January 31st, 2013 / 1:39 pm
Craft Notes

Syllabus Share

I developed this class. Now, I am teaching it.

ENGL 534: Form & Technique in Fiction

Reading Outside of Fiction


As writers, it’s important that we gather inspiration from a broad array of sources. Often, between coursework and personal interest, it’s impossible for us to read as widely or diversely as we could, and it’s often outside of the discipline of creative writing and literature that we gain the most inspiration. In this course, we will read from a variety of disciplines and use the knowledge to generate prose. The texts you will encounter in this course may be difficult. It isn’t important to understand every word. It is even less important that you “like” it. What matters is that you use it to generate new material.


Read and discuss articles and books outside of the genre of fiction in order to generate ideas for short stories.

Each week, you will be required to read intellectually demanding and rigorous articles. Based on this material, you will be asked to generate a piece of short prose. Class time will be spent discussing the articles as well as workshopping your creative work.


All texts will be available via Canvas. You are not required to print them out, but it may make the reading experience less straining on your eyes.


Your grade will be calculated using the following rubric:

Participation                50%

Presentation                15% *

Prose Portfolio            25% **

Community Activity    10% ***

*No one likes group work, right? So, yay!, you don’t have to present as a group. Each student will sign up for one week’s worth of readings. You will lead the discussion that day. I expect a 5-10 minute overview or synopsis of the reading, followed by a series of probing discussion questions. (Don’t worry. I will have a series of discussion questions as well.) Remember: This is not a literature class. I don’t necessarily expect presentations or discussion questions on content or analysis. Instead, I’d like you to focus your discussion questions on how or why the readings might relate to creative writing.

**You will be asked to revise five of your fourteen short prose pieces for your final portfolio. Whereas you may not get written feedback from me on every piece you write for this class, I ask you to use discretion and knowledge to include your five best pieces that display the range you’ve acquired through this course.

***As you can see from the rubric above, in order to receive an A in this course, you have to attend at least four community events. These can be readings, art openings, independent films, independent music shows, etc. Part of being a write is being a part of the community-at-large, both within and without the academy. At least two of these events must take place off-campus.

I ask that you write a one paragraph response (about half a page) to each event. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What would make it better? How does it create/prevent community? Turn this in with your final portfolio.


Because I know you’re graduate students and really care a lot about rules and such, this is what I expect from your weekly short prose pieces:

  1. They should be double-spaced, twelve point standard serif font. Staple it too.
  2. Always bring two copies to class.
  3. There is no length requirement or cap. If you turn in something very short or very long, though, it better be very good.


Reading as a writer is different than reading as a scholar. You read as a writer to steal. Everything you read should be a potential exploit, something you can learn and draw from. Obviously, that’s the point of this class. I don’t need you to understand every word. I don’t even need to understand the concept of each article, but I do need you to be open to “stealing” ideas in order to develop new ideas and new approaches to fiction.


This class meets twice a week. Unless there is some very extreme circumstance, I expect you to be here for every class. That being said, I understand that there are extreme circumstances that aren’t “medical” by school law. You are allowed two unexcused absence, but I urge you to try to be present for every class. Also, I abhor tardiness. Please don’t be late. Being late twice is the equivalent to one absence.


I urge you to come visit me during office hours. Though it isn’t required, students who show their dedication to writing by speaking to me independently generally do better in the class and improve their writing.


Please turn off your cell phones or set them to silent. If your phone rings or vibrates, you will be required to bring in cookies for everyone during our next session. If I catch you texting, especially to each other: cookies. This is not a joke.


Don’t. I will fail you. No exceptions.



 This is only a tentative calendar. Please remain flexible as things often change during the semester, which might disrupt this perfectly planned course calendar.

For all weeks after Week 1, we will workshop your short prose piece based on the previous week’s reading on Monday. You should be prepared to discuss the current week’s readings on Wednesday, which gives you opportunity to digest and dialogue about the material before writing about it.

The whole week’s reading will be bundled, for your convenience.

Week 1            Class cancelled

Week 2           Animals & Animality

M Jan 28          Syllabus & Intros

W Jan 30         Discussion


Calcarco, Zoographies, “Introduction: The Question of the Animal”

Derrida, “The Beast and the Sovereign” (First Session)

Timm and Kochzius, “Geological history and oceanography of Indo-Malay Archipelago shape the genetic population structure in the false clown anemonefish”

Week 3           Animals & Animality (cont)

M Feb 4           Workshop

W Feb 6          Discussion


Porter and Savignano, “Invasion of Polygyne Fire Ants Decimates Native Ants and Disrupts Arthropod Community”

Tyler, Cifarae: A Bestiary in Five Fingers, “Intro” and “Ch. 3: Laugh loudly and flip them the bird”

Week 4: Cloning & Information

M Feb 11         Workshop

W Feb 13        Discussion


Baudrillard, Screened Out, “The Clone or the Degree-Xerox of Species”

Franklin, “Dolly Mixtures”

Virilio, The Information Bomb, Ch. 1-2

Week 5: Biopower & Bioethics

M Feb 18 & W Feb 20

Foucault, History of Sexuality, “Ch. 5: Right of Death and Power of Life”

Casper and Currah (ed), Corpus, “The Audible Body: RFIDs, Surveillance, and Bodily Scrutiny”

Monahan, Surveillance and Security, “Ch. 1: Questioning Surveillance and Security”

Week 6: Bioethics & New Media

Feb 25 & Feb 27

Agamben, State of Exception, “Ch. 1: State of Exception as a Paradigm of Government”

Birrell, “The Gift of Terror: Suicide Bombing as Potlatch”

Zizek, Welcome to the Desert of the Real!, “Ch. 3: Happiness After Sept. 11”

Zylinska, Bioethics in the Age of New Media, “Ch. 4: Of Swans and Ugly Ducklings: Imagining Perfection in Makeover Culture”

Week 7: Technology, Bioethics, & War

M Mar 4          No official workshop this week. Hand in your short prose response to me. Please read the readings and be prepared for discussion

W Mar 6          Class  cancelled for AWP


Mbembe, “Necropolitics”

Silverman, The New Inquiry, “A Drone by Any Other Name”

Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”

Week 8: The Human Body

Mar 11 & 13

Dong, “Unilateral Deep Brain Stimulation of the Right Globus Pallidus Internus in Patients with Tourette’s Syndrome”

Grahek, Feeling Pain and Being in Pain, “Ch. 1: The Biological Function & Importance of Pain”

Ramachandran, Tell-Tale Brain, “Ch. 3: Loud Colors and Hot Babies: Synesthesia”

Scarry, The Body in Pain, “Ch.3: Pain and Imagining” 

Week 9: The Human Body (cont)

Mar 18 & Mar 20

Baudrillard, Screened Out, “Otherness Surgery”

Casper and Currah (ed), Corpus, “Ch. 6: Epistemology of Fatness”

Rosenblum and Solovay (ed), The Fat Studies Reader

            Fraser, “The Inner Corset: A Brief History of Fat in the United States”

LeBesco, “Quest for a Cause: The Fat Gene, the Gay Gene, and the New Eugenics”

Yay! Spring Break!

Week 10: The Virtual Body & Epidemics

Apr 1& Apr 3

Boman and Johansson, “Modeling Epidemic Spread in Synthetic Populations: Virtual Plagues in Massively Multiplayer Online Games”

Casper and Currah (ed), Corpus, “Ch. 10: Virtual Body Modification”

Johnson, “GIS: A Tool for Monitoring and Managing Epidemics”

Week 11: Vision & Ocularcentrism

Apr 8 & Apr 10

Bulkin and Groh, “Seeing Sounds: Visual and Auditory Interactions in the Brain”

Lane, “Mapping the Mars Canal Mania: Cartographic Projection and the Creation of a Popular Icon”

McCabe, “Seeing is Believing: The Effect of Brain Images on Judgments of Scientific Reasoning”

Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture of the Senses, “Part I”

Week 12: Senses & Music

Apr 15 & Apr 17

Badiou, “A Musical Variant of Metaphysics of the Subject”

Cage, “4’33”” (Watch on YouTube)

Evens, Sounds, Ideas, Music, and Machines, “Ch. 1: Sound and Noise”

Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture of the Senses, “Part II”

Week 13: Elements

Apr 22 & Apr 24

Agee, “Interpreting Yellowstone’s Fires of 1988”

Bachelard, The Psychoanalysis of Fire, “Introduction,” “Ch.1: Fire and Respect,” and “Ch.2: Fire and Reverie”

Gillet, “One Stone after Another”

McGreevy, “Imagining the Future of Niagara Falls”

Week 14: Liminality and Miscellany

Apr 29 & May 1

Baranger, “Chaos, Complexity, and Entropy”

De Meis, “House and Street: Narratives of Identity in a Liminal Space among Prostitutes in Brazil”

Radding, “What’s in a Name? Linguistics, Geography, and Toponyms”


Dinner party


  1. SippinDatPurp

      Where were you when I was in school? (rhetorical/complimentary)

  2. Daniel Goldman

      This sounds awesome.

  3. Daniel Goldman

      This sounds awesome.

  4. Adam Robinson

      I agree with Daniel. This sounds awesome This sounds awesome

  5. Christopher Higgs

      “Reading as a writer is different than reading as a scholar.” — YES!

      I echo Adam, echoing Daniel: awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome.

      Thanks for sharing it, Lily.

  6. Jeremy Hopkins

      [This is asked in honest curiosity and not antagonism]: Do you believe it is better to “steal” consciously than unconsciously? Is “stealing” a substitute for “influence?” Does it place the artist in a role as an active co-opter, rather than a passive interpreter?

  7. Michael Fischer

      I think you mean “subconsciously”–it’s difficult to write, let alone breath, when one is unconscious;-)

      But seriously, if I have a criticism of this course, it’s the way it turns the kind of natural organic theft that writers employ into a conscious process…encourages it, in fact. Also, most literary/writerly thefts occur in the moment and are totally unexpected. A writer might begin “stealing” from one of these articles and decide, after beginning, to steal from something completely unrelated that makes more sense to the writer’s subconscious. Does the student fail the assignment? I could see many of these pieces turning out heavy handed, with the writers trying too hard to steal rather than allowing the theft to occur more naturally.

  8. Jeremy Hopkins

      RE: the last sentence — Could be, but that’d be the writer’s fault, not the teacher’s. And she could criticize their work just as you rhetorically have.
      And good point about the subconscious “stealing:” even if one is “stealing” on purpose, I don’t believe that would automatically circumvent natural subconscious processes of influence.
      [Like I said before, I didn’t mean my post to be antagonistic, or even critical; I’m just wondering what “the deal” is.]

  9. Michael Fischer

      Yeah, but meant my post to be critical–criticism and antagonism don’t have to be the same. How would it be the student’s fault when the syllabus clearly suggests that student steal from a specific article? How is that different from a teacher in a regular workshop telling students they have to write their stories based on a pre-determined prompt?

  10. Jeremy Hopkins

      That bit about my intentions is meant simply to assuage the anti-trolling concerns of the author or moderator.

      Assuming there is more detailed in-class direction than is defined in the “A Note on Reading” section, the student should have a clear sense of what’s expected, and if they do not meet the criteria, they would be at fault. If the criteria are not clear, then they might not be.

      “Stealing” something from a particular article could be different from “stealing” some particular sort of thing from a particular article.

      Aren’t courses are meant to be at least a little bit prescriptive?

      [This is all a joke, isn’t it?
      Who is Number One?]

  11. Syllabus Share | HTMLGIANT « urodynuci
  12. lily hoang

      Yes, I do think it’s better to “steal” consciously. Unconscious thievery seems sloppy to me.

      “Stealing” is kind of a substitute for “influence,” but it can be more overt than “influence.” For their creative responses, the range of “influence” or “stealing” is not limited to the texts exclusively. (Actually, we spent most of class yesterday discussing how we engaged with the texts, like physically, what the act of reading was like, how they read, what their method of reading yielded.) Furthermore, they don’t even have to reference any or all of the texts, and certainly not in some obvious or obtrusive way. I haven’t seen the first batch of stories yet, but yesterday, when we discussed the readings in class, the students were enthusiastic about making fiction around these texts. One student is planning on “stealing” Derrida’s tautological style of argument through the form of a monologue. Another student spoke about “stealing” the movement of ocean currents around an archipelago as her method of storytelling. Another student talked about writing a story with a wolf in it (because of Derrida). Another student talked about writing a story about animal rights (based on Zoography). So, obviously, my definition of “stealing” is quite broad. The syllabus doesn’t say all this, but I guess if my syllabus said everything, there would be no purpose in having me in class. Then I’d be unemployed and that would make me sad.

      I don’t think co-opting is bad, especially if it’s an active engagement with the other text.

  13. lily hoang

      I’m not sure why this is framed with the punishment of “failure.” I’m also not sure why my syllabus gives you the impression that I am so rigid and dictatorial that I would require explicit reference to the texts in their creative responses. This class is about the process of generating ideas by reading work that many creative writing students wouldn’t ordinarily read. I hope that this class will encourage students to think of reading as active engagement, not as a scholar but as a writer. As long as the student begins with the readings in mind, occupying their conscious and/or subconscious mental space, they’ve fulfilled the requirements for the assignment.

      Also: This is a graduate class. I don’t anticipate any “failing” at all.

  14. lily hoang

      What can I say? I’m still enamored with the OuLiPo.

  15. Jeremy Hopkins

      Thanks for taking the time.

  16. Michael Fischer

      Okay, fair enough. Syllabus shares are always difficult, because we don’t hear you frame the syllabus before a class–it’s just posted on the Internet. How a professor presents a syllabus in person is obviously as important if not more important than the document itself.

  17. Don

      Lily, this looks like a really interesting course. What readings did you consider adding but didn’t add?

  18. Brady Evan Walker

      question: how can i gain access to canvas, and thus the reading materials? IS IT POSSIBLE?

  19. lily hoang

      If you tell me what you’re interested in, I can email you a pdf.

  20. lily hoang

      about ten million things. maybe that’s a little hyperbolic, but a lot. too much to list here.

  21. in which Lily teaches a class on a whiteboard | HTMLGIANT

      […] is what happened in my grad Form & Technique in Fiction class […]