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Current BFA Electives

Spring 2024 at a glance:

WR-320-01 – Fieldwork – Laura Henriksen – By Appointment
WR 320-02 – Children’s Book Writing – Peter Catalanotto – Monday 10:00 am – 12:50 pm, Engineering 117
WR-320-03 – 320-03: Thematic Screenwriting – Don Andreasen – Wednesdays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm, North Hall 304 
WR-320-04 – 20-04: Ways of Not Knowing – Youmna Chlala – Tuesday 9:30 – 12:20, Main 402         
WR-320-05- 320-05: First Chapters: Start Your Novel – Gabriel Cohen Tuesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Main 402
WR-320-06 – 320-06: Genre-Bending – David Gordon – Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Cannoneer 128
WR-320-07 – 320-07: Young Writers Going Mad in Big Cities – David Gordon –  Thursdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Dekalb 208
WR-320-08 – 320-08: M/Ekphrastic Writing – Rachel Levitsky – Tuesday 10:00 am – 12:50 pm, Dekalb 208
WR-320-09 – Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll: Writing in Extremis – Max Ludington – Wednesday 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm 
WR-320-10 – 320-10: Reading and Writing The Cult Classic – Eric Rosenblum – Monday 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm  – Dekalb 208
WR-320-11 – Maps – Samantha Hunt – Thursday 10:30 am – 1:20 pm, Dekalb 208
WR-320-12 – 320-12: Teaching Teens – Sofi Thanhauser – Friday 1:00 – 4:50, Engineering 117
WR-320-14 – 320-14: Body Horror: Abjection as Craft – Dianca Potts – Friday 10:00 am – 12:50 pm, Engineering 305
WR-320-16: 320-16: At World’s End: Reading Survival, Resilience, andResistance – Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts – Monday 1:00 pm – 3:50 pm, Engineering 309
WR-320-17 – Publishing Laboratory: Ubiquitous – Alysia Slocum Laferriere – Tuesday 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Dekalb 208
WR-320-18 – 320-18: Advanced Screenwriting – Ellery Washington – Wednesday 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm, Dekalb 208
WR-320-19 – Playwriting – Lucas Baisch – Friday 12:00 pm – 2:50 pm – Cannoneer 128 
WR-320-20 – Modern Poetry – Maria Damon – Wednesday 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, North Hall 306 
WR-320-B1 – Berlin Fieldwork – Christian Hawkey – By Appointment
WR-320-B2 – Politics and Poetics of Translation – Uljana Wolf – Monday 3:00 – 5:50, Pratt Berlin campus WR-325B-01: Prattler Workshop II – Eric Rosenblum – Mondays 9:30 – 12:20, Cannoneer 128
WR-360-01: The Art Of Teaching Writing – Sofi Thanhauser – Saturdays 8:30 am – 1:20 pm, Engineering 3rd floor

(open to all Pratt students except Fieldwork)

320-01: Fieldwork
Laura Henriksen
By Appointment

This course is designed for BFA Writing students who choose to pursue an independent fieldwork project that relates to an area of professional or artistic development that they want to gain new skills and experience in. Fieldwork allows the student to design a semester-length project with the supervising instructor in light of the students’ goals, which otherwise aren’t reflected in an existing course or internship. 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, developing a business plan, etc), and many other possibilities. (All students who wish to register for this course must contact the instructor and declare the 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, artistic and/or material sphere, and from which we can determine the kind of work-life conditions we will need as writers/artists, now and in the future. In even more ways than Internship / Seminar, however, this course offers self-reflexive assignments that reflect the project’s 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 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.

 320-02: Children’s Book Writing
Peter Catalanotto
Monday 10:00 am – 12:50 pm
Engineering 117

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 discuss avenues for submitting stories to agents and editors for those interested in publishing.

320-03: Thematic Screenwriting
Don Andreasen
Wednesdays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm
North Hall 304

This course continues the path of Screenwriting I in terms of creating short film scripts further exploring the use of visual storytelling, setting, conflict, character development and dialogue.  Additionally, we will examine and explore non-linear approaches to screenwriting (as opposed to the linear method explored in Screenwriting I).  This course will also concentrate 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. 

320-04: Ways of Not Knowing
Youmna Chlala
Tuesday 9:30 – 12:20
Main 402

In moments of transition, crisis and transformation, not-knowing becomes a way of being. We will engage with not-knowing as a literary, aesthetic, social, geo-political, spatial, intellectual and bodily strategy. We will read and discuss to uncover how we can expand on voids, silences, hauntings and impossibilities. What if we do not know who and what we’re writing towards? What is the role of fiction, speculation and place in narratives of not-knowing? The books, films and art-works will move from historical research and contemporary uncertainty towards futurity. We will also create new narratives through our own writing.

320-05: First Chapters: Start Your Novel
Gabriel Cohen
Tuesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
Main 402

Have you always wanted to write a novel? This is your chance to begin! 

Every novel has to hook the reader within the first few pages. How do you get a strong story rolling? How do you establish your characters and their world? We’ll take a look at a number of different opening strategies through reading excellent first chapters from published authors. Students will write the opening chapters of their own novel, and get detailed feedback. We’ll also discuss how to push on and finish a whole book.

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,, and many other publications. Now in his 14th 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.

320-06: Genre-Bending
David Gordon
Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
Cannoneer 128
This course explores genre works that were first considered “pulp” or merely “popular entertainment” – sci-fi, crime, horror, animation, 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. Writers include Poe, Lovecraft, Himes, Hitchcock, Butler, Dick, Ballard, Borges, Nabokov, Spark, Highsmith and Murakami.

320-07: Young Writers Going Mad in Big Cities
David Gordon
Thursdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
Dekalb 208
This course explores works that revolve around young writers slowly losing their grip on sanity in a modern metropolis. What are the origins of this theme? 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.)? Class will combine close examination and discussion of the readings and screenings with written and creative responses and work-shopping student submissions. Writers and artists considered include Baudelaire, Rilke,  Hamsun, Fante, Didion, Lispector, Baldwin, Genet, Cassavetes, Tawada, Ginsberg, Bolaño.

320-08: M/Ekphrastic Writing
Rachel Levitsky
Tuesday 10:00 am – 12:50 pm
Dekalb 208
Ekphrasis, according to its most basic definition, is simply poetry that addresses art. The M in front of the word here in the title above stands for: MEDIA. But it also might be ME. By shifting the emphasis from the fixed art object to the moving image and interactive forms of electronic media, the writer merges and moves with the matter of the engaged art. In M/Ekphastic writing, the writer, the writing and the media defy fixity, are ever-altering forms. We’ll begin by writing our own media creation stories – by recalling the television and movies and sites that raised us. We’ll take deep dives into some strange realms of avant-garde film and avant-garde code. All along we’ll be reading ecstatic M/Ekphrastic works by writers such as Raul Ruiz, Jean Cocteau, Nathanial Tarn, Lisa Robertson, Holly Melgarde, Danielle Collobert, Lynne Sachs, Gabriel Dozal, and Will Alexander.

320-09: Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll: Writing in Extremis
Max Ludington
Wednesday 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm
Sex, intoxication, physical and emotional pain, trauma, violence, mortal fear, spiritual revelation, romantic obsession. These are just some of the extreme experiences that have fascinated writers and readers since stories have been told. Whether positive or negative, these episodes map the depths and horizons of human experience and give us raw insight into our nature. How do we learn to translate those experiences into good writing without becoming melodramatic or overwrought? Great writers have grappled with that question, and have found answers that we can learn from. Students will be asked to draw upon some of their own most extreme experiences in order to find ways to use them in fiction or memoir. Also, we’ll discuss the process of imagining extremes without actually undergoing them. We will read writers past and present, and study them as models. Writers on the syllabus will include: Denis Johnson, Hunter Thompson, Carmen Maria Machado, Jennifer Egan, Edward St. Aubyn, Joyce Carol Oates, and Joy Williams.

320-10: Cult Classic
Eric Rosenblum
Monday 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm 
Dekalb 208
320-11: Maps

Some books develop passionate and intense followings yet never break into the mainstream.  But what makes a ‘cult classic’?  Is it a new and unusual voice?  Sordid subject matter?  Depiction of too-human characters and shocking events?  In this course, students will examine cult classics such as Geek Love, White Boy Shuffle and Desperate Characters as they devise and begin to write their own cult classics.

Samantha Hunt 
Thursday 10:30 am – 1:20 pm
Dekalb 208

“It is not down on any map. True places never are.” -H. Melville. 

Where do writing and mapping intersect? In this course we’ll work as cartographer-writers, generating new creative pieces of writing. We will consider maps of the imagination, maps of childhood, maps of the body, maps of the dead, history, movement between languages, locations, mental states, genders, memories and times. We will look at art maps and maps of natural systems. We will follow a raindrop back to the sea. False documents, chance, manipulation, and getting lost will all play a part as we read, write and explore ideas of location & dislocation, inclusion & exclusion, discovery, colonization, boundaries, scale and miniaturization. 

320-12: Teaching Teens
Sofi Thanhauser 

Friday 1:00 – 4:50
Engineering 117

Teaching Teens is a course that transforms Pratt students into creative writing teachers. Over the course of the semester you will craft and teach a ten week course for local youth, offered in collaboration with the Myrtle Ave Partnership. You might focus on graphic novel, scifi, fantasy, literary fiction, zine making, or other forms, depending on your expertise, and the interests of your students. With guidance from the instructor, you will begin to articulate a teaching philosophy, and to examine teaching as a community building project. 

320-14: Body Horror: Abjection as Craft
Dianca Potts
Friday 10:00 am – 12:50 pm 
Engineering 305

Through a diverse selection of creative works, revelatory prompts, and engaged discussion, students will collectively explore the possibilities of abjection, body horror, and the sensory as generative and analytical praxis. Students will unearth and excavate new ways to invoke and center the body through narrative design and experimentation with form. Throughout this course, students will be encouraged to uncover new approaches to their creative practice and spark the cultivation of new works and approaches to revision and craft. Participants will also learn how to incorporate artifacts, new media, and theory into their work to further excavate, channel, and conjure new thresholds and topographies within their writing. Together, we’ll uncover the narrative potential of what disturbs, rattles, and haunts. Students will engage with works by Lesley Nneka Arimah, Julia Kristeva, David Cronenberg, Ramona Ausubel, Michelle Garza Cervera, Rachel Yoder, Elissa Washuta, Julia Armfield, Olga Ravn, Rebekah Bergman, Agustina Bazterrica, Clarice Lispector, Carmen Maria Machado, Samuel Beckett, and others.

320-16: At World’s End: Reading Survival, Resilience, and Resistance
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Monday 1:00 pm – 3:50 pm
Engineering 309

In this elective seminar, we will encounter history, mythology, literature, visual art, film and music that contemplates the endings and beginnings of worlds. From stories of creation and religious viewpoints on eschatology, to testimonies of historical events perceived as both world-ending and world-beginning (chiefly, the European encounter with the so-called New World), we will reflect on how artists, thinkers and chroniclers have recorded the expectation of existential shifts and how the impulse for survival and resistance demonstrates possibilities for continuation. Including texts and artworks by Aimé Césaire, Etel Adnan, Nat Turner, Wovoka, John of Patmos, Extinction Rebellion, Exuma, David Bowie, Jeanne Lee, Albrecht Dürer, Ed Roberson, Anna Kavan, Chris Marker, Octavia Butler, Gerald Vizenor, and Mary Shelley, among others. 

320-17: Publishing Laboratory: Ubiquitous
Alysia Slocum Laferriere 
Tuesday 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
Dekalb 208

Publishing Laboratory: Ubiquitous will introduce each student to the creative and editorial process of generating Ubiquitous, a literary and arts magazine with an over 30 year history at Pratt Institute. The literary magazine’s aim is to publish original works from the Pratt Institute community in areas of poetry, prose, visual arts, and design. The course will culminate with one published issue, with each student serving an editorial role.

320-18: Advanced Screenwriting
Ellery Washington
Wednesday 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm 
Dekalb 208
Advanced Screenwriting: The Modern Feature. 

Modern feature-length screenplays demand a specific architecture. Advanced Screenwriting is a course for students with a story idea that they’re ready to explore in the form of a feature film. During the opening classes we develop our stories in the form a coherent treatment: a summary of the events and the major story/character/emotional arcs of a three-act film. We do so in a way that allows us to fully investigate the architecture a modern feature. Then we script the first act. Class time is divided between discussions and workshops, both focused on clarity of plot/conflict, character development and scene construction, with a heavy emphasis placed on character as the engine of story.  During the semester, additional conversations/lectures will be conducted aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of fundamental screenwriting elements, with topics that include Geography and Landscape (interior to exterior), Image, Scene, Sequence, Plot vs. Character, Voices, and the Underlying Architecture of the Modern Script. 

320-19: Playwriting
Lucas Baisch
Friday 12:00 pm – 2:50 pm
Cannoneer 128 

This playwriting workshop is an introduction to the basic principles of scriptwriting for live performance. We will collectively ask: How do you spawn an idea? How do you construct dialogue on the page? Through rhythm, intent, given circumstances? How do we shape that dialogue into character? Narrative? Alongside dramatic action, how do we construct the physical and fictive environments for story to occur? This class intends for the writer to celebrate excess and work from a point of textual abundance. Students will write and write, then take on the roles of sculptor, carpenter, and architect in order to leave the class having developed a single play. Functioning as both a seminar and workshop, the course will introduce students to a variety of play forms as well as field trips to local performances. We will use these plays to build a toolkit of generative strategies and address writing as a physical task that seeks a three-dimensional home.

320-20: Modern Poetry
Maria Damon
Wednesday 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
North Hall 306

This course focuses on key poets of the 20th Century instrumental in setting the course for modern poetry, and who continue to influence contemporary poetry. Students read essays and poetry by figures like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Aimé Césaire, Langston Hughes, Kamau Brathwaite, Amiri Baraka, Mina Loy, Hart Crane, Allen Ginsberg, and will consider the question: What makes a poem modern? Features of modern poetry will be explored in the work of such post-WWII poets as Frank O’Hara, Elizabeth Bishop, Lyn Hejinian and others.

320-21: Facing Pages: Reading, Writing, Making, and Re-making Poetry through Translation
Silvina Lopez Medin
Wednesday 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
Dekalb 208

Over the course of this workshop we will read and discuss works in translation by key figures of Latin American twentieth-century poetry like Susana Thénon, Amanda Berenguer, Ana Cristina Cesar, and Haroldo de Campos. We will observe the formal elements of each poet’s work, and pay attention to which aspects resonate with the participants as they face the page in the making of their own writing/translations/retranslations. The workshop will build a shared space that encourages the reading of poets not often included on course syllabi, to consider how we are always translating (between ideas, feelings, fields, languages, and more), what sets our writing in motion, what tools might help us keep our creative processes going.

Most of our time together will be devoted to workshopping the participants’ own pieces.

WR-320-B1: Berlin Fieldwork
Christian Hawkey
By Appointment
WR-320-B2: Politics and Poetics of Translation
Uljana Wolf
Monday 3:00 – 5:50

Pratt Berlin Campus

In this seminar we will study translation as a transcultural tool and process in shaping culture and language, as well as an intimate reading and writing practice. We will read seminal essays which influenced translation theories since the 19th century, focussing on discourse around the „foreign“, as well as feminist, postcolonial and cultural translation. Our goal is to develop a language for the politics and ethics of translation as we begin moving between languages, cultures, texts. The practical part will focus on translation between genres and media, as well as poetry, and will explore translation as a transcultural tool for producing radical exchange and new author/subject relations. We’ll read various translations, imitations, and anti-translations, and we’ll try our hand at multiple translation approaches. Our ultimate goal is to examine how translation – the intimate and productively obsessive engagement with another author’s work, language, and culture – can make us more sophisticated artists and more attentive citizens of our language(s). To this effect, our research will include field trips, where we will visit at least one translation event in Berlin. The students’ projects for this class is to produce a translation (traditional or experimental or transmedial) of a small body of work from a foreign-language (desirably a German language) writer. 

WR-325B  Topics in Journalism: Journalism Workshop: Prattler II
Eric Rosenblum
Mondays 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Cannoneer 128

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
Engineering 3rd Floor

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 2024 Menus

Children’s Book Writing
Thematic Screenwriting
Advanced Screenwriting
First Chapters
Facing Pages: Reading, Writing, Making, and Re-making Poetry through Translation

Ways of Not Knowing
Young Writers Going Mad in Big Cities
Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll
Cult Classic
Body Horror: Abjection as Craft
At World’s End: Reading Survival, Resilience, and Resistance
Facing Pages: Reading, Writing, Making, and Re-making Poetry through Translation
Politics and Poetics of Translation

Writing Lives:
Berlin Fieldwork
Teaching Teens
The Prattler
Publishing Laboratory: Ubiquitous

(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).