Each creative writing course at Notre Dame is unique to the professor teaching the course. As such, there are no generic descriptions for creative writing courses at the university. Instead, we offer a variety of teaching methods and approaches to the subject which students may choose from in order to best fit their specific goals. Below are examples of the courses offered.
Graduate Fiction Workshop
A fiction workshop for graduate students in the MFA in Creative Writing program, with an emphasis on students developing their own aesthetic and personal vision, juxtaposed to and within the larger movement of the contemporary literary world.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
Our goal in this class is to lock in on our vision for our own writing and help others to lock in on theirs. We will do this by reading widely and diversely and thinking about the aesthetic, occult and political powers of poetry in our contemporary and pre-contemporary publishing universes. We will read across cultures and languages with an open and receptive ear, eye, heart and brain, ready to be changed by poetry.
We will think about poetry as a medium among media and we will test our ideas by encountering texts and artworks that we do not normally think of as poetry at all.
Graduate Translation Workshop
Perhaps the most famous definition of poetry in American literature is Robert Frost’s quip that poetry is that which is lost in translation. Translation, it appears, is both central and marginal in the way we think about literature in this country. Through translation seemingly stable texts and notions of authorship become volatile. That is in large part why translation has at times been a source of anxiety in American literature, and at times a source of inspiration. In this class we will explore this volatile zone of translation by translating literary texts (prose, poetry, drama etc), reading theoretical texts, and by bringing our experiences as writers and readers, artists and scholars to the topic. Although it would be helpful, fluency in a foreign language is not required. Translation Studies is in the middle of an exciting moment , conventional ways of viewing translation are being questioned and US literature is becoming increasingly interested in foreign literatures - and this class will participate in this moment.
Practicum: Teaching Creative Writing
In this course we’ll work collaboratively to think through the practical, theoretical, institutional, interpersonal, political, and, oh yes, artistic implications of teaching creative writing at various types of academic institutions as well as in community settings.
Computational Literary History
Theory and methods of computationally assisted literary scholarship with special emphasis on questions of literary history at scale. Covers recent developments in the field of digital humanities and includes substantial technical instruction. No previous programming experience required; students will learn to manage data and perform statistical analysis, including basic machine learning, in Python.
The primary object of analysis will be a large corpus of American fiction published between 1790 and 2000. Other periods and national literatures may be added to address student interests. Seminar work will be conducted in groups and will culminate in a substantial, co-authored piece of original scholarship in data-intensive literary history.
Students having previous experience with digital humanities are strongly encouraged to enroll and to serve as informal project leaders.
Old and Middle English Philology
This course focuses on four inter-related aspects of medieval English: translation, pronunciation, dating, and regional localization. With the aid of modern grammars and critical studies of both language structure and usage, we will examine a range of texts dating from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. Familiarity with at least either Old or Middle English is necessary.
Requirements include weekly readings and assignments, presentations, and brief papers.
The Alliterative Revival: from Early Middle English Origins to the Great Fourteenth-Century Poets
One of the few indisputable facts of the history of English literature is that Anglo-Saxon England already had an arresting, beautiful and complex literary culture when the French conquered in 1066, and imposed a new literary language on its elite. But something we often forget when we think of English today as the language of Chaucer and a great modern poetic tradition is that it was not inevitable after 1066 that English would ever rise again to expel the French of its conqueror.
The rise, phoenix-like, of English literary culture – especially via the “Alliterative Revival” of Anglo-Saxonesque metrical styles - was never to be taken for granted. To what and whom to we owe this rebirth?
This course traces the post-Conquest revival of alliterative poetics. From its regional Early Middle English beginnings through to the full flowering of alliterative texts that took even late fourteenth-century London by storm, the course follows the trajectory of its rise in popularity. Starting with what George Kane once called “the language of a degraded people,” we will look at selections from Early Middle English works that use or incorporate alliteration, such as the Ancrene Wisse, the Brut, the Arundel Bestiary, and some of the best alliterative lyrics of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth-century. Continuing with the Edwardian era, which produced enigmatic pieces such as The Chorister’s Lament, Winner and Waster, and the strange, fragmentary “mini-version” of the A text of Piers Plowman known as “Z”, we will move to the other famous “Alliterative Revival” classics: Pearl, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and St. Erkenwald. We will examine the role that the legal community, the civil service, and clergy writing for the laity played in the early development of post-Conquest English. Other themes will include: relations with the literature of the “French in England,” the trilingual contexts of early book production, court culture, authorial self- representation, social and political dissent.
We will also look at an underappreciated dimension of alliterative poetry: works written for women or via a female patron: Susannah, and Aseneth, from the “heroines of the Old Testament” canon, and the lay guild-inspired “Alliterative St Katherine” lyric. Time permitting, we will look at the alliterative taste for history and tragedy, with extracts from the fiercely anti-Semitic Siege of Jerusalem, and the tragic Alliterative Morte d’Arthur.
The course will take in historicist and formalist approaches to the study of regional, “national” and more intimate reading circles, along with pertinent aspects of medieval literary theory, and newer methodologies such as history of the book, poetics and issues of material culture. The course will involve close reading of original texts throughout.
Seventeenth-Century Women Writers in England and Early America
This course looks at the rich and diverse range of women’s writing from the long seventeenth century in Old and New England, with special attention to transatlantic influences and connections. Genres will include women’s autobiography, letters, lyric poetry, fictional and non-fictional prose, and closet and stage drama. We will be reading such texts as Anne Bradstreet’s poetry and prose meditations, records on Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian controversy, Margaret Cavendish’s fantastical prose romance, The Blazing World, and her comic plays, Loves Adventures and The Bridals, Aphra Behn’s novel, Oroonoko, and her drama, The Widow Ranter, and Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. Among the questions to be addressed: how do these women fashion themselves in and through their writing? How does gender intersect with class, religion, politics, and race? How do women appropriate and boldly revise different literary forms?
Reading Revolutions: Studies in Eighteenth Century
"the most important of all revolutions. . .I mean, a revolution in sentiments, manners, and moral opinions."
"But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations. . . . The radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."
How are the changes that took place in "the minds and hearts of people" in the long eighteenth century reflected in, perhaps influenced by, what we call literature? This is the big question of this course, which will explore a range of British writing from the 1650s through to Burke and his critics at the end of the eighteenth century, writing in the wake of the French Revolution. We will explore revolution here as a long term event that has its roots, too, in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century and in the political upheavals of the Civil Wars in England, Scotland and Ireland in the 1640s. We will begin with Marvell, Wycherley and Dryden and move to selections from Behn, Locke, Swift, Pope, Defoe, Johnson, Smollett, Goldsmith, Boswell, Sterne, Burke and Wollstonecraft. Expect two short papers and a research paper.
What makes a book popular? For some, popularity is something intrinsic to the text, a hard-to-define mixture of page-turning sensation, often married to an aesthetic experience that bestows its pleasures a little too easily. For others, it is a measurable quality, weighed out empirically in sales figures. Some define popularity by the audience a work seeks to capture, a particularly “wide” or “mass” market to whom the text is oriented. While others consider popularity to be a political category, opposed to the bourgeois and sympathetic to the common people.
In this course we will examine various paradigms for thinking about the popular: commercial; political; aesthetic, economic, while reading “popular” works. Our primary texts will be drawn largely from nineteenth-century Britain, a time and place in which political revolution, population expansion, and industrialization created new forms of popular literature, and new worries about the people who might be consuming it. Texts will range from poetry (Wordsworth) and novels (Scott, Dickens, Gaskell) to street ballads and penny dreadfuls. And we will sample a range of critical approaches to the popular: formalism (new and old), book history, distant reading, historicism, and some recent sociologies of literature.
Modern Irish Writing: Excavating the Present-- 1950 to 2010
Cultural introversion characterized Ireland during World War two and after but radical experiment could still be found in the work of overseas-based authors such as Samuel Beckett. By the 1960s, however, Time magazine could report “new spirit in the oul sod” as society began a process of secularization, urbanization and feminization (a more central role for women). The Irish language was no longer seen as an antique piety but as part of a vibrant counter-culture. However, the eruption of old conflicts in the North in the closing years of the decade suggested that not everyone was ready for change.
All of these social shifts led to the creation of major works of literature, music, film and dance. As the twentieth century drew to a close, immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe, Africa and China---Ireland was no longer (if ever it had been) monocultural. A period of rapid globalization witnessed the ‘worlding’ of Irish writing, only to be followed by a severe economic crisis. This led some people to return to one of the oldest questions---whether “Ireland” as a cultural and political project could survive into the twenty-first century.
Among authors to be studied will be Samuel Beckett, Edna O’Brien, Brian Friel, John Banville, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Michael Hartnett, Tom Murphy, Frank McGuinness, John McGahern, Seamus Deane, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, Marina Carr, Paula Meehan, Conor McPherson, Roddy Doyle, Seamus Deane, Claire Keegan and Kate Thompson.
American Literature Before Emerson
In this class we will explore the rich traditions of belles lettres, religious and political writing, and the early novel that took shape in the British colonies of North America and the early republic. We will also consider the textual practices of colonization, early Native writings, and alternative media including oratory, wampum, and pictographs. The colonial period was above all a contest of empires, and hemispheric and transatlantic methods will be integral to the course.
This course will be of interest to students specializing in the Renaissance, the 18th century, or early Romanticism, to those with an interest in colonialism, or in revolutionary or religious expression, as well as to specialists in American literature.
We will read standard works by Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Samson Occom, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Jefferson, Phillis Wheatley, Charles Brockden Brown, and James Fenimore Cooper, as well as selections from John Smith, John Winthrop, Roger Williams, the Jesuit Relations, and Quaker writers John Woolman and Elizabeth Ashbridge.
Practicum: Preparing for the Profession
A workshop on professional publication, conference activity, and job search procedures.
Practicum: Intro to the profession for PhD students
Familiarizes PhD students with the forms through which professors of English communicate their research. Covers basic issues related to the study of literature in U.S. universities and colleges.
Practicum: Intro to the profession for MA students
Familiarizes MA students with the forms through which professors of English communicate their research. Covers basic issues related to the study of literature in U.S. universities and colleges.