Conference Class Descriptions

Rikki Ducornet Class

Our passwords are rigor and imagination, and our emblems the
crystal and the flame—lucent and mutable. Revelation and subversion—these, too,
will guide us. Writing is a process of revelation for both the reader and the
writer, and our purpose will be to seize permission to write about anything
(and to do it well!), and to subvert received ideas—about the world, the self,
the nature of art. In conference and in class, we will discuss ways of
heightening the text, opening it up, polishing it by the moon, dissolving
boundaries. We will consider the ways in which our writing might be informed
and extended by other disciplines and vehicles—hypertext, for example. Or an
unusually constructed book.

    Please send fifteen pages of text
to be discussed one-on-one and shared with the class. I would be eager to see
these early. And bring fourteen copies with you to workshop. I will be
referring to Calvino’s Six Memos for the
Next Millennium
and The Uses of
, as well as Bachelard’s The
Poetics of Space
and my own essay, “The Deep Zoo” (online at Fantastic
Metropolis). And you might take a look at some hypertexts. For example: World of Awe and Patchwork Girl. Other
things of interest: the new magazine Encyclopedia,
the anthology: The Thackery T. Lambshead
Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases
, Michael Martone’s The Blue Guide to Indiana, and Gilgamesh as filmed by The Brothers
Quay. All these are unusual vehicles for fiction.

Camille Dungy Class

In this course, we’ll test the limits and expand the possibilities of nature writing.  We’ll explore how we write about our connection to (or disconnection from) the landscape that surrounds us and think about how poems and stories about the natural world can also engage social, political, and historic concerns. By engaging with work of writers from a variety of social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds we’ll stretch the scope of who can and will write about nature.  Through readings and creative assignments, you’ll discover new ways to incorporate animals, landscape, the environment, or other manifestations of the natural world into your work. Whether it’s loved or reviled, cherished or practically dismissed, the natural world will be central to all of the texts we’ll read and write. Authors we will read include Lucille Clifton, Carl Phillips, Rita Dove, Rigoberto Gonzáles, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and Tayari Jones.

Brian Evenson Class

Every new work of fiction enters into an already existent
field of writing, but, as T.S. Eliot suggests, it can change that field, making
us reconsider what’s come before. We’re particularly interested in thinking
about how current fiction draws on and disrupts earlier traditions. We’ll look
at fairy tales and contemporary writers who respond to fairy tales, stories and
poems that appropriate or borrow from previous works, stories that steal and
deform a genre of fiction to make something new. We’ll also do a lot of writing
of our own, re-working and re-thinking themes and plots from previous works and
figuring out how to continue to make it new while still acknowledging the
interesting writers that have come before us.

Thomas Glave Class

Who exactly is the “other” to us, and why? And when, and
how? And what does “other” mean to us as
writers? Does/Must our writing language shift in crafting a character distinctly
different from ourselves? How do we truly, imaginatively, bravely enter the
skin, mind, heart of another whom we think of, have thought of, as an “other”? In
this course, you’ll write either one nonfiction or fiction work, in either
first, second, or third person, centering on a situation with characters
(fiction) or real people (nonfiction) who differ from you (1) racially, and (2)
in at least three of the following ways: gender, sexuality, religion, class,
national origin, or religion.

Recommended reading (any of these might be helpful):

Nadine Gordimer, "Some are Born to Sweet Delight" (in Jump and Other Stories)
Lawrence Chua, Gold by the Inch
Toni Morrison, Sula
Rosario Ferre, The Youngest Doll
James Baldwin, "Going to Meet the Man" (in Going to Meet the Man)
Junot Diaz, Drown
Thomas Glave, "–And Love Them?" (in Whose Song? and Other Stories)

Andre Aciman, Letters of Transit
Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary
Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls
Carole Maso, Break Every Rule
Thomas Glave, "Fire and Ink: Toward a Quest for Language, History, and a Moral Imagination" (in Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent)

Barbara Sjoholm Class

A traveler’s tale, a natural history essay, a historical
narrative, a spiritual journey, even a gastronomical adventure––all these forms
can be used to record events of a life. This class will take a multi-genre
approach to memoir, by emphasizing the variety of forms over the more
traditional personal memoir. Exercises to generate new writing will combine with
critique of individual works-in-progress that students may bring to the
workshop. Bring no more than 10 pages. We’ll also discuss how selected authors use aspects of memoir to explore, interrogate, and celebrate their place in the world.

Arthur Sze Class

We will begin by asking each participant to select one
pre-existing poem and will discuss how to revise, polish, and re-envision, if
necessary; but we will also use these poems as a springboard to discuss larger
issues. I will give an ekphrastic assignment based on a Joseph Cornell
assemblage. We will look closely at the poems written and will discuss the
possibilities of a poetic sequence as well as incorporate classic Chinese
poetics. The workshop will be flexible to participant interests, and the
majority of pre-existing work (eight pages of poetry, maximum length) will be
discussed at individual conferences.

Suggested reading list:

Consider Joseph Cornell’s assemblages
19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei by Eliot Weinberger