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Broken Genres

Creative Writing  |  Creative Reading

 

Summer, 2020: all online

10 weeks: June 23 – Aug 28

Because online meetings can be challenging due to technology issues, all reasonable accommodations will be made to allow students to be successful despite difficulties with attendance. Given the uncertainty of life circumstances due to Covid-19, similar flexibility will allow students to be as successful as possible despite complications due to health or other related circumstances, including family responsibilities, etc..

Online does not mean impersonal. (This class is not a robot.) We’ll work hard to make productive, intellectual connections as a group, and you’ll have regular one-on-one discussions with faculty about your work.

SCHEDULE

Tues: lecture 2-4

Wed: individual meetings between 10-1; peer feedback 2-4

Thurs: seminar 2-4

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what will we read?

what will we do?

 

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

“Broken Genres” is for adventurous readers and writers interested in experiments with genre, form, and style that generate new and hybrid works. We’ll encounter surreal folk tales, works that fuse writing with visual arts and sculpture, meditative high fantasy, introspective science fiction, postmodern horror, noir-fantasy, tragic-comedy, a poetic western, a multi-genre epic, and more (including work by: Octavia Butler,  Shirley Jackson, Michael Ondaatje, Leonora Carrington, Alison Bechdel, Mark Danielewski, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, and others).

Many writers use features of a genre to build unfamiliar literary constructs out of familiar elements. Together, we’ll study such works as literary achievements on their own but also consider them in relation to how we talk about literature, high and low art, and the relationship between writers, their creative process, and their audience.

We’ll also view our readings as a means to understand the craft of writing. The major creative project of the quarter will be to fully draft and revise an original work that plays with genre conventions to new effect, to address a new audience, to integrate other media, or as a means of bringing a genre into a new kind of relevance. You’ll discuss your major creative project in one-on-one sessions with faculty throughout the quarter.

A final short essay and your creative project will be due at the end of the quarter.

ONLINE LEARNING

This program will be conducted remotely, using Canvas and Zoom, which you have access to through your my.evergreen account. 

Synchronous class times* (everyone on video conferencing at the same time) will include live video-seminar sessions (in small groups) and short lectures; students will also use on-line discussion threads to discuss ideas. 

Off-line workshops and tasks (packets) will support students in developing their reading and writing skills and prompt weekly creative and critical writing submissions. 

*I will offer alternative assignments if conditions or illness prevent students from accessing our synchronous meetings.

GOALS

-Become a better writer

develop skills in writing that will translate to myriad purposes, not just creative work

develop project-completion skills related to creative process and time management 

learn techniques for self-critique, revision, and editing

develop insight into the effects of language and the skills to control them

-Become a better reader

learn to read closely in light of different contexts and theoretical lenses

understand features of literary studies that involve critical thinking, media literacy, and analytic skills

develop meta-cognitive skills and frameworks for interpretation of texts

 

 

READINGS

Carrington, Leonora, Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington

Be sure to get the edition published by DOROTHY PROJECT. Carrington’s stories, written over the course of her long, remarkable life, are both surreal and well beyond surrealism, embracing folk and fairy-tale modes to create painterly narratives that continuously surprise. Carrington’s incredible paintings and sculptures are also not to be missed.

Ondaatje, Michael, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid

Any edition should be fine. First famous for The English Patient, this is an earlier work of Ondaatje’s experimenting with the combination of prose fragments and poems that re-organize the familiar pieces of the legend of Billy the Kid; part western action, part poetic evocation, Ondaatje explores the nature of legend and the violence of “the Kid’s” legacy.

Jackson, Shirley, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Any edition should be fine. Jackson, perhaps known best for “The Lottery”, which many of us read in high school and for The Haunting of Hill House, creates in the gothic mode another kind of haunting that uses the methods of the horror tale to new purpose.

Butler, Octavia, Bloodchild and Other Stories

Any edition should be fine. Butler’s novels and trilogies are known for creating massive and intricate new realities; her stories are supremely economical, ending just as the workings of the future are discovered, exploring how relationships, our sense of who and what we are, and the ramifications of high concept sci-fi can be felt at the scale of every decision characters make.

Murakami, Haruki, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Any edition should be fine. One of Murakami’s less famous books, “HBW” alternates chapters between a noir sci-fi adventure novel and a  fantasy setting and explores their ultimate intersection. Murakami’s somewhat ‘deadpan’ style belies the strangeness of his creations and the shock of what it all means.

Bechdel, Alison, Fun Home

Any edition should be fine. Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir is a personal essay, a life story, and a literary investigation, woven together into a troubled portrait of her father. Compelling in how it moves through the combined  ‘voices’ of image, narration, and dialogue, it breaks ground in everything it does.

Ishiguro, Kazuo, The Buried Giant

Any edition should be fine. For some, Ishiguro’s take on the fantasy novel was considered an insult to fantasy novels; but what interests Ishiguro in any setting is the  way characters are connected by their memories and their choices. Here, characters move through a melancholy post-Arthurian England in a  strange fog that has erased their pasts. What will they find if they remember?

CHOICE / OPTIONAL READINGS

For the last read of the quarter, everyone will choose either one of the options below OR read more from one of the authors above. The options below are perfect reads for our purpose but present some difficulties to easily incorporate!

Danielewski, Mark, House of Leaves

Choose your edition. Numerous websites and forums will give you a sense of what the differences between editions are. Note that this book contains horror themes and imagery that can be intense; it includes graphic violence, graphic sex, allusions to abuse, copious drug use. Beside integrating multiple literary forms into a frame-within-a-frame abyss, House of Leaves connects horror with film studies with family drama AND does it all in a book that plays with the book form itself, using typography and design to create drama and tension with the reader at the center.

Mitchell, David, Cloud Atlas

Don’t try to replace this book with the movie. It’s composed of six novellas in different genres, each one cut in half and fitted inside each other like nesting dolls. It’s quite long but very exciting once you get going! The novellas create a semi-coherent world in which the stories intersect across time and place, bridging from a 19th century sea-going adventure… to an epistolary tragedy… to a pot-boiler detective story… to a comic memoir… to a sci-fi future… to a post-collapse rebirth of civilization… and then back again!

Dorst & Abrams, S: Ship of Theseus

This one may be harder to get. It can take some work. It has a very unusual set up: what you get is what looks like a used library book. Inside the book, two characters have written copious notes, both to mark the text and to communicate to each other as they take turns getting the book at the library; they also stick things into the book, so your “book” comes with all kinds of objects / papers, pamphlets, typed letters, napkins, etc., all very lovingly crafted to seem “real.” If you can put in the time, it is a wonderful experience of literary puzzling and non-linear reading.

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*CONTENT: in the list above, I included specific content info about House of Leaves. Other assigned readings contain images of violence, explore abusive or traumatic experiences, and may contain ideas both intentionally and unintentionally offensive. If you are concerned about how a reading experience may adversely affect your emotional well-being, please check in with me before purchasing the texts, and I can offer some additional forecasting of content; we can talk through alternative texts as needed (there are so many great books I could have chosen!). If you have any concerns about the readings, I strongly recommend investigating each text online to find summaries, etc., which might cue you into any potential difficulties.

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What you’ll do!

Packets

Every Friday, a “packet” will be due on line. Six of those packets will be creative and critical writing exercises, critical reading tasks and reflections, study prompts, and will be your guide through the readings. You’ll be working on each of these packets for about 10 days, in little chunks before turning it it or review.

Alternating with these packets will be four “project packets” containing your work developing a short essay and your work developing a manuscript project. Again, the packet isn’t just a place to plop that stuff — it’s also your guide, containing prompts and expectations.

Peer Group

Every Wednesday afternoon, we’ll meet and break into “peer feedback groups”. These groupings will change at first and then settle in for the second half of the quarter as you get to know each others’ work. With limited time, these groups are about seeing elements of each others’ work–not reading huge chapters or lengthy sections; and they are as much about talking through your process as they may be about giving advice or critical feedback.

Individual Meetings

Every other week, on Wednesday Mornings, you’ll have a one-on-one meeting with me about your projects (essay and creative manuscript). I will have just read your recent Project Packet, and we’ll dig in to ideas. On alternate weeks, I’ll have open office hours for anyone to stop by.

Lecture and Seminar

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll have “lecture” and “seminar”. Both of the traditional classroom activities need to be quite different online, and we’ll play around with what works best. One thing to know is that the lecture topics and discussions and the seminar activities will most often be integrated with what’s in the packet. Staying up on that work will help you prepare, and attending lectures and seminars will help you finish what’s in the packet.