Graduate Courses, Summer & Fall 2008

Summer Session One 2008

 (May 19 -- June 30)

English 636
Representations of Struggle in South African Literature and Film
Professor Patricia Stephens
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 6:00 to 8:15 PM

In this course, our explorations of South African literature and film will be framed by the historical, social, political, and cultural contexts of the rise and fall of Apartheid--a period of intense struggle for and against social change. Working chronologically, we will explore texts (print and film) written or set within three specific eras: 1940s-1950s (the inception and institutionalization of formal Apartheid policies); 1960s-1980s (the rise of Black Consciousness and anti-Apartheid movements); and 1990s-present (the rise of democracy and the post-Apartheid years). Our print texts for the course will span several genres: novels, memoir and/or autobiography, short stories, drama, poetry, creative non-fiction, as well as excerpts from transcripts taken from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Hearings. In conjunction with our readings, we will watch several films that document both historical events and day-to-day lives in South Africa, past and present. Throughout the course, we will examine how and why writers and filmmakers depict struggle in the ways they do and what kinds of "truths" readers take from these representations. As outsiders reading about a country still very much in transition, we will examine our own understandings of the connections between history, politics, culture, and the literature and film of South Africa. Written work for the course will include short responses to the texts as well as a final research paper (topics to be determined via conferences between the instructor and students). Alternative projects may be considered. Below are some possible texts for the course:

1940s-50s: Abrahams, Peter. Mine Boy; Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country (film); Mphalele, Ezekiel.Down 2nd Avenue; Poetry Selections (from Drum);

1960s-80s: Biko, Steven. Excerpts from I Write What I Like; Mandela, Nelson. Excerpts from Long Walk to Freedom and Selected Speeches; Mhlope, Gcina. "Have You Seen Zandile?"; Wicomb, ZoĆ«. You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town; Poetry selections (from Staffrider); Amandla: A Revolution in Four Part Harmony (film)

1990s-present: Krog, Antjie. Country of My Skull; Magona, Sindiwe. Mother to Mother. Mda, Zakes.Ways of Dying; Gordimer, Nadine. The House GunLong Day's Journey into Night (film); Facing the Truth (film),

FALL 2008

English 503: Theory of Writing: Remembering the Present
Professor Lewis Warsh
Thursdays, 4:10 to 6:00 PM

Writing theory is an all encompassing endeavor. It must take into account both the past and the present while pointing instructively towards the future. Many great 20th century theorists were fiction writers and poets themselves--their theoretical work derived from their practice as creative writers. One goal of this course is to develop and articulate our own sense of what we want to do as writers and what we expect as readers. We will use the ideas expressed in these essays to inspire and inform our own work.

Another goal is to create a dialogue between ourselves and these authors. Ezra Pound's notable quote (I'm paraphrasing) : "Don't take advice from anyone who hasn't written a great work" is something to keep in mind. What gives anyone the right to theorize? One of the ongoing threads in this class will be an attempt to understand the place of theory in our work as writers, beginning with the inescapable question: “Is it necessary?”

Among the authors we will read are Henry James, E.M. Forester, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, Laura Riding, Gertruce Stein, Roland Barthes, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Walter Benjamin, M.M. Bakhtin, Tzvetan Todorov, Maurice Blanchot, James Baldwin, Charles Olson, Frank O’Hara, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Lyn Hejinian.

English 523: Fiction Writing Workshop: Starting Points in Fiction
Professor Han Ong (Visiting Writer)
Thursdays, 6:10 to 8:00 PM

In this class we will take a look at the initial sources of inspiration writers use and build upon in crafting a novel or short story. For some writers, it's a premise: "What if ...?" For others, it's a plot, a sequence of events one leading to the other; this can be true of writers who use newspaper articles as their jumping off point. Character is key for some; for example, they want to write a piece about their grade school teacher, who was important in their life. Some writers hear a stretch of dialogue and that's where they begin. Yet others are compelled by place, setting; this might be true of some immigrant or foreign writers trying to recapture a lost world, for example. Oftentimes, where we start in our writing forecasts what the strengths of the work are going to be, as well as the weaknesses. By querying their own starting points, each student in class will begin to understand why it is that he or she runs into a set of problems in the middle of the writing process, which is different for every writer. This way, too, they can begin to identify elements that they need to strengthen to make their novel or story a more integrated and satisfying whole.

Han Ong is the author of two novels: Fixer Chao (2001) and The Disinherited (2004), both published by Picador USA. He has been the recipient of Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships, as well as a fellowship to the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. His writing has appeared in the Washington PostNatural HistoryBOMB, and the journal Conjunctions. He is also the author of more than three dozen plays, which have been produced across the country at such venues as the Joseph Papp Public Theater, Berkeley Rep, and the American Repertory Theater.

English 524: Poetry Writing Workshop: Writing the Long Poem: Everything We Know
Professor Lewis Warsh
Tuesdays, 6:10 to 8:00 PM

The long poem is a place where we can include everything: knowledge of ecology and politics, all the various emotional states and upheavals that we’ve experienced, annotation of the present moment and the passage of time. Each student will initiate what might be a long poem of several pages or even a book-length poem written and accumulated over the course of the semester. We'll discuss the ways of bringing together data by direct observation and journal writing, by reading the newspaper (which is a kind of daily poem), and by sustaining a rhythm, a feeling, a theme. We'll pay attention to ways of improvisation, how to translate daily life into poetry, and how to use repetition and variation. We'll use as models some of the great long poems of the last century, most notably Paterson by William Carlos Williams, The Skaters and Three Poems by John Ashbery, A by Louis Zukofsky and Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer. Mostly we'll look closely at each other's work, give each other feedback and advice, and share each other's concerns regarding the importance of poetry in the world.

English 525: Play Writing Workshop: The Art of Playwriting
Professor Jessica Hagedorn
Wednesdays, 6:10 to 8:00 PM

In this workshop, we will explore what it means to write for the theatre, how to create characters who engage and surprise us, how to develop an ear for the poetry of ordinary speech, and how to develop an appreciation for the power of silence. Expect in-class writing and visualization exercises, close readings and discussions of plays, monologues and excerpted scenes by major contemporary playwrights; expect to write a five-to-ten minute piece to be performed, using your fellow students as actors. Guest speaker and field trip to one Off-Broadway play, TBA. Registration limited.

English 527: Professional Writing Workshop: Grant Writing
Professor John Killoran
Thursdays 6:10 - 8:00 pm

This course is designed not only for English graduate students but also for students from other disciplines and for professionals who seek to develop their skills as persuasive professional writers.
Behind much of the work conducted by cultural agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and researchers are successfully grant proposals. The grant proposal is essentially a persuasive document, and this course thus approaches grant writing through a rhetorical perspective. A rhetorical perspective offers not just a wily way with words but a means of responding to a rhetorical situation, of generating successful ideas. The rhetorical perspective helps students define the problem, analyze the audience, and invent the arguments that best present their case. Specifically, in the course, students will...

1. identify a problem on campus or in their organization, social and cultural communities, or research field;

2. analyse potential sponsors who might share the goal of solving the problem;

3. and plan, draft, and revise a grant proposal.

The course is designed for those seeking to write grant proposals for cultural agencies, business RFPs, nonprofits, and research. However, students will develop knowledge and skills that can be applied broadly to the various kinds of writing required in their careers.

English 579: Seminar in Special Studies: Virginia Woolf and Modernism
Professor Patrick Horrigan
Mondays, 6:10 to 8:00 PM

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is one of the most challenging and beautiful writers in the English language. Every time she began work on a new novel, she renewed her ambition to reinvent the genre and to make it penetrate to depths of human experience never before tried by writers of fiction. The course will trace the path from her early, tentatively realistic fiction (The Voyage Out), through her experimental short fiction of the late teens and early 1920s ("The Mark on the Wall," "An Unwritten Novel"), to the achievement of her high modernist style in four major novels: Jacob's RoomMrs. DallowayTo the Lighthouse, and The Waves. Woolf was also an innovator in the art of the essay, and we will read some of her most famous works in the genre, including "Modern Fiction," "On Being Ill," and her revolutionary (and very funny) manifesto for women writers, A Room of One's Own. Because Woolf was keenly interested in painting and was intimately associated with a circle of avant-garde artists, special emphasis will be placed on the intersection between verbal and visual art in her life and work.

Field trips to the Museum of Modern Art and the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library (which houses the largest collection of Woolf manuscripts in the world) will be arranged. In addition to on-going class discussion, students will write a series of short essays in response to the readings, and one longer critical essay or creative term project.

English 641: Literacy and Basic Writing
Professor Donald McCrary
Wednesdays, 4:10 to 6:00 PM

In this course we will attempt to identify and understand what constitutes literacy in the academy and how "basic writers" are positioned within and against this term in their struggle to acquire academic discourse, a term we will also examine. We will investigate our own assumptions about literacy and test those assumptions against academy dictates and practices. We will problematize "basic writing" in relation to theories and methods of teaching basic and college writing. For example, is the social constructionist approach viable, or should students' primary languages be included in the instruction and production of college writing? What is the relationship between reading and writing, and how might one inform the other? How might orality be utilized in the classroom to help students increase their awareness of standard English? How do we offer cohesive, productive instruction when students within the same class have different levels and types of literacy? Authors we might read include Delpit, Bourdieu, Bizzell, and Heath. The course will be particularly beneficial for students who plan to teach in academic institutions with students from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

English 646: Individual and Small Group Writing Instruction
Professor Patricia Stephens
Tuesdays, 4:10 to 6:00 PM

This course is designed to introduce tutors and teachers to the theories and practices of tutoring writing (online, face-to-face, one-to-one, and small groups). Though our work in this class will help all tutors/teachers expand their repertoire of theoretical and pedagogical knowledge about tutoring writing in general, we will also focus on some of the specific needs of writers who use the LIU/Brooklyn Writing Center. As we familiarize ourselves with the curriculum and pedagogy of the Writing Program and interdisciplinary writing concerns (through WAC) on campus, we will locate the work we do at our Writing Center within the broader historical and institutional contexts of writing centers, in general. Throughout the semester, the course will address practical concerns about tutoring: structuring sessions and setting goals; assessing, diagnosing and responding to student writing; learning strategies to teach planning, drafting, revising, proofreading and editing; learning strategies to work on specific grammatical concerns; helping students with reading comprehension; working with ESL concerns; noticing interpersonal dynamics and maintaining boundaries; respecting and responding to cultural and ethnic differences; working as an online tutor, and facilitating small group sessions. We will also explore connections between writing center histories and institutional politics in order to understand how particular practices emerge within specific contexts. Students interested in pursuing a specific topic not included in the general readings (such as writing center administration) are encouraged to do so, with permission from the instructor. Classes will be conducted as seminars/workshops so that all students have the opportunity to participate in class presentations, mock tutorials, etc. All students are required to tutor for one hour per week during the semester and attend staff development meetings at the Writing Center. Each of you will write an observation report of a session conducted by another tutor and audio/video tape one session with a student (for use in a self-study).

No comments: