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Creative Writing (ENGL 050)

Course Information:

Texts and Course Description

Texts: Andre Breton, Nadja; Michael Ondaatje, Coming Through Slaughter; William Carlos Williams, Patterson; and Poetry to My Ear: An Interactive Guide to the Art and Craft of Poetry. Students are also required to read material (poems, essays, short stories) distributed in class or posted on the web, or placed on reserve in the library.
This course satisfies a baccalaureate degree requirement in Art. Its goal is to give students "practice and criticism in the reading, analysis, and composition of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry writing." Because it is an introductory course, ENGL 50 assumes that students do not possess the creative writing skills of experienced novelists, poets, essayists, and playwrights. It is not designed for English majors. But to focus on the obvious, it is a college course and, as such, assumes college-level writing skills. It is decidedly not a forum for remediation. Therefore, I hope that students will regard ENGL 50 as an opportunity to develop strategies both for writing well and for writing creatively.

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Note: Keep all materials returned to you. Points earned at semester's end divided by possible points X 100 yields your final grade as a percentage.

Quizzes and Warm-Up Exerciese:
This course demands a good deal of reading. Almost every week, I will give short quizzes to determine (1) if students have read assigned materials and (2) if students have comprehended what they have read. 20 points each quiz. Additionally, I will frequently jump start longer class projects by having students engage in a writing experiment conducted in class. 20 points each experiment.

During the course of the semester, students are expected to complete a number of homework assignments that lead to a full experience of the types of writings organized under the term "creative writing." These assignments follow directly from class readings and contribute toward successful completion of the final texts that students are to assemble. 100 points per assignment.

Docu-Novella (End-of-Term Paper):
All course work is designed to contribute toward the completion of a collage text that combines fictive, nonfictive, and poetic materials. This docu-text--what we might call a "mystory" or "docu-novella"--is a student version of the course's central models (texts by Breton, Williams, Ondaatje, and others). 300 points.

Class Participation:
Talking about what we are reading and writing is an explicit part of this course. If you do not like to attend class, do regular reading assignments, and have participation required of you, you should either not take this course or you should settle for a lower grade than your written work might otherwise warrant. 100, totally subjective points.

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House Keeping and Fine Print

Print out all papers on 8 1/2" X 11" smooth-edged paper. Double-space your work, and use 1" margins. Give all projects a title, but do not type this title, your name, my name, or this course's title on a separate cover page. Do not place your work inside an attractive folder. Instead, all pertinent information should appear on the first page of your work (upper right-hand corner). Note: It is a good idea (1) to make a back-up copy of all work that you turn in and (2) to keep all papers that are returned to you.
I will show little-to-no toleration in dealing with late papers. I will glance at late work only to determine whether it merits a grade of "D" or "F." Late work is, by definition, below-average; deadlines are a normal and necessary component of all scholarly and artistic production. Familiarize yourself, early on, with course requirements.
Feel free--make that, feel obligated--to check on the progress of your writing during the course of this term. Should you need special assistance in understanding or in completing an assignment, come see me. My office hours are posted, but I am willing to make appointments to meet at other times. My phone number is (717) 771-4157 (office). My email address is jmj3@psu.edu.
No one missing class three times or more will pass ENGL 50. If you are tardy or if you leave class early, you have missed 1/2 of that class. There is no such thing as an excused or unexcused absence; there are only explained and unexplained absences. A missed class means missed material. Never--if you miss class--ask me if you missed anything. For example, let's say you miss class becase your car breaks down. Then you missed class for a good reason. But you still missed class. Missed notes should be copied from a fellow student.

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Outline and Schedule

ENGL 050 is organized into short units that contribute toward the completion of a single large project: a docu-novella or mystory. Each unit is one week (one class meeting) long and involves four types of activities. First, we will interrogate a course text: ask how we can employ it as a model for our own writing. Next, we will perform a warm-up exercise suggested by our discussion of this course text. The exercise will lead to a more developed writing assignment. Finally, we will examine and critique each other's work in a workshop setting. Every phase of this four-part process is equally important.

SEP 11 -- Intro; Mystory Questionnaire

SEP 18 -- Ondaatje, pp. 1-102

SEP 25 -- Ondaatje, pp. 105-156; Anecdote Project Due

OCT 2 -- Williams, Book One

OCT 9 -- Williams, Book Two; Drama Project Due

OCT 16 -- Williams, Book Three; Research Project Due

OCT 23 -- Williams, Book Four; Metaphor Project Due

OCT 30 -- Williams, Book Five; Metonym Project Due

NOV 6 -- Breton, pp, 1-74

NOV 13 -- Breton, pp. 74-160; Ground Zero Narrative Due

NOV 20 -- Sherman's March (film)

NOV 27 -- Grammatological Rewrite Due

DEC 4 -- Mystory Due

DEC 13 -- Revised Mystory Due