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This is something I’m teaching right now:

 

ENGL 534: FORM & TECHNIQUE IN FICTION

PUNCTUATION!

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

In this class that focuses on punctuation—take a deep breath now—you will be writing a novel. A complete first draft of a novel: in this class. Yay!

 

COURSE GOALS

Through this class, you should expect to achieve the following goals:

  1. Develop a complex and sophisticated use of punctuation;
  2. Read Ulysses;
  3. Write a novella[1]

 

REQUIRED TEXTS

Gabler edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses

 

GRADING RUBRIC

Your grade will be calculated using the following rubric:

Participation                50%[2]

Novella completion     25%[3]

Mini-workshops          15%[4][5]

Community Activity    10%[6]

 

WEEKLY WRITING ASSIGNMENTS

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

  1. They should be double-spaced, twelve point standard serif font. Staple it too;
  2. Always provide me with two copies: one hard and the other electronic;
  3. There is no length requirement or cap. If you turn in something very short or very long, though, it better be very good; and
  4. You will be working with the same group all semester. Choose your group members carefully. I would usually have you rotate groups, but a novella is too unwieldy and you can save on print money.

 

A NOTE ON READING

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 plot: I just want you to use Joyce’s astute punctuation as a lens to understand—differently—this complex and important text.

 

GRADING & ATTENDANCE POLICY

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.

 

OFFICE HOURS

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.

 

COOKIE POLICY

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.

 

[1]WAIT: WHAT? Yes, you’re right, in this F&T, I’m asking that you not only read Ulysses, arguably one of the most difficult texts written in the English language, but also write an effing novella. But it’ll be easy. I’ll walk you through it. Also: there are quite a few rules, which are:

  1. Like Ulysses, your novella will take place over a limited period of time. In this case, 13 hours. Much like each episode of Ulysses is an hour of the day, so too shall your novel. (I’m imagining your novella will be 13 chapters, as that’s the easiest way to organize things, but hey, I’m not telling you how to do things.)
  2. Like Ulysses, which uses The Odyssey as a formal method of organization and overarching metaphor, so too shall your novella. Pick a myth or tale. You can choose anything. I don’t want an overt, one-to-one conversion between myth and narrative. I’d like something more nuanced (e.g. let’s say you choose the story of Icarus. Your novel could be about someone’s fall from grace or maybe “heat” of rising—as metaphor and literal—or maybe a father-son relationship or maybe just hope turned into mourning.).
  3. Like Ulysses, which takes place in Dublin and in which Dublin becomes a major character, so too shall your novella. You can pick your own place.
  4. If you want to be super ambitious—which I strongly advise you be!—build a Twitter page for your protagonist. Tweet for the whole 13 hours. Obviously, choose your 13 hours carefully.

[2] Obviously.

[3] All you have to do is finish writing a novella. I am not grading based on caliber of writing or concept.

[4]You will be working with the same group all semester. Choose your group members carefully. I would usually have you rotate groups, but a novel is too unwieldy and you can save on print money.

[5] As you all know, we have had to make a number of modifications for this class. For mini-workshops, you will meet with your group at a consistent time of your own choosing. I will meet with you as a group once every two weeks.

[6]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.