Fall 2018  MFA Course Descriptions


M  6:40-8:30




M 6:40-8:30

Kimiko Hahn


Where’d You Hide the Body?


A psychology professor once kidded me, “You literature professors feel from the neck up!” Really? Are we readers taught to use the brain and not the whole body when reading or listening to poetry? And what about the writers? How to include the body in the act of writing?


We will consider what a text might look like if one is “writing the body,” a phrase used by French feminists in the 1970s and that has been described as an “inscription of the feminine body and female difference in language and text.” We will explore the concept of a “full throated” poetry of physicality in the writers ranging from Emily Dickinson to Mark Doty to Claudia Rankine.


Most importantly, we will workshop and revise with greater attention to physicality. NOTE: Writing prompts will make this a workshop especially welcoming to those working in genres other than poetry.





TH 6:40-8:30

Ira Hauptman


It's been said that playwriting can't be taught, but it can be learned. This course will focus on close examination of students' plays-in-progress as the first stage of a development process that will help create a producible script. The class's main objective is to help the student tell the story that he or she wants to tell.


Topics covered along the way will include: traditional play structure; deviations from traditional play structure; the nature of character; the role of theme; how to give directors, actors and designers what they need to find in a script; the most effective and respectful ways to criticize the work of other playwrights; how to more fully understand what you've written-and what needs to be rewritten-by watching and hearing your play read in front of an audience. The class will also read contemporary plays and consider playwriting theory.



M 4:40-6:30

Roger Sedarat


Students from a variety of language backgrounds working in different genres individually develop self-chosen projects informed by a supplemental reading list of author influences, relevant theory, and criticism. Each weekly submission requires a thorough translator’s note to foreground decisions made through the translation process. Several “low-stakes” assignments throughout the term, including a group translation exercise, invite creative risk toward better capturing the spirit of original source texts in English renderings.




W 6:40-8:30

Nicole Cooley


This course is the first semester of the MFA thesis sequence.  This semester is not the time to revise and polish your thesis but instead a chance to rethink it.  This workshop will encourage you to think deeply about your project, to write your way into it, and to break through boundaries of thought, feeling, language and image.        In this course, you will receive feedback on your work in three ways: through individual meetings with me, through collaboration/ meeting with fellow writers in the class, and, most of all, through lengthy workshop sessions on your work in progress.


In addition to talking about your work, we will also discuss the way your thesis might be put together. We will examine the order and sequencing of thesis projects, considering how you organize a poetry manuscript for example, or how you might link stories in a collection.  We will talk about beginnings and endings, tables of contents, epigraphs, dedications, and notes.


Throughout the semester, we will write towards the process paper and discuss it intensively. The final project for this class is a working draft of your process paper that will eventually accompany your thesis and a working draft of your reading list. You will then have drafts of both documents as well as new writing towards your thesis to bring to your advisor in the spring semester as you complete your thesis.



T 6:40—8:30

John Weir


Anxiety of Influence: Is the Subject of Every Novel Other Novels?


T.S. Eliot said every new poem rewrites the history of poems – your fractured sonnet changes Petrarch's sonnet as much as his influences yours.  We’ll see how that theory applies to fiction, in a bunch of novels that are written and/or read (sometimes subtly, sometimes directly) in relation to each other: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man; Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying; Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.  What do we need other novels for, anyway?  To steal from, pay homage to, revise, refuse, make better, wreck forever?  All that and more!  Plus, we’ll think about complexities of time-&-space: how do these novels show time passing and let us know where we ever are?  Our guides in this issue of narrative strategy and technique will be Gerard Genette’s Narrative Discourse and Mikhail Bakhtin’s Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics.