intention is to then translate said questions and methods (remarks) into ways to start writing our own works 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, or into a visual work or scene? 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. Writings by Philip Guston, Stanley Whitney, Amy Sillman, Alice Notley, John Yau, Martin Wong, Adrian Piper, Joe Brainard, Jack Whitten, Thornton Dial, Robert Bresson, Agnes Martin, & Pauline Oliveros, among others, will be considered and utilized.

WR-320-13 Earth Time, Earth Building
Jasmine Reid
Thursdays 6:00 pm – 8:50 pm

We tend to imagine time as a boundless container across which places transform. That is, we think about change as a function of time. What happens when we inverse this thinking so that place contains time & is, then, a function of change? A poem can then be a place of diaphanous, pleated, & pinned-together time. From the perspective of Earth, there is a simultaneity to every thing & one that has, is, & will ever happen. As Earthlings, then, how might we deepen into connection & community in Earth Time? Together, we will slow our awarenesses to the temporal rhythms around us, assembling & disassembling the conditions of our lives, how time messily abounds beyond the artifice of the 24-hour clock & 365-day calendar. Poet. Poiesis. We will be students of the Earth’s building practices, of poetry as a devotional activity & metaphors as fundamental to life. This course will be a multi-disciplinary space of play & experimentation that thinks with root & mycelium networks, Kamau Brathwaite’s Tidalectics, & the poetry of Sandra Lim, Ross Gay, Muriel Leung, & Joyelle McSweeney, & more. Earth, shapes, page—together.

WR-320-14 Finding Form: Writing As A Spatial Practice
Youmna Chlala
Wednesdays 9:30am – 12:20 pm

In this course, we will explore the intersection of creative writing and architecture and it relates to memory, body and movement. How do bodies mediate space? How can we activate various spaces through writing? We will read stories, novels, poems and view images, films and performances that lead us to new and recovered sites, traces and voids. We will experiment with narrative through collaboration, image-making and speculation. Some of the writers we will engage with might include Renee Gladman, George Perec, Valeria Luiselli, Tove Jansen, Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Sayaka Murata, Etel Adnan and John Keene.

WR-320-16 Speculative Futures
Dianca London
Thursdays 10:00 am – 12:50 pm

Throughout this course, students will examine multi-genre narratives about new worlds and possible futures, near and distant. While exploring what science fiction and speculative narratives can teach us about our hopes, fears, and desires within a historical and contemporary context, students will also examine how storytellers of the past and present have used science fiction and speculative exploration as way of reckoning with the aftermath of colonization, imperialism, climate crisis, political uncertainty, and selfhood. Using this lens, students will delve into a diverse mix of creative and experimental works to craft their own narratives and cultivate new forms that investigate, center, and examine the potential of imagining possible futures through storytelling. Students will engage with texts by Lesley Nneka Arimah, Sun Ra, Brenda Peynado, Olga Ravn, Jordan Peele, Kate Folk, Octavia E. Butler, Tracy K. Smith, Xuan Juliana Wang, Ursula K LeGuin, and others.

WR-325B Topics in Journalism: Journalism Workshop: Prattler II
Eric Rosenblum
Mondays 9:30 am – 12:30 pm

This course is intended to familiarize students working on the Prattler with all aspects of generating, editing and designing the content of the school magazine, as well as the managerial skills required to coordinate such efforts. Most classes take the form of editorial meetings, and multiple writing assignments will be required of all students, pertaining to their respective functions in the production of the magazine.

WR-360 The Art of Teaching Writing
Sofi Thanhauser
Saturdays 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.


“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” Electives: 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 Seminar and Internship 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.

Spring 2023 Menus

Children’s Book Writing
Thematic Screenwriting
The First Chapters
Writing for Podcasts
Poetry is Not a Luxury
The Unspeakable
Prose/Prose Poetry
Plants and Presence
Ghosts in the Machine
Composition is a Glimpse
Earth Time, Earth Building
Finding Form
Writing Lives:
Internship II
The Prattler
The Art of Teaching Writing
(You are welcome to consider other courses to fulfill the Writing Lives Pathway: consult with your department advisor and the internship coordinator for more information).