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
This course is a chance for students in the graduate creative writing program to come together as writers/readers with the goal of helping each other develop as authors. Emphasis will be on writing as a contemporary art form rather than on polishing prose for particular genres or markets. That is, emphasis will be placed on articulating an aesthetic and personal vision through the writing fiction more so than on the craft of fiction and the well-crafted cuckoo clock the word implies even as we acknowledge that no art takes place in a vacuum, that the personal operates within the constraints of audience and economy, be it the economy of the multinational publishing conglomerate, the not-for-profit poetry press, or the personal journal. It is hoped that students will articulate through their critiques of their classmate’s work, through the application of literature and theory read in other classes, but especially through the fiction they write in this class, an awareness of the contemporary moment as expressed through writing, a reason for doing whatever they are doing in their own fiction, and a practical way to bring the two together.
Graduate Poetry Workshop
In this class we are going to write and read widely and intensively. We will read each other’s work as well as the work of some other contemporary poets. The goal is to inspire each other to write amazing poems as well as to teach each other how to read a range of poems in evocative and generative ways.
ENGL 90039 / FTT 40010 - Crosslist
Writing for Performance
Joyelle McSweeney and Anton Juan
How is writing for performance different from writing for the page? How might body, gesture, sound and word be mobilized for aesthetic and political ends? How is the act of writing itself a performance? How can text approach event? In this interdisciplinary course, two artist-professors with expertise in poetry, drama, performance, translation, dance, publishing and activism join forces to lead students on an intense, immersive investigation of these questions. Coursework will include study of canonical and contemporary texts, performances, and theory; in-class, experiential and collaborative writing and performance; homework projects in writing and performance; and a final project in which student pieces will be performed in the Black Box Theater. The course is open to graduate and advanced undergraduate students.
Theories of the Nonhuman
This seminar will situate contemporary theoretical discourse about the nonhuman among its historical antecedents in philosophy and literary theory. Falling under the broad category of the nonhuman in contemporary thought are a range of positions and methodologies united in their commitment to non-anthropocentric modes of inquiry. These include animal studies, geonotologies, ecocriticism, media theory, new materialisms, and network analysis. By surveying these modes of encountering aesthetic objects, cultural fields, material forms and social formations without a point of view drawn immediately from the human or human subjectivity, we will work to see what traditions and counter-traditions the nonhuman invokes. At stake, too, will be the narrative and formal dimensions of nonhuman thought, or its literariness, and to this end we will include recent interventions in nonhuman narrative in our larger investigation of the critical phenomenon. Readings from Heidegger, Meillassoux, Wolfe, Derrida, Latour, Shaviro, Bennett, Esposito, Serres, Luhmann, Whitehead, Povinelli, Kittler, and others.
The Old English Poems of the Exeter Book
Of four great manuscripts that preserve the vast majority of the surviving corpus of Old English poetry, the Exeter Book is the most diverse and most mysterious. In this course, we will probe the depths of this most idiosyncratic of anthologies in an attempt to discern some sort of rationale for its compilation, and to see what its contents, arrangement, and provenance might tell us about poetic culture in late Anglo-Saxon England. Our approach to the whole manuscript will adopt a New Philological position of concern for the text and the whole book as tangible objects, but the methodologies by which we might approach the individual poems will necessarily be various. No single heuristic is likely to illuminate equally (for example) the Riddles, the most famous Old English elegies, versified saints’ lives, bestiary poems in a Latinate tradition, and The Rhyming Poem (whatever that is)—so students will have the opportunity to explore different parts of the codex using different methodologies and questions particular to their own research interests.
This course is open to all interested graduate students. Those without prior experience of the Old English language should contact the instructor prior to registering. Although this course will not assess students’ abilities with the language, it will be necessary to engage with the poems in the original.
The Reformation in Rhyme? English Literature and Religion after Luther
The Reformation in Europe – the 500th anniversary of which will arrive in 2017 -- brought tremendous social, cultural, literary, and of course religious upheaval and change. This course offers an in-depth survey of the literary culture of the English Reformation era. Our guiding questions will be methodological: in what ways may the Reformation be considered a literary phenomenon, and, conversely, what do literary scholars have to offer to the study of the Reformation? May we speak with accuracy and insight about a Reformation poetics? What features of Reformation literary culture represent a break from late medieval cultural practices, and what features are best described using models of developmental continuity? How might the period’s religious dissidents – including English Catholics – complicate our readings of the period’s religious poetics? How might we bring the Reformation’s literary, historical, and religious features into productive, non-reductive, relation? How, in short, do religion and literature inform, shape, and distort each other in this period of enormous transformation? Our readings will be taken from the era’s poetry and prose. We will consider biblical commentary and translations (including poetic Psalm translations), theological treatises, devotional lyric, and narrative poetry. Readings will cross religious boundaries, as the “Reformation” will be allowed its Protestant and Catholic dimensions. Authors will likely include Desiderius Erasmus, Martin Luther, Thomas Wyatt, Ignatius of Loyola, Anne Askew, John Foxe, Jean Calvin, Anne Locke, Philip Sidney, Mary Sidney Herbert, Edmund Campion, Edmund Spenser, Anthony Copley, Henry Constable, Richard Verstegan, Robert Southwell, John Donne, George Herbert, and (hopefully) Richard Crashaw.
Reading: Academic and Victorian
This course will acquaint students with some of the central texts informing what literary scholars call “reading.” It aims to equip students to engage with current criticism that aspires to model new ways of academic reading. Victorian literature, because it has always been addressed and accessible to the non-expert, raises sharp questions about what it means to be an academic reader, and so proves an especially rich field for this inquiry.
The first six weeks of the course will be devoted to five moments in the history of academic reading marked out by 1) St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine; 2) Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams; 3) essays by a group of mid-twentieth-century scholars known as the “new critics;” 4) J. L. Austin’s brief book, How to Do Things with Words and 5) the essays Jacques Derrida wrote in response to it. We will then wade into six central Victorian texts: Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Charlotte Bronte’s Villette, Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, and George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss. As we do so, we will explore recent writings by critics who position their approaches to reading as distinct from historicist contextualization. Students will explore “just reading” (Marcus); “surface reading” (Love); “distance reading” (Moretti, Hayles) as well as critics who argue for the centrality of form (Levine) and whose readings take into account the media being read (Menke, Price). Because the point of this class is not research but deep engagement with multiple approaches to reading, students will produce two 8-10 page papers during the semester in lieu of a seminar paper. As their final project, each student will be required to design three weeks of an undergraduate syllabus.
Romanticism and Persuasion
In the preface to Prometheus Unbound, Percy Shelley admits to having a “passion for reforming the world” but at the same time declares unequivocally, “Didactic poetry is my abhorrence.” This seemingly paradoxical desire to change the world through literature, but without recourse to overt instruction, was characteristic not only of Shelley but of many who wrote during an age of revolution and counter-revolution in Britain. But how was it to be achieved? And why was it thought necessary? This seminar considers how rhetorical concerns and strategies were taken up by poetry, fiction, and drama in the period ca. 1790-1830 not primarily for purposes of logical argumentation—what rhetoricians of the period distinguished as “conviction”—but to make the more complex appeal to a range of mental “faculties,” notably the imagination, passions, and memory, that constituted “persuasion.” Focusing on works by Godwin, Wordsworth, Coleridge, the Shelleys, Byron, and Austen, among others, we will attend not only to Romanticism’s recurrent disavowal of rhetoric for fixed communicative ends—the didacticism that Shelley so abhorred—but also to its embrace of rhetoric in the sense of a critical method of deliberation and discovery, with others but also with oneself, in which literature and all of its semantic and sensual resources were understood to play a crucial part. To this end, our readings will include current critical perspectives in the areas of rhetorical theory, affect theory, and “new formalism,” while also providing a sense of how literature’s relationship to rhetoric was conceived from Plato to postmodernism. Although the main element of assessment will be an article-length paper, ideally suitable for eventual publication, the seminar will provide ample opportunity to reflect on our own practices of persuasion as writers both inside and outside of academia.
A study of Joyce's novel. We will approach the text through a variety of critical perspectives and explore the rich history of critical and interpretative responses to the novel.
Dilemmas of American Transcendentalism”
When European Romanticism crossed the Atlantic, it precipitated American Transcendentalism, this nation’s first great literary movement. The Transcendentalists were a loose group of rebels, dreamers, and freethinkers who, inspired by both the American Revolution and the new European philosophies, set about the immodest task of remaking America—and thence, they hoped, the whole world. Critics mocked them with the name “Transcendentalists” (a slur on their European, “anti-American” pretensions), and the name stuck. Inspired by the resistance to their radical ideas, a core group of men and women—including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Orestes Brownson, Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May Alcott—launched a daring movement intended to generate a new and genuinely American literature. They also thought literature could have political power to set things right in a nation founded on human rights, but shot through with slavery, economic inequality, social injustice, religious skepticism, and environmental destruction. Their writings and personalities inspired (and annoyed) writers from Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville, to Frederick Douglass, to Walt Whitman—and well beyond.
To what extent did the Transcendentalists succeed? Was their idealism a noble dream dithered away by internal dissension and finally destroyed by the violence of the Civil War? So says Philip Gura. Or did their hard work bring real progress to an American society still indebted to this band of dreamers? So said Barbara Packer. The dilemma is that both Gura and Packer are right. Both the failures and the very real legacies of Transcendentalism live on today in our literature and religion, in our divisive politics, in the deep flaws and sacred hopes of American environmentalism, in our unrelenting utopianism and our apocalyptic terrors. This course will take a fresh look at these writers and thinkers, who are invoked far more often than they are read and understood.
ENGL 90612 / LIT 73100 –Crosslist
American Literature in the World
American literature is increasingly coming to be recognized as a polyglot tradition, and the relationship between American literature and other world literatures has been central to recent scholarship. This course will focus on different kinds of intersections and connections between American literature and world literature, such as the global circulation and influence of certain works and authors; the literary impact of key historical episodes; translation and global English; and the rise of postcolonial and transnational approaches. Taking Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, Jumpha Lahiri’s “Unaccustomed Earth,” and Toni Morrison’s A Mercy as touchstones, we will explore the dynamic relationships between American and world literatures.
Writing for the Profession
This course focuses on practical publication strategies: what to write, why to write it, how to write it, and where to send it. We will read discussions of good writing and an array of scholarly articles, to see the various approaches professional writing can take. We also will workshop student writing. During the semester, students will work on one new piece of writing, whether an essay or dissertation chapter.
Practicum: Literary Publishing
A review of the current state of literary publishing in the U.S. and abroad.