Sunday, August 30, 2009

I think I'm coming down with something: click here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Good Books Don't Have to be Hard": click here.
"I Lift My Lamp Beside the Golden Door": click here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Charles Baxter on stillness: click here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vonnegut on style: click here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How was Meg Cabot in Mankato and I didn't know until reading about it in Publisher's Weekly? Click here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Steve Almond!: click here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

English 449/559 Writing the Humorous Essay

Professor Diana Joseph Office Hours: M&W 2-4
English 449/549 E-Hours: T&F 9-12
Email: Office: Armstrong 201L Phone: 389-5144

Writing the Humorous Essay

1. Humor question: What is humor?
(An answer to this question often entails answers to questions regarding the object and the response. This is the central question of any humor theory.)

2. Object Feature Questions:
a. Are there any features frequently found in what is found funny?
b. Are there any features necessary for something to have in order to be found funny?
c. Are there any features that by themselves or considered jointly are sufficient for something to be found funny? (Answering this question affirmatively would amount to discovering the holy grail of humor theory.
—from "Humor" at The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”
—E.B. White

This course involves the study of techniques used by humorists such as satire, irony, sarcasm, exaggeration and understatement. Through readings and analysis, we will explore the uses of humor, its purposes and effects, its pay-offs and pitfalls. Discussions will include questions concerning ethos, tone, voice, language, audience, pacing, set-ups, summary/scene, developing anecdotes, and answering the “so what.” We will write imitations, respond to prompts, collect material that will turn into full-length essays, workshop pieces in large and small groups, and offer specific and detailed feedback on peers’ writing. By the end of the semester, graduate students will have written 5 full-length essays; undergraduate will have written 3 full-length essays.

Texts and Materials
No text
Money for copying, approximately $30

Participation is 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. Because this class relies so heavily on participation, you can’t sit silently and expect to do well (that’s called intellectual freeloading.) But I also don’t want one voice to dominate class discussions. Expect to listen as much as you talk. I don’t want to give reading quizzes but I will if it seems like people aren’t reading. Finally, each of you will offer an assessment of your peers’ workshop responses; I will take this into consideration when determining participation grades.

Prompt Journal=25%
For each piece we read, I’ll give you a prompt. Prompts must be typed and double-spaced and keep in a folder that you’ll turn in for a grade. I’ll assess your prompt journal according to the strength of the work; evidence of your effort; and originality. You will have at least 3 opportunities to workshop one of these prompts.

Essays/Reflective Narrative=50%
I don’t grade creative work; I do grade your ability to explain what you’ve come to understand about craft. On Finals Day, undergraduates will turn in 3 full-length essays; graduate students will turn in 5 full-length essays. All students will turn in a reflective narrative, a formal essay that discusses and describes in depth and detail the use of craft in their creative work.

Course Policies
*Each absence over 2 will lower your final grade by 10%. I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absence.

*Participation is 25% of your final grade; if you’re not here, you can’t participate. If you fail to turn in workshop material on the day it’s due, you lose your workshop spot—and participation credit. If you don’t come to class on the day of your workshop, it won’t be rescheduled—andyou lose participation credit. Frequent tardiness will affect your participation grade.

*All coursework must be completed to pass this class.

*Writing done for this class is considered public text.

*Assignments are tentative and subject to change.

*Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated; it may result in failure of the class.

*I’m available for help outside class during my office hours or by appointment.

Due Dates
“The Humorology of Power”

Monday, August 24
"Green Porno"

George Carlin

Flight of the Conchord

David Sedaris

Tucker Max

Wednesday, August 26

“Conversations My Parents Must Have Had While Planning to Raise a Child”

“Comments Written by Actual Students Extracted From Workshopped Manuscripts at a Major University”

“Things I Have Written in Cover Letters”

“Conversations I Imagine My Ten-Year-Old and Seven-Year-Old Have About Me When They See Each Other in the Hallway at School”

Internet Age Writing Syllabus and Course Overview

Monday, August 31 “Mick Jagger Wants Me” by Susan Jane Gilman
“Shame on Me” by Steve Almond

Wednesday, September 2 “Chicken in the Henhouse” by David Sedaris
“Rooster at the Hitchin’ Post” by David Sedaris

Monday, September 7 NO CLASS/LABOR DAY

Wednesday, September 9 Workshop
Monday, September 14 Workshop
Wednesday, September 16 TBA
Monday, September 21 Workshop
Wednesday, September 22 Workshop
Monday, September 28 Workshop
Wednesday, September 30 Workshop
Monday, October 5 Workshop

Wednesday, October 7 “No Wonder They Call Me a Bitch” by Ann Hodgman
“Billy Sim” by Chuck Klosterman

Monday, October 12 Meaghan Daum
“Shooting Dad” by Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, October 14 “The Fourth State of Matter” by JoAnn Beard
“The Braindead Megaphone” by George Saunders

Monday, October 19 Workshop
Wednesday, October 21 Workshop
Monday, October 26 Workshop
Wednesday, October 28 Workshop
Monday, November 2 Workshop
Wednesday, November 4 Workshop
Monday, November 9 Workshop

Wednesday, November 11 excerpt from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers

Monday, November 16 “Ticket to the Fair” by David Foster Wallace

Wednesday, November 18 Prompt Journal Due
“Six to Eight Black Men” by David Sedaris

Monday, November 23 small group workshop
Wednesday, November 25 small group workshop
Monday, November 30 small group workshop
Wednesday, December 2 small group workshop

FINALS DAY Essays/Reflective Narrative Due

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Steve Almond's Bad Poetry Corner: click here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

English 640/Form and Technique in Prose/ Fall 2009

Professor Diana Joseph Office Hours: M&W 2-4
English 640 E-Hours: T&F 9-12
Email: Office: Armstrong 201L 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.

Required Texts
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principals of Screenwriting. Robert McKee
The Help. Kathryn Stockett
Mrs. Bridge. Evan S. Connell
The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. Ed. Michael Martone
The River Teeth Reader, Volume 10, Numbers 1 & 2, Winter 2008. Ed. Joe Mackall
Candy Freak. Steve Almond
Spook. Mary Roach

1. McKee Worksheet=25% Due on Assigned Day
See Assignment Sheet.

2. Craft Analysis Papers=25% Due on Assigned Day
See Assignment Sheet.

3. Participation=25%
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 and evidence of preparedness.

4. Form project=25% Due on Finals Day
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.

Class Policies
Do the work. 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. All coursework must be completed to pass this class. Late work will not be accepted. Assignments are tentative and subject to change.

Due Dates

Tuesday, September 1
1. Read The Help. Your first time through this book should be about experiencing the story.
2. Read chapters 1-7 of McKee. Begin preparing worksheet.

Tuesday, September 8
1. Reread The Help. Your second time through should be about beginning to recognize McKee’s principals of story-telling.
2. Read chapters 8-19 of McKee. Take detailed notes on your reading; continue compiling your notes into a worksheet.

Tuesday, September 15 The Help Worksheets for Chapters 1-13
Tuesday, September 22 The Help Worksheets for Chapters 14-25
Tuesday, September 29 The Help Worksheets for Chapters 26-34

Tuesday, October 6 Mrs. Bridge Craft Analysis

Tuesday, October 13 Scribner Craft Analysis
“White Angel” and “Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story”

Tuesday, October 20 Scribner Craft Analysis
“Brokeback Mountain”

Tuesday, October 27 Scribner Craft Analysis
“Fiesta, 1980” and “First, Body”

Tuesday, November 3 River Teeth
“When You Weren’t There: How Reporters Recreate Scenes for Narrative” and “The Writer’s Choice”

Tuesday, November 10 River Teeth Craft Analysis
` “The Exorcist in Love” and “The Fourth State of Matter”

Tuesday, November 17 River Teeth Craft Analysis
“The Speed of Memory” and “The American Man at Age Ten”

Tuesday, November 24 Candy Freak Craft Analysis

Tuesday, December 1 Spook Craft Analysis

Finals Day Forms Project Due

McKee Worksheet
While reading McKee, take detailed notes. Organize those notes into a worksheet that lists McKee’s terms and definitions: plot points, story values, conflicts, scenes and exposition, character vs. characterization, protagonists and antagonists, setting, the inciting incident, complications, subplots, turning points, the nature of choice, climax, crisis, resolution, ETC. In short, this worksheet will allow you to map/outline McKee’s principals of story-telling so the more detailed you are, the better. There’s more than one way to organize this material; figure out what works best for you. Here’s an excerpt from mine:




Conscious desires

Unconscious desires

Object of Desire

Chances to attain his/her Object of Desire

Will/capacity to pursue Object of Desire to the end of the line

Risk character is willing to take to achieve Object of Desire



Inner conflicts

Personal conflicts

Extrapersonal conflicts

What is revealed by choices he/she makes?

Characterization/sum of all observation qualities

Character Arc




Level of conflict

Rules of the World
How do characters make a living?

What are the politics/who has power?

What are the rituals?

What are the values?

What is the genres/combination of genres?

What are the biographies of the characters?

What is the backstory?

What is the cast design?

Define Conflict
Who drives the scene, motivates it, makes it happen?

What does he/she want?

What forces of antagonism block him/her?

What do the forces of antagonism want?

Note Opening Value/identify value at stake.

Break scene into beats.

Note Closing Value.

Locate Turning Points.

And so on…
You’ll be assigned a point of view character. Follow that character through her chapters. Fill out your worksheet for EACH chapter; include page numbers that locate where you found the information. Bring these worksheets to class—we’ll be using them to guide our discussion of Stockett’s novel.

A Reminder: This assignment is NOT about workshopping, reviewing or book-clubbing the novel. It’s not about whether you like the book or don’t like the book. It is about studying, recognizing, and articulating how McKee’s principals of story-telling are at work.


Note: This assignment uses the same language as the instructions for writing the Comprehensive Exam Essays. The only difference is the comps require that you compare and contrast two works while in this class you’ll focus on one at a time.

For FICTION You’ll write 2 craft analysis papers for fiction.
Listed below are eight of the primary elements of fiction. Choose one of these elements, then write an essay in which you first define the element and then discuss and analyze the element as
it functions in the assigned work of fiction.

Structure (you will probably want to include but distinguish between structure and such
related elements as pacing, plot, and storyline)
Tone (an aspect of voice, related to but distinguished from mood and/or atmosphere)
Thematic development

For NONFICTION You’ll write 2 craft analysis papers for nonfiction
Listed below are seven of the primary elements of creative nonfiction. Choose one of these elements, then write an essay in which your first define the element and then discuss and analyze the element as it functions in the assigned work of nonfiction.

Voice and/or the role of the “I” in the narrative
Characterization and/or the writer’s responsibility to subjects
Research, Reporting, and/or “Immersion” in the subject
Thematic development

You’ll be assigned the readings for your craft analysis, due on the day we discuss the work. Bring TWO copies to class. Be prepared to present your analysis to the class.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The trailer for The Lovely Bones: click here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"The Reality of Royalties": Click here.