Friday, August 15, 2008

English 640 Form and Technique/Fall 2008

Professor Diana Joseph Office Hours: M&W 2-3; T 5-6
English 640 E-Hours: TH&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
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Crews, Harry. Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader.

Davis, Amanda. Wonder When You’ll Miss Me.

Ferris, Joshua. And Then We Came to the End.

Grealy, Lucy. Autobiography of a Face.
Martone, Michael. The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. (Please make sure you have the FIRST edition.)
Patchett, Ann. Truth and Beauty.

Sheffield, Rob. Love is a Mix Tape.


1. Craft Analysis=25%
Over the semester, you’ll write seven craft analyses; which seven 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.

2. Imitations=25%
Over the semester, you’ll write seven imitations; which seven 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.

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, 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.

Class Policies
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

Tuesday, September 2 Sheffield

Tuesday, September 9 Patchett

Tuesday, September 16 Crews

Tuesday, September 23 Grealy

Tuesday, September 30 Banks, p. 53

Tuesday, October 7 Davis

Tuesday, October 14 Sontag, p. 569

Tuesday, October 21 Alexie

Tuesday, October 28 Proulx, p. 521

Tuesday, November 4 Ferris

Tuesday, November 11 Thon, p. 595

Tuesday, November 18 Cunningham, p. 229

Tuesday, November 25 Braverman, p. 167

Tuesday, December 2 Hansen, p. 338, Dybek, p. 256

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