ENGL 210: Introduction to Creative Writing

Attentive Resistance Fall 2019

Course Description

English 210– Introduction to Creative Writing:

Attentive Resistance

 This class is about exploring attentiveness; about attention to the sounds, images, actions, perspectives, patterns, dialogues, desires, and feelings that make literature meaningful. Developing a deeper relationship to words and language will begin from the outside, as readers, and move to the inside as we experiment with writing. Poet and translator Rosmarie Waldrop claims that “a crucial ‘no’ to what already exists is inherent in the urge to make.” If this is the case, what does or can literature say ‘no’ to or resist? Through our close reading of texts, both our own and others’, we will challenge our understandings of what words can do. Each week, writing exercises will provide parameters that disrupt or re-route our habitual practices in order to cultivate the particular kind of attentiveness that characterizes art.

Course Description

Creative Writing is a discipline, and we will treat it as such. Half of our course will be devoted to the writing and reading of poetry, half to the writing and reading of fiction and drama. We will also explore craft issues concerning, though not excluding, music, form, and occasion. Students will be asked to consider fiction writing and playwriting from the perspective of psychological realism, foregrounding such strategies and techniques as style, tone, and diction, and such “fictional” and “dramatic” elements as dialogue, action, and description/stage direction. There will be weekly reading and writing assignments. All student writing will be subject to “workshopping” by the entire class.

Learning Goals:

  • To consider the interdependence of reading and the practice of writing;
    ·To closely read given texts, identifying formal properties and the intellectual work they accomplish;
    ·To develop a sensitivity to aesthetic decisions through critical reading, writing, and workshop discussions;
    ·To write voraciously as a means of personal and interrelational exploration
  • To learn to embrace revision as inevitable, generative, and clarifying
    ·To develop a vocabulary for discussing poetry, fiction, and drama, and to actively participate in creative writing workshop/community;
    ·To complete a portfolio of poetry, fiction, and drama that takes into serious consideration the critical comments offered by fellow students as well as the instructor;
    ·To write a coherent, literary response paper.

Required Texts:

The Flick, Annie Baker (2014)

All other course materials will be available in class or on Blackboard. You will also need a pen or pencil, and notebook or binder from which you can tear out pages for in-class writing as well as note-taking.


Class Participation 40%

(15% In-class writing, 15% Blog posts, 10% In-class participation)

Responses 15%

Critiques 15%

Portfolio 30%

Of course, assessing creative writing is very subjective business. I will not be grading your work based on whether or not I “like” it. I am looking to see that you’ve engaged in the processof writing actively, which includes serious revisions and thoughtful considerations of the texts we read in class (your own work, your peers’, and reading assignments). This class is an opportunity for you to explore what you want your writing to look like, and while I’m here to support and encourage that exploration, I’m not here to judge it. This is a rigorous class, but if you put in the time to do all the work, you will do well.

Assignments and participation: A significant portion of your grade will come from your participation in weekly posts on the blog. These will be both creative and critical writing assignments. Though you are allowed to skip one of the assigned blog posts over the course of the semester, the online conversation is a crucial part of the classroom conversation. You will be required to read and comment on your peers’ writing to prepare for in-class discussions every week.

Responses: For each unit during the semester, you will write two to three literary responses. Using the close reading skills we develop in class discussions, these responses should offer an insightful thesis that you build with supporting evidence from the reading material. Instead of summaries of the text, I’m looking to see that you’ve found something interesting to analyze and create an argument around. The responses should be one to two pages, typed and double-spaced. I will not accept handwritten work. I expect these responses to become more nuanced as the semester progresses.

Portfolio: ENGL-210 is a writing-intensive class, so be prepared to do a lot of writing. The class will be divided into halves. The first half will be devoted to poetry. The second half will be devoted to fiction and drama. Work culled from the entire semester will be revised and submitted as a portfolio due during finals week. Revision will be an important part of the structure of the course. The final portfolio will comprise of the following:

2-3 revised poems

1 revised story no longer than 20 pages (no genre fiction)
1 complete short story (flash fiction), not an excerpt: 1 page maximum

1 complete scene

Statement of poetics:
A two page, typed, double-spaced reflective statement in which you address any concerns or reflections you have regarding your own writing – consider, for example, what you would like your writing to do now that the class is ending – as well as class discussions throughout the semester.

Workshop: On writing workshops, Kwame Dawes believes, “We begin with a basic and perhaps unfair premise: that the poet intended to achieve something specific and that we are seeking to help achieve this.” This class will incorporate, revise, and re-imagine the workshop model. In workshops, you will each share a draft of a poem or short story or scene (I say draft because writing a poem or a short story or scene is already too much pressure. Our aim will be to produce as much material as possible, then get at the difficult work of revision) For informal workshops, you must be prepared to offer and receive constructive feedback about you writing in small groups. For formal workshops, be prepared to thoughtfully discuss the student writing that is being workshopped with two printed copies of a critical response (one for your peer and one for me). My copy should include a response to each poem/short story/scene to be workshopped that day. The other copy will go to the student. I expect these responses to develop critically over the course of the semester. The length of these responses should be at least a paragraph for each poem/short story/scene. I expect you to respond with sensitivity, precision, and acuity to everything you read in this class.

A Note on Notes:

Sometimes in literature classes it can be easy to underestimate the power of great note-taking skills. Just because we’re not dealing with “facts,” doesn’t mean having reflections jotted down from our conversations won’t be of great help to you throughout the semester. These notes will help you write complex and engaging critical responses, and might even inspire a piece of writing or two.

Policies: By enrolling in this course, you have decidedto participate in an academic community. At the beginning of the semester, we will discuss and expand on these classroom expectations as a group.

Respect: In this class we’ll encounter new ideas and different ways of thinking and reading things, in addition to practicing new and demanding skills. In order for us to be a successful community of scholars, we need to be respectful of each other’s learning processes. It is imperative that we treat one another with courtesy. Talking over your classmates or myself, sleeping, not having the necessary materials, or not having done the assignment, are all manifestations of disrespect and will be noted. Silence cell phones before you enter the classroom. Be aware that grades for participation are not only based on how thoughtfully you respond in class but also how respectful you are to your classmates, to me, and to your work.

Attendance and Participation: The bulk of the course work will occur in class. Therefore, attendance and participation is crucial to your grade. Our class begins at 9:15, not 9:20 or 9:25. If you are unable to make it to class on time consistently, I suggest finding another class that better fits your schedule. Therefore, come to class on time and prepared—you must always have with you all assigned texts, and the assignments must read be in advance. Attendance is mandatory. If, due to circumstances beyond your control, you are going to miss class, contact me as soon as possible and arrange with other students to find out what was covered. I hold you responsible for any assignments given in your absence. Chronic absences and/or lateness will affect your participation grade. You are responsible for any work you may miss due to absence.

Extension Policy:

I do not accept late work under normal circumstances. However, if you need an extension on an assignment for an extenuating circumstance (i.e. death in the family, serious illness), please ask me. I do not guarantee extensions if you ask, but if you have not discussed your extenuating circumstances with me before the assignment deadline, your assignment will not be accepted. If I do grant you an extension for an assignment, I will also give you a new due date by which the assignment must be turned in.

Linguistic and Cultural Plurality: The ability to communicate in multiple languages, including varieties of English, is a valuable asset, and you are encouraged to draw upon these linguistic and cultural resources in this course. Although we’ll employ English(es) and Edited Written Englishes (EWE) for many situations, you may choose to use other languages and rhetorical practices in particular assignments. Just remember to consider audience, purpose, and rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos). There will be opportunities to discuss these kinds of literary choices.

Special Accommodations: We all have different preferred learning styles. Therefore, the organization of any course will accommodate each student in different ways. For example, one student may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, so that handouts may be difficult to absorb. This course is designed to explore a range of learning styles, but I am open to making adjustments to better acknowledge all students’ styles. Please communicate with me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. If you have a learning, sensory, or physical reason for special accommodation in this class, contact the Office of Special Services in 171 Kiely Hall at 718-997-5870 and please inform me.


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