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Current BFA Electives

Fall 2023 at a glance:

WR-320-01 and WR 320-19: Fieldwork – Laura Henriksen – by appointment
WR 320-02: Writing on the Arts – David Gordon – Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Main 402
WR-320-03 and WR-320-16, Fantastic Voyagers – David Gordon – Thursdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Main 402, and Thursdays 11:00 am – 1:50 pm, North Hall 106
WR-320-04 and WR-320-20: Children’s Book Writing – Peter Catalanotto – Mondays 10:00 am – 12:50 pm, Engineering 117, and Mondays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm, Dekalb 006
WR-320-05 and WR-320-17: Journalism – Gabriel Cohen – Tues 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Main 402, and Thursday 5:00 – 7:50 pm, Cannoneer 128
WR-320-06: Revising as a Creative Practice – Anna Moschovakis – Mondays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Cannoneer 128
WR-320-07: Publishing Lab: Ubiquitous – Alysia Slocum – Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Engineering 117
WR-320-08 and WR-320-18: Dystopian Women – Gina Zucker – Thursdays 10:30 – 1:20, North Hall 306, and Tuesday 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Engineering 117
WR-320-09: First Books – Anselm Berrigan – Mondays 4:00 pm – 6:50 pm, Dekalb 208
WR-320-11: Art of the Short Story – Eric Rosenblum – Mondays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm, Cannoneer 128
WR-320-12: Poetry By Strange People – Maria Damon – Tuesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50pm, Dekalb 208
WR-320-13: Earth Time, Earth Building – Jasmine Reid – Mondays 6:00 pm – 8:50 pm, Engineering 117
WR-320-14: Screenwriting – Don Andreasen – Wednesdays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm, North Hall 304
WR-320-21: Writing The Apocalypse – Dianca London, Thursdays 10:00 am – 12:50 PM, ARC E-02
WR-320-22: A Prose Is A Prose Is a Prose – James Hannaham, Mondays 12:00 pm – 2:50 pm, North Hall 107
WR-320-23: Plays and Movies – James Hannaham, Wednesdays 10:00 am – 12:50 pm Engineering 115
WR-325A-01: Prattler Workshop I – 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
WR331 Writer as Worker – Laura Henriksen – Mondays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Main 402

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

WR-320-01 and WR-320-19 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. However, in even more ways than Internship / Seminar, 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 Writing on the Arts
David Gordon
Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Main 402

From critical journals like New York Review of Books or The Drift, to general interest publications like New Yorker or The New York Times, to the ever-changing world of blogs and websites and podcasts, arts journalism is an expansive field with a long history that is constantly evolving. This course will explore critical and journalistic writing on culture and the arts – literature, music, art, film and more. Students will read and analyze examples from writers such as Hilton Als, Patricia Lockwoood, Manohla Dargis, Howard Fishman, Lester Bang etc., as well as trying their own hand at short pieces in various forms like the review (positive/negative), the profile, the interview and a longer, reflective essay on subjects of their choice. Pieces will be workshopped and edited. Visitors will be announced along with a possible group trip to view, and then write about, an event. Readings are subject to change.

WR-320-03 and WR-320-16 Fantastic Voyagers
David Gordon
320-03 Thursdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Main 402

320-16 Thursdays 11:00 am – 1:50 pm, North Hall 106

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, Muriel Spark, Shirley Jackson, Cesar Aira, Angela Carter, Izumi Suzuki, and Mariana Enriquez. Film, video and visual art will also be viewed and discussed.

WR-320-04 and WR-320-20 Childrens’ Book Writing
Peter Catalanotto
320-04 Mondays 10:00 am – 12:50 pm, Engineering 117
320-20 Mondays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm, Dekalb 006

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-320-05 and WR-320-17 Journalism
Gabriel Cohen
320-05 Tuesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Main 402
320-17 Thursdays 5:00 – 7:50 pm, Cannoneer 128
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.

WR-320-06 Revising as a Creative Practice
Anna Moschovakis
Mondays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
Cannoneer 128

Drafts are by definition vulnerable and unresolved, and getting to the next stage can be a challenge. Taking inspiration from disciplines outside of writing, we will begin the semester in curiosity about our existing relationship to editing our own work, and end it with an array of individual and shared approaches to the editing stage: a prompt book, but for the later stages of writing. Readings, in-class exercises using students’ current works in process, and invited guests will provide sample practices that we can apply to editing—even if they originate from other fields. Embodied practices will be emphasized as we explore what breath, voice, nerves, boredom, blushing, and other somatic experiences can reveal to us about our work, and how a cross-disciplinary and playful approach might dislodge old habits and provide new ways to approach the next draft.

WR-320-07 Publishing Lab: Ubiquitous
Alysia Slocum
Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
Engineering 117

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.

WR-320-08 and WR-320-18 Dystopian Women
Gina Zucker
320-08 Thursdays 10:30 – 1:20, North Hall 306
320-18 Tuesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm, Engineering 117

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. In her groundbreaking speculative novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood ensured that everything that occurred 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 imagined futures and worlds reflect on the status of oppressed people in our society and those who abuse, or misuse, their power. Some explore 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, violence and inequality. They show us how the unthinkable becomes thinkable, how our worst nightmares can slowly become part of daily life. Through reading, writing exercises, workshops and weekly presentations, we’ll discover what these invented worlds have to teach us about literary craft and language as well as how we as authors can create narratives that raise uncomfortable questions about our current lives. Inspired by our reading, we’ll attempt to contextualize our own experiences existing in our bodies, communities and histories, within a physical and socio-political landscape.

Readings may include texts by established feminist speculative and sci fi authors such as Atwood, Octavia Butler, and Ursula K. Le Guin, and more recent fiction by contemporary writers such as Alderman, Carmen Maria Machado and Samanta Schweblin. There may also be opportunities for students to suggest readings. Students will generate new narrative work and give oral presentations on assigned readings. There are no papers or written work other than creative writing, but there may be a quiz or two.

WR-320-09 First Books
Anselm Berrigan
Mondays 4:00 pm – 6:50 pm
Dekalb 208

How do very different bodies of work take shape as a thing we might call “book”? How does any body of work go from states variously and temporarily known as “manuscript” or “thesis” or pile of work become a thing? These are questions that can, most likely, only have answers that are variable, multiple, and idiosyncratic. And so in this elective we will read around in a handful of books to check out how certain poets took up and answered, so to speak, these questions. Poets to read will include but not be limited to: John Wieners, Layli Long Soldier, Claire Meuschke, Hoa Nguyen, Simone White, Frank O’Hara, and Aquaman.

WR-320-11 Art of the Short Story
Eric Rosenblum
Mondays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm
Cannoneer 128

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.

WR-320-12 Poetry By Strange People
Maria Damon
Tuesdays 5:00 pm – 7:50pm
Dekalb 208

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-320-13 Earth Time, Earth Building
Jasmine Reid
Mondays 6:00 pm – 8:50 pm
Engineering 117

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 Solmaz Sharif, Layli Long Soldier, M. NourbeSe Philip, Joyelle McSweeney, & more. Earth, shapes, page—together.

WR-320-14 Screenwriting
Don Andreasen
Wednesdays 2:00 pm – 4:50 pm
North Hall 304

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.

WR-320-21 Writing the Apocalypse
Dianca London
Thursdays 10:00 am – 12:50 PM
ARC E-02
What can exploring “the end” offer us as storytellers? Throughout this course, participants will traverse a wide-range of multi-genre narratives about cataclysmic endings—big and small. While exploring what apocalyptic stories can teach us about our anxieties and desires within a historical and contemporary context, participants will also discover the generative possibilities of embracing the archetype of the apocalypse in relation to craft, narrative cartography, and design. Using the cataclysmic as a subtextual lens and generative portal, students will delve into a diverse mix of creative and experimental works to craft their own narratives about endings, irrevocable change, and new beginnings. Students will engage with texts by Lesley Nneka Arimah, Carmen Maria Machado, Brenda Peynado, James Baldwin, Jordan Kisner, Elissa Washuta, Octavia E. Butler, Jenny Offill, Xuan Juliana Wang, Joy Harjo, and others.

WR-320-22 A Prose Is A Prose Is A Prose
James Hannaham
Mondays 12:00 pm – 2:50 pm
North Hall 107

A prose workshop with no limits on genre. Fiction of all kinds, nonfiction, prose poetry, reviews, lyric essays, Tweets, letters of apology, a mix of all of those things, whatever. Hand in your stuff a week before, we will all read it and talk about it. We’ll do some prompts in class. We’ll read and discuss some published work in relation to your prose. Our conversations, and some of your suggestions, will inspire some of the readings. Your final project will be a polished version of something generated in class.   

WR-320-23 Plays And Movies
James Hannaham

Wednesdays 10:00 am – 12:50 pm 
Engineering 115
In this class, students will read plays and film scripts out loud, occasionally in goofy voices. No acting skills are required, but reading skills will be appreciated. Please be eager to embarrass yourself. Some of the scripts will have been written by known playwrights and screenwriters, others will be written by you. Some of the movies will have been made by professionals, some of the movies will be made by you. A portion of the material will be suggested/chosen by the class. As we read, we will also do research. Before we make movies or finish plays, we will read and revise scripts. The final project will be a short play or a short film made by you. Theater maker Steve Cosson, artistic director of The Civilians, will visit this class, probably several times.

WR-325A-01 Prattler Workshop I
Eric Rosenblum
Mondays 9:30 – 12:20
Cannoneer 128

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.

WR-360-01 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.

WR331-01 Writer as Worker
Laura Henriksen
Mondays 5:00 pm – 7:50 pm
Main 402

One of the things we’re committed to in the BFA Writing program is supporting our students in building meaningful, creative and sustainable writing lives, especially in the years following graduation. But this can mean so many different things for different people. This practical course provides junior Writing majors (and whoever else joins!) with concrete skills and guidance toward discerning, acquiring and planning for a professional development track in the spring semester, either through an internship, an independent project, or a relevant class on offer. By facilitating engagement with working professionals, discussing readings, and developing application-building and interview skills, the course positions students to make informed choices about the sorts of professional experiences they’d like to explore. It introduces students to a variety of writing-related vocations through regular class visits from publishers, editors, agents, producers, journalists, curators, teachers and other writing-related spheres.

WR-493-01 Ecopoetics
Laura Elrick
Thursdays 10:00 am – 12:50 pm
Engineering 117

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, sharable works.


“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.

Fall 2023 Menus

Writing on the Arts
Children’s Book Writing
Revising as Creative Practice
Publishing Lab: Ubiquitous
Art of the Short Story

Fantastic Voyagers
Dystopian Women
First Books
Poetry for Strange People
Earth Time, Earth Building
Storytelling Lab

Writing Lives:
The Prattler
The Art of Teaching Writing
Revising as a Creative Practice
Publishing Lab

(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).