Upcoming Special Topics Courses

Special Topics Courses 2017-2018


Fall 2017:

9CT Fire Stories with Kai Carlson-Wee From the onset of language, the art of storytelling has played an enormous roll in the development of human culture, allowing us to learn, retain knowledge, entertain friends, and empathize deeply with others. With the advancement of so many digital mediums, there are now more ways to tell stories than ever. In Fire Stories we will be exploring the art of storytelling in the digital age. We will be reading and writing in a variety of genres, workshopping our own personal projects, and frequently meeting outdoors to tell stories around a fire.

190T.1 First Person Fiction with NoViolet Bulawayo

190T.2 Novel Writing Intensive (NaNoWriMo) with Scott Hutchins and Tom Kealey Based on National Novel Writing Month, students write a full-length (50,000 words) novel during the month of November. We’ll spend the first four to five weeks of the course carefully laying the groundwork for our novels. We’ll look at several published models, write synopses, outlines, character sketches, and search tirelessly for the novel’s engine: its voice. And then, we’ll write 1700 words a day, every day, for the month of November.

190T.3/192T Flash Fiction/Prose Poetry with Keith Ekiss and Brittany Perham This workshop will explore the range of the prose poem and short-short forms. We will consider the history of the genres, discussing how they originate from the craft of lineated poetry and traditional narrative (parables and fables, for example). Weekly exercises will push our writing in new directions as we explore micro-forms that encourage risk-taking and playfulness. Authors under discussion will include: Arthur Rimbaud, Edgar Allan Poe, Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, and Lydia Davis.

Winter 2018:

9CT.1 Family Stories with Brittany Perham This class will focus on writing the family. Students will have the opportunity to work in both prose and poetry, using memory as a way to enter and develop their own creative practice. They will generate and workshop new material in a supportive environment, which will emphasize experimentation, risk-taking, and finding joy in the artistic process. Students will come away with a better understanding of their own fundamental stories and the many ways they might shape them.

9CT.2 Poetic Forms with Michael Shewmaker  This course is a poetry workshop. We will spend the first half of the quarter reading and writing in traditional forms (blank verse, sonnet, villanelle, ghazal, sestina, etc.) and the second half innovating from those forms. We will consider how a writer might honor tradition without being confined by it. The culmination of the course will be a project in which the student invents (and writes in) a form of their own.

90Q Sophomore Seminar: Sports Writing with John Evans Study and practice of the unique narratives, tropes, images and arguments that creative writers develop when they write about popular sport. Close readings of essays on form and sport, as well as book excerpts. Students will engage in class discussions and write short weekly papers, leading to a more comprehensive project at the end of the quarter. Visit https://exploreintrosems.stanford.edu/sophomores-transfer-students for information about applying for the course.

90W Writing and War with Adam Johnson  This introductory, five-unit course is designed for all students interested in reading the literature of and studying the expression of military conflict. Bridging the experiences of Veteran and non-Veteran students will be a central aim of the course and will be reflected in enrollment, reading materials, visiting guests and final narrative project. Apply by November 13th here. 

91A Asian-American Autobiography/Writing with Prof. Chang-rae Lee This is a dual purpose class: a writing workshop in which you will generate autobiographical vignettes/essays as well as a reading seminar featuring prose from a wide range of contemporary Asian-American writers. Some of the many questions we will consider are:  What exactly is ‘Asian-American’ memoir? Are there salient subjects and tropes that define the literature? And in what ways do our writerly interactions – both resistant and assimilative – with a predominantly non-Asian context in turn recreate that context? We’ll be working/experimenting with various modes of telling, including personal essay, the epistolary form, verse, and even fictional scenarios. Apply by November 13th here

190D Dialogue Writing with Harriet Clark  In this course, we will access the desires and fears, the connections and disconnections, that power every exchange our characters have with each other. Writing begins with us and is often about us, but dialogue leads us away from ourselves. Using characters you already have and generating entirely new characters, you will meet and re-meet your characters by letting them speak. Your characters will, in turn, deliver your real conflict, your real story. Each student should expect to leave the class with skills that will make your dialogue more engaging, your characters more compelling, and your writing (and writing-life) more meaningful.

190F Fiction into Film with Shimon Tanaka   Fiction Into Film is designed as a bridge from fiction writing to writing for film. We will be reading adapted screenplays and source material (novels and short stories), completing writing exercises to help us learn the form and craft of screenplays, and also watching and analyzing movies to see how film structure works.

190T.1 Novella Salon with Mark Labowskie and Kate Petersen Students in the novella salon will read widely in the genre and have the opportunity to discuss craft issues peculiar to the form with visiting writers throughout the quarter. A series of short writing exercises based on the novellas we read will serve to explore and refine principles like compression, world-building, voice, and dramatic structure, and prepare students to write their own novella-length works.

190T.2 Twitter Fiction with Scott Hutchins A workshop in the possibilities of the new disruption, from the high compression of Twitter to the spatial approaches of twine to the art of the app. An innovative class for writers interested in narrative innovation.

190T.3 Young Adult Writing with Nina Schloesser  This is an intermediate course on the art and craft of fiction writing in the young adult genre. We’ll read widely in the genre, discovering principles of craft that generate powerful and enduring young adult fiction. Students will begin a young adult novel and submit pages to the class on a weekly basis. The goal of our workshop will be to support and encourage one another through the early stages of novel-writing, so that each of us finishes the quarter at a high point of motivation and interest in our material.

191T Voices of the Land with Austin Smith  What happens when a writer gets up from his or her desk and goes out into the world in the hopes of telling an as-yet-untold story? Students will have this opportunity in “English 191T: Voices of the Land.” In this documentary journalism class, students will propose and complete a project over the course of the quarter that may involve off-campus travel, research, interviews, and photography.

192V The Occasions of Poetry with Mohr Visiting Poet Louise Glück: author info here. Applications are due November 14th.

Spring 2018:

9CT.1 Form and Transformation with Shannon Pufahl  How do we turn what we feel into what we write? And how do we make readers feel what we want them to? In this course we’ll examine work across genres — fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry — paying careful attention to the ways in which a poem or story or essay transforms language into emotion.  We will learn to describe emotion more fully and deeply, and to create work that evokes emotion elegantly and subtly.

9CT.2 Flash Fiction with Kate Petersen Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it’s also the power-source for “flash” or “sudden” fiction. We’ll read widely in this form of very short stories, essays and prose poems, investigating what happens to narrative when it’s highly compressed. Students will complete in-class and take-home craft exercises, and write and workshop “sudden” pieces of their own, culminating in a chapbook.

93Q Sophomore Seminar: The American Road Trip with Kai Carlson-Wee In this course we will be exploring the art and literature of the great American road trip. We will be reading and writing in a variety of genres, workshopping our own personal projects, and considering a wide breadth of narrative approaches. We will be looking at films, acquainting ourselves with contemporary photographers, going on a number of campus-wide field trips, and finishing the quarter with an actual road trip down the California coast. Visit https://exploreintrosems.stanford.edu/sophomore/american-road-trip for information about applying for the course.

190T.1 Video Games with Scott Hutchins and Michael Shewmaker In the years since Pac-Man and Pong, video games have become an innovative and exciting narrative space. In this course, we will consider how game structure differs from—and is the same as—long-form narrative structure. We will look to the game requirements of rules and, of course, fun. We will then set out to create our own defined, innovative, and fun game—a collaborative project rooted in a question of social justice.

190T.2 Novel Salon with Sarah Frisch and Shimon Tanaka Who better to discuss a book with than its author? Each week at the Novel Salon, you will meet and talk with prize-winning authors about their novels, their writing practice, and what it takes to get a book out into the world. If you want to read like a writer and read with other writers, then join us each Monday night to discuss, debate, and absorb. This class will not involve workshops but will include in-class writing exercises and a reading load of one novel a week.

190T.3 Screenwriting Intensive with Tom Kealey and Shimon Tanaka Each student’s main project for this course is a 90 page full-length screenplay. We’ll focus on this project for 30 days in May, requiring an average of three pages per day. How will we do this? Word by word, dialogue by description, scene by scene. We’ll set the groundwork in April by reading scripts, writing outlines and treatments, and through our collective support as writers and classmates. Submit a hard copy application to the Creative Writing Office by March 2nd, 4:00pm.

190V Finding the Story with Stein Visiting Writer Ron Carlson: author info here. This is a fiction writing class. Students will each write exercises as assigned and two short stories in the quarter.  Each week we’ll talk about the major elements of the craft of fiction (character, dialogue, imagery, point of view, etc.) and we will discuss three student stories around the workshop table.  Students will write critiques of each story and bring them to class.  When your story is due you will bring copies to class for distribution.  We’ll also read a book or two of short stories which I’ll announce at the first class. Submit the 190V enrollment application by March 5th.  

191V Reading for Nonfiction Writers with Stein Visiting Writer Rebecca Solnit: author info here.  Selvage: the bound edge of a bolt of fabric is literally a compound of self and edge. Sutra, literally means a sacred text, but the term comes from how those texts were sewn together and shares an origin with our word suture. How do we value edges and connections, negotiate individuality and communion? How do the stories we have to tell emerge from how we imagine our selves? This is a nonfiction writing class exploring how the personal is political, when public life impacts private lives, where your story ends and another’s begins and how they intersect. We’ll read great writers, known and unknown—from Virginia Woolf to Jia Tolentino, James Baldwin to Jaime Cortez—and we’ll draw up our own maps of the selves and the worlds they move through, exploring metaphors, narratives, nontraditional forms, and ideas about interior life and the world beyond. Some journalism, some poetry, and lots of adventurous essayistic prose, yours and theirs. Submit the 191V enrollment application by March 5th.

192T.1 Poetry in Translation with Solmaz Sharif  In a given year, only 0.7% of the fiction and poetry books published in the US are in translation. Who are we missing? How might our conversations in American letters be troubled and expanded if we read more globally? What might we learn about our own English and writing as a result? This is a workshop course in the translation of poetry, devoted to reading texts in translation and, more importantly, writing them. We will look at a variety of translation practices—from experimental to traditional. We will workshop your weekly translations of poems into English. All who are interested in broadening our literary conversation while holding a microscope to their own words are encouraged to join.

192T.2 Poetry Salon with Keith Ekiss and Brittany Perham  In the Poetry Salon, you will meet and talk each week with prize-winning authors about what it takes to craft a book of poetry and make your way in the world as a writer. Reading in a diversity of styles, from a wide range of contemporary poets, we’ll stretch our understanding of the possibilities of poetic form. Weekly writing exercises and emulations will allow us to develop our own writing alongside our classroom guests.