Professor Diana Joseph Office Hours: M&W 10-12; TH 10-11
English 640 E-Hours: T&F 9-12
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Office: Armstrong 201L
dianajosephsyllabi.blogspot.com Phone: 389-5144
Form and Technique in Prose
This course examines the technical underpinnings of fiction and nonfiction genres. Through lectures, readings, class discussions, imitation exercises, and workshops, we will study the relationship between form and content. Specifically, we’ll pay attention to issues of craft including point of view, characterization, setting/place, tone, style, imagery, structure, plot and theme.
Almond, Steve, Candy Freak.
Anderson, Laurie Halse, Speak.
Davis, Amanda, Wonder When You’ll Miss Me
Haddon, Mark, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
Kundera, Milan, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.
Martone, Michael, ed., The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction.
Satrapi, Marjane, Persepolis.
Sedaris, David, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.
1. Craft Analysis=25%
Over the semester, you’ll write six craft analyses; which six texts you write about is up to you.
This assignment requires close analysis of how a text is crafted, but the technique studied is up to you. You might want to examine the release of information in a story’s opening paragraph; how a character is created through action or dialogue; how to write a long passage of indirect dialogue; why a writer might opt to write unquoted dialogue; how to establish setting through sound; or through weather; or through geology. You might want to examine how a writer locates a story in time by using a clock; or a calendar; or the seasons; or how a writer manages quick shifts in time; or uses white space. Point of view, establishing psychic distance, creating a voice, moving into or out of a dramatic moment: each requires the writer understand his or her craft.
For each book or story we read, 1.) Decide what technique you want to examine more closely. 2.) Type a specific passage from the text that shows that specific technique in motion. This passage can be as short as a single paragraph or as long as several paragraphs. 3.) Write a short (no longer than ONE single-spaced page) analysis of what the writer achieved and how he/she achieved it.
Bring 2 copies of your passage/analysis to class (one for me, and one to put on the document camera) for an informal presentation.
Over the semester, you’ll write 6 imitations; which six texts you imitate is up to you.
1.) Type a short passage from the text—be sure to choose a passage that intrigues you, that you think you can learn something from; 2.) write a close imitation of that passage, paying close attention to the author’s voice, tone, style, level of diction, sentence length and sentence structure, but inserting your own content. Bring 2 copies to class (one for me, and one to put on the document camera) for an informal mini-workshop.
NOTE: There are 13 class days; you have 12 assignments. You will turn in either an analysis OR an imitation (not both—which assignment you do on a particular day is up to you) every class day but one. You chose your “free” day.
Participation in not merely showing up for class—that’s called attendance. I define participation as your active engagement with the class demonstrated through thoughtful contributions to class discussion, evidence of preparedness, and helpful feedback during workshops.
4. Form project=25%
What are all the forms a piece of writing can take? There are books and magazines, of course, and broadsides and chapbooks, but there are also take-out menus and checkbook ledgers, classified ads and vanity license plates. Your assignment is to experiment with form, by creating a text whose form reinforces its content in artistic and interesting ways. My only limitation is the text itself must be something I can hold in my hand. Make a copy for each member of our class.
Do the work; volunteer for presentations. Missing more than one class results in dropping a full letter grade. Show up on time. If you’re not here, you can’t participate. No handwritten work will be accepted. All coursework must be completed to pass this class. Late work will not be accepted. Assignments are tentative and subject to change.
Schedule of Events
August 30 Banks, p. 53
September 6 Wonder When You’ll Miss Me
September 13 Speak
September 20 Sontag, p. 569 and Thon, p. 595
September 27 Dress Your Family
October 4 Cunningham, p. 229 and Ford, p. 288
October 11 Candy Freak
October 18 Proulx, p. 521
October 25 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
November 1 Braverman, p. 167 and Hansen, p. 338
November 8 The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
November 15 Baxter, p. 131 and Walker, p. 624
November 22—THANKSGIVING BREAK
November 29 Persepolis
December 6 Diaz, p. 244 and Dybek, p. 256