Course Description

[Rembrandt: The Anatomy Lesson (1632)]

What is this course about?

Be concise; get to the point; be clear on what you want to say.

The course is called Creative Writing, and that’s what we’ll be concentrating on. However, I should make a couple of comments before we begin.

Our primary focus throughout will be on ideas and how to communicate them clearly and effectively. It is in this respect that this paper lines up with others in the Humanities.

Stories and poems, the two specific forms of writing we’ll be working with, have always been considered particularly potent ways of getting thoughts and information across. It’s how to promote that exchange of meaning that we’ll be concentrating on in the course, rather than the fostering of “creativity” in itself. That (hopefully) each of us was born with. Clear communication can be taught.

Whether you’re an English major, a Communications major, a Media Studies major, a Psychology major, or you haven’t yet decided what to specialize in, I can promise that this course will be relevant to your other studies. As well as teaching you techniques for expressing your own ideas in poetry and fiction, it will help you to analyze and understand other people’s work in greater depth.

If your interest is in Communication specifically, it will also help you to see the issues involved in choosing a medium of communication. Advertisers, PR people, News Reporters and Creative Artists all face essentially the same dilemma: how to reach a target audience with a particular message in the shortest possible time.

What are our learning objectives?

Students who successfully complete this paper should be able to:
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the creative writing process as founded on craft, from which meaning and pleasure are derived.
  • Demonstrate comprehension of the structures and conventions of poetry and the short story.
  • Apply the fundamental elements of creative writing, such as imagery, metaphor, language, form, character, plot, structure, and point of view.
  • Critique the work of peers honestly but gently and accept constructive criticism.
  • Understand the role of revision in the creative process and rigorously incorporate comments from tutor and peers in those revisions.

What am I expected to do each week?

You will attend one hour-long lecture and one two-hour workshop every week.

To prepare for the lecture, you should read the group of poems or stories from the Course Anthology that are prescribed for that particular session (for further details, see the Course Timetable).

In the workshop there will be further discussion of these readings, and you will also be expected to bring along any writing homework set for that week.

Attendance at both lectures and workshops is compulsory. A roll will be taken at each workshop and a clipboard will be handed around at lectures. Make sure that you sign this, as it is the only record of your attendance.

More than four unexplained absences from workshops may be taken as grounds for failure in the course; consistent absence from lectures will be reflected in your participation grade.

How are the workshops organised?

Each tutorial will be divided into groups. The members of each group must bring along enough copies of their stories / poems for the whole group, and distribute them the week before they are scheduled to be discussed (see the timetable here).

Your tutor will give you back a copy of your story / poem with annotations and a provisional grade. It will not, however, be given a final mark until it is resubmitted, in revised form, in your portfolio.

Each story / poem will be reviewed by one of the members of that particular group: person A discussing person B’s story / poem, person B person C’s, person C person D’s, and so on round to person D talking about person A’s story / poem (see Peer Reviews on the Assignments page for details).

What is good lecture etiquette?

  • All lectures and workshops begin at on the hour and continue till ten to the hour.
  • Please be punctual. If you arrive late, try to take a seat as quietly and unobtrusively as possible.
  • If you know you will have to leave early (for whatever reason), try to inform your lecturer of this in advance. Avoid disruption to other students by sitting at the end of a row. Try to close the door quietly as you go out.
  • If you are expecting an urgent phonecall and need to keep your cellphone on, you must clear this with your lecturer in advance. Otherwise, all cellphones should be turned off at all times. If you forget, and it rings by mistake, don't answer it.
  • Don't talk unless there's a class discussion underway. Make sure your remarks are addressed to the group as a whole, not your immediate neighbour.

What are the protocols of a writing workshop?

  1. Be courteous and supportive of each other – constructively critical, not negative.
  2. Be honest. Don’t give out praise or blame if you don’t really mean it.
  3. Make no introductions to or apologies for the piece of work you are reading out. Let it speak for itself.
  4. Don’t refuse to read your work out week after week or it will become an increasingly frightening prospect.

[Frank Sargeson's bach (2006)]

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