Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

Sample Faculty Presentation Descriptions

Faculty Presentation Descriptions

Each residency, Stonecoast offers an array of classes and panels including presentations in each of our six areas of emphasis: craft (C), creative collaboration (CC), publishing (P), social action (S), teaching (T), and literary theory (LT).  Taught by Stonecoast faculy along with visiting writers, editors, and publishers (and sometimes making use of the talents of our current students and alums), these fertile offerings, along with writing workshops, a roster of stimulating graduating student presentations, social events, and evening readings, provide Stonecoast students plenty of creative nourishment in preparation for the intense six months of writing ahead. 

While students are required to attend a minimum of four faculty and two graduating student presentations, most Stonecoast students are eager to attend as many as possible.  The following is the roster of presentations for our most recent residency. 

 “Making” Poetry: Language and Technology in the Renaissance (C, LT)

 Benjamin  Bertram

 What does poetry have to do with carpentry, shipbuilding, military tactics, horsemanship, mapping, and political science? Most people today would say “absolutely nothing.” If, as it is widely assumed, all good poetry is the product of the imagination, or what Wordsworth called the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling,” then it would seem to have little to do with the mechanical arts or what the Greeks called “techne.”  In our post-industrial, high-tech world, poetry tends to be seen— in the Romantic vein—as an alternative to “practical” work in the sciences or business; it is a last stand for the human heart. But in the Renaissance this was not the case. Anyone pursuing a career as a lawyer, courtier, or statesman knew the importance of rhetoric (one of the seven liberal arts). And that was only the beginning. In “The Defence of Poesie” (1595), Sir Philip Sidney reminded his readers that the word “poet” derives from the Greek “poiein” or “maker.” For Sidney and other humanists, poesie was not only tied to virtuous political action, it was also tied to the mechanical arts, or what we call “technology.”


In this seminar we will explore the role of the poet in the Renaissance and specifically the role of the poet as a kind of craftsperson, someone who could learn from and teach those involved in architecture, building, and instrument making. What did poetic terms like “imagination,” “device,” “plot,” or “invention” have to do with the military arts, architecture, map-making, and ethics? We will discuss poetry’s connection to the spatial or mechanical arts as well as its connection to natural philosophy, including Neoplatonism and other proto-scientific forms of thought. After discussing poetry and technology in the Renaissance, we will look at new ways of thinking  about the connection between poetry and technology that are emerging in our own day.

 Required Reading:

Sir Philip Sidney, “The Defence of Poesie”

 Suggested Reading:

Additional readings will be posted on Blackboard.

Poetry and Number (C)

Marie Borroff

 Number is part of all human experience, beginning with the sound of the mother's heartbeat heard by the child in the womb. Number and rhythm are inseparable.  The evolution of every human culture has included the invention of names for numbers and the attribution of meanings to them. Numerical designs in every culture have been imposed on words to make poetic languages involving some kind of rhythmic, hence numerical, repetition. Many poets have superimposed large-scale numerical designs on the basic rhythms of poetic language.

 I will talk about two such poets who wrote six hundred years apart: the anonymous poet who wrote a long, elaborately designed poem known as Pearl at the end of the fourteenth century, and the twentieth-century poet Sylvia Plath.  Plath's attitude toward number was ambivalent, but she imposed numerical designs on many of her poems.  At the end of her life, numerical design in at least one of them can be interpreted as a signal to her readers from beyond the grave.

 Required Reading: (all posted on Stonecoast's Blackboard site):

Pearl, a medieval dream vision by an anonymous poet, translated by Marie Borroff

Selected poems by Sylvia Plath: "Two Sisters of Persephone," "Words for a

Nursery," "Metaphors," "The Disquieting Muses," "Ariel"

 Suggested Reading

Alastair Fowler, Silent Poetry: Essays in Numerological Analysis

Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems, ed. Ted Hughes

Sylvia Plath, Ariel: The Restored Edition, with Foreword by Frieda Hughes

 The Indecent Proposal: How to Sell a Book in Fifty Pages (P)
Jaed Coffin

In this presentation, we’ll tackle one of the most elegant yet most cunning tricks of the publishing trade: the book proposal. The goal of this presentation will be twofold: first, we’ll discuss the role of a book proposal in the literary marketplace—from what a book proposal is, to how writers use it to land an agent, to how agents use it to sell a book.  During this time, we’ll look at several proposal models, and discuss the relationship between the structure and style of proposals and the kind of books they represent. Second, we’ll discuss the role of a book proposal in the creative process—from how the proposal can be abusive to a good manuscript, to how the proposal can be the essential tool in expressing to an author what his or her book is “really about”.  We’ll discuss major themes of successful proposals, such as conflict, spine, The Big Idea, and The Big Idea 2.0, and the X, the Y, and Zoomed Out Z. I’ll also tell the self-important tale of how I sold two books on VERY different proposals, and what, in the long view, this has taught me about my own creative process.

Writers should come to this presentation ready to work, and ready to emotionally detach themselves from their precious manuscript pages for long enough to see the commercial light of day.

Required Reading:
Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (first 100pgs)

Suggested Reading:
J. R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar
Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief

 Soul Talk, Song Language (C)

Joy Harjo

 The dreamer historian Robert Moss has said the writing is dreaming on paper. I believe that writing poetry is singing the dreaming language of the soul, on paper. Eventually poetry lifts from the page, if it truly becomes poetry. Learning craft, knowing your poetry ancestors, and having a sense of the social and political landscape of your culture(s) and the world culture, etc is crucial to the process of making poetry. That is, you need knowledge of aerodynamics to provide the lift. The poem will not fly without sound structure.

 Craft and theory are important but, what of the mystery that motivates us to write poetry? What of the unspeakable in poetry? It is the unspeakable that returns us again and again to poetry.

 Mircea Eliade in his classic, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, linked shamanism to the creation of poetry:”…Poetry remakes and prolongs language; every poetic language begins by being a secret language, that is, the creation of a personal universe, of a completely closed world.”

 How do you develop your secret language of sound? How do you feed the soul?

 Required Reading:

A packet anthology of readings, including Mahmoud Darwish, Robert Moss, Hildegard of Bingen, Sor Juana de la Cruz, Charles Bukowski, Garcia Lorca, Lucille Clifton, Ted Hughes, Luis Borges, Sherwin Bitsui, Leslie Silko, Hazmet, Rumi, Rilke, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Evers and Molina, Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, and Root. Please email to request the packet.

Going Home to the Impossible: the Strange, Explosive Power of Pedro Páramo (C)
Carolina De Robertis

Juan Rulfo’s slim novel Pedro Páramo is arguably one of the most influential texts of the twentieth century. Published in the author’s native Mexico in 1955, it received immediate acclaim and went on to intensely inspire the writers who would become known, in the 1960s, as the Latin American Boom Generation. The story opens with a young man promising his dying mother that he’ll go back to the town of Comala to find his father. The town is a surreal landscape of whispers, dead denizens, haunted memories, girls who drink blood. Nothing is solid in Comala; reality shifts and murmurs; death and life, the real and the impossible, merge and dissolve like fevered dreams.

For Gabriel García Marquez, Pedro Páramo was one of the two most influential texts of his earlier years (the other was Kafka’s Metamorphosis), to the point where he committed the entire thing to memory so it could fully suffuse him. Writers throughout the world who are indebted to Latin American “magical realism”—among them Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, José Saramago, and many more—are also indebted to Pedro Páramo, whether or not they have read it. It is one of those foundational books without which literature simply would not be what it is today.

What is it about this little book? How does it go about shaking readers open? We’ll explore the text and the many resonant questions it raises, with an eye toward what this text might open or inspire in our own work.

Required Reading:
Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo


Creative Collaboration Workshop: “Hand-made Words: An Intro to Book Arts for Writers” (CC)
Jeanne Marie Beaumont and Linda Buckmaster

Handmade folded-and-stitched books, accordion books, altered books, visual poetry, broadsides, even matchbox charms are among the array of centuries-old and new options available to writers for presenting their work. Producing multi-dimensional texts by hand can give the writer control over the presentation of pieces, allow for exciting collaboration, and spark imagination. Using media and surfaces beyond computer and paper can expand how we approach the printed word.

In the first part of this workshop, panelists will talk about their experiences with the book arts and will show some of their work and the work of other artists. In the second half, participants will have the opportunity to try their hand at making a small book or “altering” an existing book. If you can, please bring a discarded hard-cover book and/or 8 sheets of paper.

Suggested Viewing: (“The Bonefolder”) (Exhibitions/gallery highlights) (“Winter Ink: 2008 Winter Book”)\


Pedagogy for Prison: What I Have Learned Teaching Poetry Behind the Walls (S,T)
Cara Benson (Guest)

What began as a three month teaching practicum for my MFA degree has blossomed into a grant funded and now accredited college course for inmates. My students are frequently published on the “outside,” and the evolving conversation has been instrumental in my own development as a writer and a person. We know what William Carlos Williams says of poetry to be true: “men die every day from a lack of what is found there.” This presentation will combine theory, anecdote, writing, and lively discussion to offer participants the opportunity to explore the teaching of writing as a liberatory and creative practice. We will also examine the ways in which writing instructors need to be conscious of their roles in offering academic vocabularies to already marginalized voices; in other words, how to teach the "rules" in order to transcend them. Specific tips and exercises for incorporating the student into her learning and evaluation processes will be discussed. 

Required Readings:
Gloria Anzaldúa, “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter To 3rd World Women Writers” in Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing
Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”

Suggested Readings:
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom


Flash Lightning: What’s Going On in Ireland? (C)
Ted Deppe, Gail Hovey (student), F. C. Mc Grath (guest), Suzanne Strempek-Shea

In January 2011, Stonecoast in Ireland (SCI) will hold a residency for ten students in Howth, County Dublin, and once again the full-length presentations given by Stonecoast faculty and visiting Irish writers will be buttressed by stimulating, fifteen-minute “Flash Seminars” given by Stonecoast students. These voluntary presentations make use of the considerable skills of our students and have proved immensely popular and worthwhile.  Each flash seminar boils down an hour’s worth of lecture into fifteen minutes and focuses on what we can learn about writing from leading Irish authors.

In celebration of this being the tenth Irish residency, we’re bringing a sampler of great contemporary Irish writing to Maine. Stonecoast faculty member Suzanne Strempek Shea will hold forth on fiction and memoir writer John McGahern; SCI Coordinator Ted Deppe will introduce the writing of poet Sinéad Morrissey; Stonecoast student Gail Hovey will reprise her talk on memoir and fiction writer Nuala O’Faolain; and USM English Professor F.C. McGrath will give a presentation on novelist Patrick McCabe.

This presentation is open for writers in any genre. 

Required Readings (choose at least two of the following):
John McGahern, “Korea” (from Collected Stories)
Sinéad Morrissey, The State of the Prisons
Nuala O’Faolain, Are You Somebody
Patrick McCabe, Breakfast on Pluto 

Suggested Reading:
John McGahern, That They May Face the Rising Sun and All Will Be Well
Paul Durcan, Christmas Day (audio tape, a perfect holiday extra)
Nuala O’Faolain, Almost There
Nell McCafferty, Nell
Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy


Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Politics of Empire  ( C, LT)
Charles Martin

Classics are books that reveal new aspects of themselves with every reading. In the 19th century, Ovid’s Metamorphoses was thought of as just a collection of fanciful myths and tales about the relations between gods and mortals in the Greco-Roman world. In the last half of the 20th century, some readers began to see it as something more: Ovid’s subtle critique of the masculinism, militarism and totalitarian nature of Roman society under the emperor Augustus. We will read selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in translation, and examine and discuss the ways in which plots, themes, and even the idea of metamorphosis itself may cast a subversive light on the politics of empire.

Required Reading: 
This would be a great opportunity for you to read all of Ovid’s masterpiece, but if you don’t have the time, the sections below are the ones most relevant to our presentation. Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Book I; Book II: Phaethon; Jove, Callisto and Arcas; The House of Envy; Jove and Europa. Book III; Book IV; Book V; Perseus and the Suitors; Minerva visits the Muses; the Daughters of Pierus; the P-Airides; Book VI; Book VII; the Medea tales; Book VIII; Meleager and Althaea, Baucis and Philemon; Erysichthon and his daughter. Book IX: Iole’s tale of Dryope; Byblis and Caunis; Iphos and Isis. Book X: from the tale of Pygmalion to Venus and Adonis (2). Book XI: The house of Sleep.  Book XII: The house of Rumor; Caeneus; The Lapiths and the centaurs; the death of Achilles. Book XIII. Book XIV: Aeneas wanders, The Sibyl. Book XV The teachings of Pythagoras; Cipus; The apotheosis of Julius Caesar; the poet of the future.


The Literature of Emotion: Romance, Horror, Thrillers, and beyond (C)
Nancy Holder, Alicia Rasley and Scott Wolven 

“What a writer of fiction provides is verbal guidance that will start up the theaters of our brains, stimulating them to construct certain coherent experience."  
--Keith Oatley and Mitra Gholamain, “Emotions and Identification”

As readers read words, sentences, paragraphs, and full texts, they work to create images that give the narrative meaning.  It can be argued that when they combine those images with felt emotions, the texts spring to life.  Three authors will discuss the highly emotional nature of three popular fiction genres--romance, horror, and thrillers--and how they as writers construct work that purposely elicits emotion in the reader.  From those specifics, we will open the panel to a more general discussion on why readers respond emotionally to different kinds of writing, from moving memoir to sublime poem; and how as writers we can deliberately evoke such responses--and what the moral and aesthetic implications are of consciously doing so.  What are the ethics of seeking to manipulate a reader’s emotional response for the collectively-agreed-upon good, as with Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or the less clear-cut artistic aims of the “torture porn” aspect of the horror subgenre known as splatterpunk?

Nancy Holder, discussing horror and other forms of speculative writing; Alicia Rasley, discussing romance, romantic suspense, and other forms of romantic tension; and Scott Wolven, discussing thrillers, noir, hard-boiled crime, and attendant interstitial fiction/nonfiction.  

Required Reading: 
Jennifer Robinson, Deeeper thann Reason:  Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art.  Part One and Part Two only. Alan Seeger, “Rendezvous With Death” 
William Carlos Williams, “The Use of Force” 
Stephen King, “1408” (portions in On Writing)
Scene from Romeo and Juliet, uploaded onto Blackboard


Small Press/Big Ideas:  The Art of Fugitive Publishing (P)
Richard Deming (Guest)

In this presentation, we will take a brief look at the artistic and social role of the small press in literary culture.  The recent history of small presses will be sketched out, particularly in regards to the roles these play in developing community, determining a poetics, and defining one's literary genealogy. We will discuss the the role that design of chapbooks and small magazines and ideas of distribution are not acts of self-promotion, but have aesthetic and even political implications.  Phylum Press will be the specific example of the class but it will be contextualized in light of important forerunners such as The Black Mountain Review, Jargon Press, Burning Deck, and Angel Hair Press.

Required Reading:
Robert Creeley “On The Black Mountain Review”
Lewis Warsh and Anne Waldman, Angel Hair Anthology, “Introduction”
Jerome Rothenberg, Steven Clay, and Rodney Phillips, “Pre-Face” and “A Little History of the Mimeograph Revolution”

Suggested Reading:
Cid Corman, “Origin”
Leroi Jones, “Yugen”


On Andy Goldsworthy’s River & Tides, Beauty, and Paradox (CC, LT)
Barbara Hurd

What do we mean when we say a work is beautiful? Is beauty even something to aim for in our writing? Can we? Should we? And if so, how? This class will begin with a showing of a brief excerpt from Andy Goldsworthy ’s documentary Rivers & Tides. We’ll use his work with outdoor sculpture and some poems to talk about the impulse toward beauty and paradox in our writing and the place of subtlety, imperfection, even melancholy.

Required Readings:

Mary Oliver, “Gravel” (from The Leaf and The Cloud)
Louise Gluck, “October” (from Averno)
Louise Gluck, “Field Flowers” and “The Wild Iris” (from The Wild Iris)

*If you can’t easily find copies of these poems, let me know and I’ll email them to you.


Genre is not a Four-Letter Word (C)
Nancy Holder, James Patrick Kelly, Kelly Link and Julia Spencer-Fleming   

Stonecoast is one of the few writing programs in the country that awards an MFA in popular fiction.  For the most part, we have defined popular fiction in terms of genre.  But where does genre come from?   Writers?   Readers?  Editors?   Some maintain writing to genre is an aesthetic decision; others claim genre is a creature of the marketing department.  Meanwhile we are entering a golden age of genre blending.  There are calls to tear down the walls that separate genre writing from literary writing.  But did those walls ever exist?   Was Kurt Vonnegut a genre writer?   Can we now make the case for Raymond Chandler as a literary writer?   Four writers closely associated with genre discuss why they write what they write and talk about the benefits and drawbacks of being labeled with the "G" word.   

Suggested Readings:

Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely
Kurt Vonnegut Cat'sCradle
Daniel Chandler An Introduction to Genre Theory


The Fragmentary Imagination:  New, Ancient, and Experimental Forms of Nonfiction (C)
Debra Marquart

The sub-genres of nonfiction writing are complex and myriad.  The variations—old and new—are dizzying, making it difficult for a nonfiction writer to find his or her own voice, form, and approach to getting nonfictional material onto the page.

In this presentation, we’ll first contextualize the genre by looking briefly at the spectrum of sub-forms that fall under the heading of nonfiction writing (such as autobiography, memoir, personal essays, philosophical essays, research nonfiction, reportage, immersion journalism), then we’ll spend the class time discussing more experimental forms and variations (such as fragmentary writing, lyric writing, associative essays, storytelling, revisionist fairy tales, and faux-memoirs). 

We’ll discuss short pieces from contemporary books, as well as short selections from John D’Agata’s two anthologies, The Next American Essays (which focuses on experimental forms of nonfiction) and The Lost Origins of the Essay (which focuses on unique forms of nonfiction writing across time, dating back to 1500 B.C.E.)  We’ll also look at some examples of performative nonfiction texts in the work of the performance artists Karen Finley and Coco Fusco. 

Required Readings:*
Biss, Eula, Notes From No Man’s Land:  American Essays (“Time and Distance Overcome,” pp. 3-13)
John D’Agata, Ed., The Lost Origins of the Essay

  • Kamau Brathwaite, “Trench Town Rock,” pp. 601-646;
  • Theophrastus of Eressos, “These Are Them,” pp. 23-26;
  • Mestrius Plutarch, “Some Information about the Spartans,” pp. 29-31;
  • Bernardino de Sahagun, “Definitions of Earthly Things,” pp. 107-112.

John D’Agata, Ed., The Next American Essay,

  • Sherman Alexie, “Captivity,” pp. 295-299;
  • David Shields, “Life Stories,” pp. 339-341;
  • Jenny Boully, “The Body,” pp. 435-466;
  • Joe Wenderoth, “Things to Do Today,” pp. 467-472.

Michael Martone, Blue Guide to Indiana (selection TBA).
Debra Marquart, The Horizontal World:  Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere, (“Sustainable Agriculture:  The Farmer’s Daughter Revisited,” pp. 253-264)
Ander Monson, Vanishing Point:  Not a Memoir (“Solipsism,” pp. 91-104).
Lia Purpura, On Looking: Essays (“Autopsy Report”)

* For a pdf of required readings, please send an e-mail request to


Writing Rituals: How to Tame the Dragons and Face the Blank Screen with Courage (CC)
Cait Johnson

Balzac swore by 30 cups of coffee a day. Colette insisted on her blue-paper-shaded lamp. Wordsworth needed long walks in nature. Some writers work best in the early morning, others in the afternoon. May Sarton liked 18th century music, but Katherine Anne Porter craved silence. Some of us require order, others need mess. In this presentation, we’ll expand our repertoire of possibilities with dozens of effective, supportive techniques from the great writers that will help us change our workspace or our habits to befriend the dragons of self-judgment and procrastination, reduce anxiety, and empower ourselves to write with more ease and fluency. Take a quiz to learn more about your own individual process, then find out how to work with and embody it more fully.

Required Reading:
Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear

Suggested Reading:
Alice Weaver Flaherty, The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain


Screenwriting: The Nuts & Bolts (C)
Kate Kaminski, Michael Kimball, Elizabeth Searle, Scott Wolven

A hands-on guide to the basics. If you’ve been thinking about writing that great 21st-century movie (or play), don’t let inexperience or inexplicable software stop you! WE want to get you started with a little fundamental theory and a few formatting tips, using the most popular scriptwriting software. We’ll answer all of your questions—at least we’ll try. Then, in an interactive exercise, we'll pull together a script based on a familiar tale.  A quick and painless way to nail the basics.

Please bring laptops loaded with Celtx (freeware), Final Draft, or Movie Magic Screenwriter.

Required Reading:
Blake Snyder, Save the Cat

And please read ONE from the following list:
Screenplay: The Silence of the Lambs – Download here:
Screenplay: The Sixth Sense– Download here:
Screenplay: Raging Bull – Download here:
Screenplay: The Dark Knight – Download here:
Screenplay: Shakespeare in Love – Download here:
Screenplay: The Queen – Download here:


The Reflective Voice in Memoir (& Fiction) (C, TH)
David Mura

In most memoirs the writer recounts the experiences of a younger self.  In certain memoirs there is also the strong presence and voice of the narrator in the present; this narrator in the present reflects upon the experiences of younger self in ways the younger self could not have expressed.  Some refer to this narrator in the present as the reflective voice. 

This presentation will explore the various ways memoirists have used the reflective voice.  The reflective voice can be the voice of maturity and experience which then interprets the past and past self to the reader.  At times the reflective voice will use a particular lens or language to view the experiences of the younger self (therapy, class, gender, race, sexual preference, etc.).   

Another way of understanding the reflective voice is through first person narrative in fiction, particularly autobiographical fiction, where there is the strong presence of a narrator viewing and interpreting the experiences of a younger self.  In both memoir and first person fiction the reflective voice pronounces judgments upon the younger self and the events of the past.  It is through the depth and accuracy of these judgments that the narrator provides not just insight but establishes the reliability of her narration.   All of this leads to some theoretical discussions about the boundaries between memoir and fiction.

Required Reading:
Marguerite Duras, The Lover
Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments
Pdf. with readings from Maxine Hong Kingston, V.S. Naipaul, Garrett Hongo, Mary Karr, James Baldwin

Suggested Reading:
Frantz Kafka, Letter to his Father  


The Young-Adult Novel in Verse: A Contemporary Publishing Phenomenon (C, P)
Marilyn Nelson

This presentation will present an overview of the recent publishing phenomenon of young adult novels in verse, or as some of their authors prefer, in "verse format." These novels, most of them written by women and intended for an audience of young women, are wildly popular. One or two of them have been on the New York Times Best Sellers List. Looking at some of these novels we will try to determine what makes them so popular with their audience. What makes one of them more successful than others?  Why are they succeeding now when they wouldn't have succeeded in the past?  What are the parameters of the young-adult novel? What is "verse format"?

Required Reading: Three of the following:
Helen Frost, Keesha’s House
Juan Felipe Herrara, CrashBoomLove
Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust
Ellen Hopkins, Crank
Walter Dean Myers, Street Love
Sonya Sones, Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy
Jacqueline Woodson, Locomotion

Suggested Reading:
Regina Brooks, Writing Great Books for Young Adults
Susan Taylor Brown, Hugging the Rock
Ann E. Burg, All the Broken Pieces
Helen Frost, Crossing Stones
Helen Frost: The Braid
Nikki Grimes, A Girl Named Mister
Ellen Hopkins, Burned
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, Reaching for Sun


Words Held Tight in a Raised Fist—The Evolution of African-American Protest Poetry (C, S, LT)
Patricia Smith

Given the social and political status of African-Americans throughout their history, it can be said that all black poetry is protest poetry. Protest literature is intended to shine a widening light on inequalities among races and socio-economic groups, and to urge a shift in the society that allows such inequalities. For African-Americans the questions sparking protest began with slavery. This presentation will take a look at protest poetry during that time, during the time of Jim Crow and segregation, and after the dawning of a supposed “post-racial” America.

Required Reading:
A packet to be emailed before the residency to those who request, with a limited number available at the residency. Packet will include the work of poets such as Amiri Baraka, Yusef Komunyakaa, Phillis Wheatley, Gwen Brooks, Langston Hughes, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, Sterling A. Brown, Margaret Walker, Robert Hayden, Sonia Sanchez, Wanda Coleman, Haki Madhubuti and others.


The Contemplation of History: Marxist Criticism for Writers (LT)
David Mura

Using the work of Marxist critic Fredric Jameson this class will examine issues concerning the presentation of history (or the history of presentation). Starting with Jameson's work on postmodernism and his essay “Beyond the Cave: Demystifying the Ideology of Modernism,” I will first examine Jameson's take on the shifts between realism, modernism and postmodernism and how they illuminate the writerly issues of quality and aesthetic choice.  In what ways does the mode of modernism tend to bestow a canonical status that is perhaps not available or even desired by a postmodern work?  (This has implications for genre writers.)  How does the modernist text assume an imaginary realist text, and can a writer from a marginalized community assume the existence of such a text?  I will also examine how modes of representation-realism, modernism and postmodernism-might help illuminate the broader issues of colonialism/post-colonialism and race.  What would constitute a realist as opposed to a post-modern reading of race?  Is the shift from the colonial to the post-colonial in any way analogous to the shift into postmodernism?   Finally, what does each mode assume about the depiction of history and how can Marxist criticism help a writer in understanding the nature of a given historical moment?

Required Reading:
Fredric Jameson, The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986: Volume 2: Syntax of History, (especially the essays “Beyond the Cave: Demystifying the Ideology of Modernism” and “Periodizing the 60’s”).
Roland Barthes, “From Work to Text” in Image, Music, Text, or in the anthology Art
After modernism; Rethinking Representation, ed. Brian Wallis

Suggested Reading: 
Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, (first chapter, “Culutre,” esp.)
Ihab Hassan, The Postmodern Turn

Background Reading (will be referred to in presentation):
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness
Michelle Cliff, The Land of Look Behind
Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous History of Oscar Wao
Toni Morrison, Jazz
Philip Roth, American Pastoral


Mappa Mundi: From Folk Tale to Fiction (C)
Gioia Timpanelli

In this presentation I’ll tell four folk tales and we'll discuss their relation to fiction.  

Folk tales have an especially sneaky logic found in poetry, metaphor, and dreams. Knowing intimately all the land and plants and creatures with whom they live, stories tell carefully and respectfully the people’s place on earth. The tales’ natural inner/outer narratives reflect what changes and what is perennial in their world. Everything is alive in the stories, and so not given to large statements on meaning. What seems both outside and inside are experienced in the same place; what seems small and hidden is an entire world.
How is this view helpful to a fiction writer? The stories aim at balance. No word is wasted, yet this sparseness allows the richest of images, complex and subtle.      I think of telling stories as primitive (first) theater where story/ teller/ listener are one in the soulful art. Knowing the value of these intensely wise stories changes our sense of learning, changes us – not in order to write communal folk tales but to reflect on their wisdom and shake ourselves free to be inspired.
Required Reading:
Select a collection (e.g. African, French, Irish, Russian, Grimm’s), read a number of stories from
The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library
Gioia Timpanelli, Sometimes the Soul, two Novellas of Sicily, “Rusina Not Quite in Love” (Beauty and the Beast story as fiction)

In what way can this quote from Gertrude Stein (What Are Master-Pieces) be relevant to our discussion of folk tale and fiction?
Think about how you create if you do create you do not remember yourself as you do create.


Writing Through the Wounds: Teaching Creative Writing in the Trenches (T, S)
Carolina De Robertis

You’ve thought about teaching workshops in your community. You’re passionate about making a positive impact on the world, not only through your words, but as a teacher of creative writing. You know that art has the power to transcend barriers, transform pain, and give expression to what is silenced, and you want to bring these tools to populations that all too often lack them: incarcerated folks, at-risk youth, a support group for rape survivors, or war veterans, to name a few possibilities. In this class, we’ll explore tools for creating a safe, supportive space in which participants can delve into charged, painful, or even traumatic territories and emerge with something tangible and potent: their own written work.
Required Reading:
Frank Barron, Alfonso Montuori, and Anthea Barron(edited), Creators on Creating,


Write to Eat (S, C)
Barbara Kelly, Helen Peppe (moderator), Michael Steinberg, Suzanne Strempek -Shea

Food writers try to be compelling, sometimes entertaining, always informative, yet they often arouse anger and guilt in the reader and, in some cases, they even offend.  How does a writer address those food issues that affect environment, health, and ethics without making a reader defensive? Or is it a writer’s responsibility to incite readers to react emotionally and, in the case of food and the environment, to question their food choices and related behaviors? Appetite, including cravings, is one of the most basic animal drives, connecting us to our planet and the animals and plants that inhabit it in a way that nothing else does. And it is one of the most difficult to control. Fraught with challenges, socially, politically, and, even hormonally, if the “you are what you eat” cliché is true, then many food writers seem to want readers to become different people.

In this presentation, panelists will discuss the opportunities food and related issues present for writers and strategies on how to write about food successfully in an era where the topic has overwhelmed many readers to a level of unresponsiveness.

Required Reading:
Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, Skinny Bitch or Skinny Bastard
Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manuel
Frances Moore Lappe, Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet
Excerpts from: Moby, Gristle
Excerpts from: Jane Goodall, Harvest for Hope, A Guide to Mindful Eating


Managing Your Career in the Digital Age (P)
James Patrick Kelly
Publishing is on the cusp of sweeping change and writers who aspire to be read in the teens and twenties need to understand what is coming and build strategies to make their place in the brave new world of digital publishing.   This presentation is for writers who have been wondering if they really need a website and what should go on it, who have been told by their editors that it’s time for them to start a blog or who are curious about the wonderful world of podcasting.  Are online magazines going to kill print magazines?  Will the Kindle and its cousins replace dead tree books?  What is Creative Commons and how do you know if you need it?  If you don’t know an ebook from an ipod, maybe it’s time to start learning.

Required Reading:
Jeff VanderMeer, Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer

Suggested Reading:
Chris Anderson, Free: The Future of a Radical Price
Cory Doctorow, Content


Translations, Transformations and Transmutations (C, LT)
Tony Barnstone

In this session, we will be exploring a wide range of translations, transformations and transmutations that to a greater or lesser extent free themselves from constructing themselves as mirrors to an authentic, “authorized” original.  In brief, the session will be both a theoretical exploration of questions of literary authority and authorship and a practical set of writing exercises that use literary translation as a “pretext” for original creative writing.  The models here go back to Robert Lowell, with his loose versions that he called “imitations,” William Butler Yeats’ famous adaptation of a Ronsard poem, Kenneth Rexroth’s original poems in the mode of Japanese tanka and the voice of a Japanese woman, and Alan Michael Parker’s anthology of poetry “translated” from the work of imaginary poets (poets whose biography, style, and work were invented by the translator). 

Required Readings:
Jorge Luis Borges, “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quijote”
Robert Lowell, preface to Imitations
Alan Michael Parker, “Introduction” to The Imaginary Poets

Handout to print out for the session (including):
Pierre de Ronsard, “Quand vous serez bien vieille”
William Butler Yeats, “When You Are Old”
Tomaz Salaman and John Bradley poems
Kenneth Rexroth, From The Love Poems of Marichiko
Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”
Tony Barnstone, “The Dead God Codex”

Suggested Readings:
Jorge Luis Borges, “Kafka and His Precursors”

Susan Bassnett, “When Is a Translation Not a Translation?” (Chapter 2 of Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation, by Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere), available online at Google Books.

Patrick Herron, “Ruthven’s Faking Literature, Forging Literature and Faking Forged Literature” at