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.
Below are the Fall 2022 Menus, followed by course descriptions for each of the Writing electives:
Art of the Short Story
Editing The Brooklyn Rail
(The Prattler Workshop and Art of Teaching Writing can also count as practice Writing Elective credit – course descriptions for these included as well)
Earth Time, Earth Building
Never Gonna Gif You Up
Small Worlds, Miniature Forms
Young Writers Going Mad in Big Cities
BFA IN WRITING
SPECIAL TOPICS COURSE DESCRIPTIONS
ALL COURSES RUN FOR THE FULL SEMESTER.
This course is designed for students who have already completed the Writer as Worker as well as Internship/Seminar, and/or for students with significant work and/or internship experience who wish to get credit for an additional internship while at Pratt, and/or who are choosing to pursue an internship or independent project outside of the usual course sequence. (It effectively replaces the prior policy of allowing students to do additional internships as Independent Studies.)
Building on Internship/Seminar, this course asks: What can we learn from an internship or independent 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 internship / project becomes an educational opportunity that allows us to gain experiential knowledge about a particular professional sphere, and from which we can discern the kind of work-life conditions we will need as writers/artists, now and in the future, as well as confront the material realities of our lives. However, in even more ways than Internship / Seminar, this course offers self-reflexive assignments with which students can look at the content of their lives “outside” of their conventional classrooms, including but not limited to the internship, and bring to those activities, interests and proclivity a spirit normally reserved for study and inquiry within the walls of an institution.
At its core, this course offers a guided professional exploration while students carry out their internship and/or fieldwork project labor. 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 they are exploring, so that each comes away with a more nuanced picture of the variety of jobs / 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.
Art Of The Short Story
Mondays 5:00 – 7:50
According to Tobias Wolff, the best short stories are closer in spirit to poems than they are to novels. But how do you write a good short story? We’ll investigate by seeing what others have done. Starting with early masters like Kafka, Baldwin, and Cather, and moving on to contemporary practitioners like Junot Diaz, Karen Russell, and Carmen Maria Machado, we’ll take a close look at the different permutations of this centuries-old art form and see how short story writers create situations, develop characters, and create an emotional impact for readers. We’ll look at ideas and theories about how short stories work. We’ll also talk about how to turn our ideas, dreams, anecdotes, and personal experiences into furry prose creatures that will break your heart. Each student will write two short stories over the course of the semester.
Editing The Brooklyn Rail
Tuesdays 10 – 12:50
This elective will involve hands-on work putting together the poetry section for three to five issues of The Brooklyn Rail, a free arts and culture monthly published in print and on-line editions. Students will be introduced to the particulars of creating arrangements of work by 4-8 poets per issue, working with submissions and solicited work from a broad range of contemporary poets. We will also take on the matters of correspondence, layout, copy editing, editorial response, & working within a poetry-specific context that is local and national, while also part of a larger context of visual art and culture rooted in New York City. A side project designed by the class on a one-shot basis may emerge, as well as discussions of other types of editorial projects (books, zines, journals, archives). This course will be led by Anselm Berrigan, who has been the Poetry Editor for The Brooklyn Rail since 2008.
Tuesdays 10 – 12:50
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.
Wednesdays 10 – 12:50
The graphic novel is a relatively new, and constantly evolving genre. In this course we focus on the graphic novels as a contemporary form, emphasizing works produced in the past 10 years both in the U.S. and abroad. As we familiarize ourselves with the contemporary conversation, students will be positioned to enter into the field as creators as well as connoisseurs. Weekly critiques of student work will help students define their style and message, and the semester’s work will culminate in a printed zine or published web comic.
Wednesdays, 2:00-4:50 p.m
Do you want your writing to have a positive effect in the world? These days, good journalists are more important than ever: they help defend our democracy, preserve the environment, champion the oppressed, and help readers gain a deeper understanding of what’s going on in our volatile world. In this class, we’ll read powerful examples of journalistic writing, and you’ll get a chance to practice essential skills, including how to come up with publishable ideas—we’ll find them in the rich worlds of Pratt itself, our local neighborhood, and our fascinating city. Students will also learn how to do research, conduct interviews, write lively prose, and make strong arguments. Last but not least, you’ll find out how to pick appropriate venues for your story ideas and how to pitch them to editors. Who knows: you might even get published!
Gabriel Cohen is the author of a literary novel, four crime novels, and a nonfiction book, and was a finalist for an Edgar award. He has written for the New York Times, Poets & Writers, TimeOut New York, Gourmet. com, and many other publications. Now in his 12th year of teaching at Pratt, he has also taught writing at New York University, the Center for Fiction, and Long Island University, worked as a staff writer at the New Haven Advocate weekly newspaper, and was a guest lecturer aboard the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner.
Wednesdays 2 – 4:50
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.
10 – 12:50
Opening our writing to the influence of life-worlds around us (in whose ongoing stories we become participants), this course seeks to develop an urban ecopoetics of interspecies relation.Bacterial processes, rogue plants, migrating birds, and the abundance discoverable in abandoned or derelict spaces will inspire us to practice new art/forms of attention. As we “make kin” with life-forms and processes beyond the human, we will generate new writing that engages the conceptual and imaginative systems and processes of multi-species urban subjects in present-day Lenapehoking. Structured around a series of three field excursions, and through collective discussion of readings, visual texts, and audio recordings from an array of fields, students can expect to play with interdisciplinary forms and mediums to create several short, shareable works.
Thursdays 10:30 – 1:20
We continue to live in a time of extreme ideological conflict, as retrograde power rages against new waves of feminism, activism, liberalism and social change. As we struggle to find our common humanity, many writers use dystopian and speculative styles, as well as elements of fantasy, magic realism or fabulism, to tell stories that signal the fears and anxieties of our time. As creative writers, we can invent worlds and characters to raise uncomfortable questions about reality. Margaret Atwood ensured that everything that occurred in her groundbreaking speculative novel The Handmaid’s Tale, had already happened in the real world. Of her feminist revenge fantasy, The Power, Naomi Alderman said, “nothing happens to a man in [this book] that’s not happening to a woman right now . . . if my novel is a dystopia, we’re living in a dystopia today.”
These writers use imagined futures and worlds to reflect on the status of women in our society, of what it means to be considered female, to have the body of a woman, to be queer, to question traditional gender roles and dynamics, to love in a world engulfed by ecological disaster and inequality. Through reading, writing exercises, workshops and presentations, we’ll discover what these invented worlds have to teach us about literary craft and language as well as how authors can write about social ills, politics and identity in original and creative ways. We’ll examine texts that show us how the unthinkable becomes thinkable, how our worst nightmares and our most extreme fantasies can become real. We’ll write about existing in our own bodies, histories and communities. Inspired by our reading, we’ll attempt to contextualize our experiences within a political and cultural landscape, by writing and inventing our own worlds and people.
In this class we’ll read work by established feminist speculative and sci fi authors such as Atwood, Octavia Butler, Angela Carter and Ursula K. Le Guin, and more recent fiction by contemporary writers such as Alderman, Leni Zumas, Carmen Maria Machado and Samanta Schweblin.
Wednesdays 2 – 4:50
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.
Earth Time, Earth Building
Thurs 6:30 PM – 9:20 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 in*verse* 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.
Never Gonna GIF You Up
Mondays 2-4:50 ONLINE
This course will explore how writers engage images in digital media and print formats. We will explore memes, gifs, photographs, zines, pdfs, books, websites, social media and video in order to map how text can become image and how image can become text. We will pay special attention to how image selection and manipulation can be its own kind of writing, one that extends or amplifies the work. The class will include individual writing-image prompts, as well as collaborative exercises. We will be especially keen to explore the political potential of this new hybrid media in the work of single authors like Jenny Holzer, Don Mee Choi, or @sainthoax, as well as in the work of recent collectives (The Black Took Collective, The Otolith Group, or The Mongrel Coalition Against Gringopoetics).
In this class, we will read contemporary memoirs as writers. We will come to understand the narrative structure of these memoirs, the themes that play out in these texts, and the many ways these authors reach back into their pasts to confront the moments and events that shaped them. We will also investigate the forms writers use to order the past into art, to shape memory and emotion into compelling narratives. Our reading list will include Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House, Édouard Louis’s The History of Violence, Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House, Yiyun Li’s Dear Friend, and Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A History of My Brief Body, among others.
Small Worlds, Miniature Forms
Thursdays 5 – 7:50
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.
Young Writers Going Mad In Big Cities
Thursdays 5 – 7:50
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.
Prattler Workshop I
Mondays 9:30 – 12:20
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
Saturdays 8:30 – 1:20
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.