All WRT courses are restricted to graduate writing students in the Michener Center’s MFA program or our affiliated programs in English, Theatre or RTF unless special permission is granted. Click for other departments’ workshops in fiction, poetry, playwriting, or screenwriting.
WRT 380S: FAIRYTALES
Wednesdays, 9:00 am – 12:00 noon
FDH Seminar Room
“It is hardly too much to say that these stories rank next to the Bible in importance,’’ W.H. Auden on the Brothers Grimm.
This seminar will examine the form of fairytales, why such stories have survived, what makes them so indelible, what inspiration they are to writers. Tracking the history of fairytales, the imagination of people for centuries stored in wonderful tales, the course will study the collection of the social historians the Brothers Grimm to the more personal, miserable autobiographical narratives of the tall, lonely and desperate Hans Christian Andersen, and to more modern practitioners, among them, Leonora Carrington, Angela Carter and Richard Kennedy. We shall also spend some time on three very isolated European figures of literature, Robert Walser, Bruno Schulz and Daniil Kharms, whose own painfully personal versions of fairytales are as shocking and original today as they were when they were when first published; astounding and unlikely works featuring schools for servants, fathers who turn into stuffed and moth-eaten condors, and many old women who tumble out of windows.
We shall examine the simplicity of the form—it has been said that there is no fat on a fairy tale—its vibrancy, its sheer imagination, its cruelty and what lies beneath its seeming nonsense, often messages of a more sober and alarming content. We shall wonder over ugly sisters, evil stepmothers, simple brothers, hapless tailors, ‘ifrits, jinns, little red caps, decaying houses, depressed Christmas Trees, bluebeards, flying trunks, many thieves, mutilated bodies, a porcelain husband, and a flea who lived with a louse. We shall learn the lessons of economy and plot that such tales have to teach writers of any sort of any genre.
Please note: participants will be required to write short fairytales of their own.
THE COMPLETE GRIMM’S FAIRYTALES, introduced by Padraic Colum, commentary by Joseph Cambell
FAIRY TALES by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Tiina Nunnally
WRT 380W: FICTION WORKSHOP
Wednesdays, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
FDH Seminar Room
The good news and the bad news is: there are no rules. When it comes to writing, a piece of fiction succeeds or fails only depending on how it obeys its own rules, when it teaches the reader how to read and enter the particular fictional world. In our workshop, students will read each other’s work with generosity and optimism and rigor, to understand each piece’s best intentions and try to help the author to fulfill them-to learn, in other words, not only how to be critics, but how to read our own work critically. We will discuss in class and in conference both the smallest details of writing fiction as well as its loftiest aims.
WRT 380W: POETRY WORKSHOP
Tuesdays, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
FDH Seminar Room
In this class, the workshop group will offer feedback on student work (5-10 new poems per participant over the course of the semester). The poems submitted to workshop will not be generated from prompts or assignments.
We are all working writers faced with the same opportunity / dilemma: how to think of poems both as individual artworks and as components that will eventually serve the larger architecture of a book. We will read 5 full-length poetry collections and discuss them in terms of their parts and wholes.
Please purchase all books before the first day of class. You are encouraged to read all of these titles before the course begins.
The Singing Knives by Frank Stanford (Lost Roads)
Alphabet by Inger Christensen, translated by Susanna Nied (New Directions)
The Night by Jaime Saenz, translated by Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson (Princeton)
Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions by Maurice Manning (Yale)
Altazor by Vicente Huidobro, translated by Eliot Weinberger (Wesleyan)
WRT 380S: HISTORY’S GREATEST HITS (crosslisted with HIS 381)
Tuesdays, 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
A workshop for graduate students devoted to the craft of writing history in both nonfiction and fictional form. Students will read selections from some of the greatest writers of history (Herodotus, Plutarch, Gibbon, Carlyle, Parkman, Dickens, Tolstoy, Strachey and many others) and will assess what makes for compelling historical writing. Students will meanwhile develop writing projects of their own. Some students will bring drafts to the workshop and polish these. Other students will commence drafts during the semester. All will present their works-in-progress to the seminar, with the ultimate goal of writing history in the most riveting manner possible.
WRT 380: FIRST-YEAR SEMINAR (limited to/required of all first-year MCW students)
Naomi Shihab Nye
Mondays, 9:00 am – 12:00 noon
FDH Seminar Room