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Course Descriptions

MFA Creative Writing Courses

CRW 220. Latin American Novella: Boom and Post Boom
In this class, the main goal is to complete the first draft of a novella, following the unique Latin America’s tradition that since the middle of the 20th Century has had a lively progress with the literary movement called the Boom and Post-Boom. We will read, analyze, and enjoy a set of novellas to better understand how Latin American writers transformed this universal-literary genre according to their own realities. At the same time, we will analyze their form, structure, and style to integrate or redefine Latin American writer’s narrative techniques. In general, we will be using mechanisms of the short story and the novel: a technique that combines intensity and expansion, elements that show contrary forces, and create a specific-unique rhythm, as Judith Leibowitz says in Purpose in the Novella. You may write in English, Spanish, or both. 

CRW 222. Memoir as Feature Writing: the LatinX Experience
In this course, we will be writing a memoir as a collection of linked-personal essays/ feature writing, as we analyze the autobiographies/memoirs of LatinX authors from the last decade of the 20th Century. Through memoirs of Gloria Anzaldúa,  Sandra Cisneros, Richard Blanco, JD Pluecker, and Lilia Quintero Weaber, we will see memoirs that explore themes such as immigration, assimilation, bilingualism, race, sexual identity, nationalism, in  the United States. Together, those works will open a door to explore and write about our unique cultural, personal and/or literary experience. You may write in English, Spanish, or both. 

CRW 223. Latin American Chronicle: Beyond the Personal Essay
In this course we will study the Latin American Chronicle’s tradition, one that has included both personal and journalistic essay forms using a narrator/observer who is emotionally involved in his/her socio-historical narratives. In this sense, chroniclers are enunciators who transgress the official social representations by exposing social tensions and conflicts.  In this course, students will write six chronicles (personal and journalistic essays) based on observation of their cultural environment, and following each of the Latin American Chroniclers’ techniques and style. You may write in English, Spanish, or both. 

CRW 230. Fiction Writing 1
This course will offer intensive study in aspects of the novel such as structure, tone, time and chronology, point of view, and use of language and style.  Reading focus is Latin American novel.  We will study justly famous novels from the second half of the twentieth century, analyzing their complex structure, sense of story, and portrayal of particular realities in memorable settings. You will write five chapters, four prompted short stories, answer questions on critical readings and practice your editing skills.

CRW: 231: Poetry I
In this course, we'll work as a community of poets to experiment with methods of composition, share poems in workshop, revise with abandon, and, of course, read widely. Sharing our own words, we'll practice—through thoughtful repetition—what it means to be a poet.

CRW 233. Creative Nonfiction Writing I: Food Writing
Food writing is big business in today's literary landscape, and the number of avenues by which writers explore our personal, cultural, economic, and psychological relationships with food are endlessly growing. In this course, we'll explore the vast genre of food writing, reading a selection of creative nonfiction by writers, critics, chefs, and food bloggers. You'll develop your own creative nonfiction about food; read and workshop pieces written by your peers; practice strategies for revision; and compile a portfolio of work that you feel ready to submit to literary magazines and journals.

CRW 242. Screenwriting
An introduction to the craft and art of screenwriting and cutting-edge concepts.  Students can begin writing their feature length screenplays. They will develop skills of critical analysis by reading various screenplays from multiple genres. We will dissect genre’s role in shaping cinematic storytelling, and Four Act Structure of screenwriting. The working environment will bolster skills in collaborative work as in most professional writing rooms. 

CRW 242. Screenwriting
An overview of feature film story structure and detailed instruction on creating the "blueprint" for storytelling that we call the outline.  Students will learn standard Hollywood film story structure as well as how to construct scenes with compelling action, believable reactions and escalating conflict that builds within the scene, while also elevating the stakes of the entire story.  Students are expected to complete a short film screenplay by the end of the semester.  Writing for the Screen I and II may be taken in either sequence. 

CRW 244. Poetics
This course will ground you in conventional poetics and the Western tradition in poetry dating back to the 15th century up to the modern. We’ll look at rhyme schemes and types, meter, and verse form including such prosodic elements as enjambment, assonance, consonance, and other aspects that contribute to a well-made poem. This approach is meant to complement free-form and experimental approaches. We will focus on the sonnet, ode, ballad, sestina, villanelle and elegy as forms. Though you will write multiple poems, this is not merely a workshop. Rather, you will be assigned intensive reading in theory and poems, as well as practice in creative exercises that allow you to understand and emulate these challenging forms, in the hope that they will shape your sense of poetics and of the great and varied history of Western poetry that has endured alongside more recent developments in the genre. This course counts for the Literary Theory requirement.

CRW 246. Playwriting
In this course, you will learn the primary components of playwriting: plot, story, thought, scene and structure.  You will use scenarios and virtual reality to generate ideas, resulting in your writing six 10-minute plays, and you will write two one-act plays of 60 pages each. You will revise all of these plays at course’s end. The readings are modern, with the exception of the ever-green Hamlet, which will serve as a paragon of scene structure and motivated action. You will also sharpen your critical skills in short responses that apply Sam Smiley’s concepts on playwriting (derived from Aristotle) to the short plays we’ll be reading. The course is a complete primer in the fundamentals of playwriting and stagecraft.

CRW 248. Photography & Narrative-Mixed Genre
In this class, we will take pictures out of the drawer, out of historical archives, or out of magazines in order to “read” them as scenes and sites of memory: geographic, cultural, historical, or personal places that can enrich our writing. We will look at photography as narratives of racial/ethnic identity, gender, sexuality, representation, difference, commemoration, testimony, and much more. The course will have at least 3 online sources to look & “read” to create a writing project (personal essay, short story, poetry, flash fiction, and vignettes). We will read poetry and narrative books, and the course will have one-main Book: Phototextualities: Intersections of Photography and Narrative, Alex Hughes & Andrea Noble, eds., a collection of essays whose authors “refuse to allow photo-images to sit silently on a page.” 

CRW 248. Autofiction
Like most compelling literature, autofiction, or fictionalized autobiography, raises more questions than it answers. How does autofiction differ from autobiography or memoir? Why would a writer stake this claim about their work? In this seminar we'll read Karl Ove Knausgaard, Annie Ernaux, Geoff Dyer, and other practitioners of autofiction while examining philosophies and theories associated with this unique form; we'll also experiment with writing our own short form autofiction.

CRW: 248. Special Topics: Fairy Tales
Contemporary feminist fairy tale writer Angela Carter once wrote, "Ours is a highly individualized culture, with a great faith in the work of art as a unique one-off, and the artist as an original, a godlike and inspired creator of unique one-offs. But fairy tales are not like that, nor are their makers. Who first invented meatballs? In what country? Is there a definitive recipe for potato soup? Think in terms of the domestic arts. ‘This is how I make potato soup.’” In this course, we'll explore the long tradition of fairy tales, focusing on the forms and structures that characterize these stories. In addition to reading classics by Charles Perrault, The Grimm Brothers, and Hans Christen Andersen, we will explore modern and contemporary versions of these stories, reading authors including Kate Bernheimer, Helen Oyeyemi, Carmen Maria Machado, Angela Carter, and more. We'll also experiment with writing fairy tales and fairy tale-inspired work in a number of forms.

CRW 250. Afro LatinX / MultiMedia-Mixed Genre
In this course we will create a class webpage where we will add content: our writing assignments that will include poetry, flash fiction, photo and image narrative, ekphrastic poems and songs, non-fiction, short stories, and more genres that will be a reflection of the form, writing techniques, and themes exposed in the creative work of Afro-LatinX writers. Students will read Cuban poets Nicolás Guillén and Nancy Morejón, and multi-genre writers Quince Duncan and Elizabeth Acevedo, who wrote a novel in short stories and a novel in verse, respectively. The course will include cultural-historical documentaries and videos with dances and songs.

CRW 252. Border Writing/MultiMedia-Mixed Genre
In this course we will create a class webpage where we will add content: our writing assignments that will include poetry, flash fiction, photo and image narrative, ekphrastic poems and songs, non-fiction, short stories, and more genres as we study a variety of materials that address the Borderlands from geographic, historical, political, cultural, social, and artistic expressions and perspectives. Helen Hunt Jackson and Rudolfo Anaya open the doors to a border fiction writing tradition that has taken its own path. Yuri Herrera and Luis Humberto Urrea´s novels deal with the complexities of crossing the border between Mexico and the United States. Analicia Sotelo´s poetry depicts identity issues of a Texas woman, Ben Saenz´s piece is historical poetry set in New Mexico, and JD Pluecker´s poems are dispersed in a complex borderlands’ geography. Lastly, Stephanie Elizondo´s travel accounts reflect about border-imaginary- divisions and their transformations. The course will include some films to complement the readings and expand the learning-writing experience during class discussions. You may write in English, Spanish, or both. 

CRW 299 C. Studies in Publishing: Independent Publishing
An introduction to the process of founding an independent publishing project, including engagement with existing publishing projects founded by M.F.A. students and faculty. Students will gain knowledge of the mechanisms and institutions involved in beginning their own press. 

CRW 299D. Studies in Publishing: Book Arts
Your vision for the size and shape of a journal, cover and page layout, design of a book—all this directly affects the ways readers interact with the art object you’ve imagined. This course will engage the history of innovative publishing design, asking students to conceive of (and produce!) their ideal literary art objects. Through the use of a range of hands-on as well as digital, software and graphic design programs, students will gain experience in matching their vision of a publication or individual volume with practical application. Perfect bound, hand-stitched, letter-pressed, digital only, limited-edition—this course will introduced students to hands-on publishing in today’s publishing world, handmade to electronic. Students in this course will learn how to produce books and journals. 

CRW 299E. Studies in Publishing: Editing
This course provides students with the tools necessary to become better editors of their own writing, as well as enlarges their purview of editing in a professional setting. Expressly, this course will serve students during the writing of their theses, but it will also help them establish a greater understanding of literary communities beyond their time in the degree program. We will explore editorial processes currently in place at literary journals, presses, and publishing houses, delve into the work of reading submissions and banding together as an editorial board, and assess our work in terms of aesthetics and potential publishing niches, all in the service of improving our own writing and editing practices. The aim of the course is for students to gain greater mastery over where they take their work on the page and how those pages will be met by editors in the publishing marketplace. Readings will include work submitted to current M.F.A. publishing projects, essays on literary craft, and drafts of student work among others.

For courses in Humanities see their course offerings and descriptions.