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Domino R. Perez, Director BUR 552, Mailcode F9200, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 471-4557

Oscar H. Casares

Associate Professor M.F.A., University of Iowa

Oscar H. Casares



Creative Writing

MAS 374 • Writing Border Narratives-W

35945 • Spring 2010
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm PAR 310
(also listed as E 325 )
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MAS 374: (35945)

Spring 2010   Oscar Casares (Pronounced: Cása—rez)
TTh 2:00—3:15 p.m.   Email:
Classroom: Parlin 310   Phone: 471-8715
    Office: Parlin 222
    Office Hours: T 3:30—4:30 p.m.,
     Th 12:30—1:30 p.m.
    (and by appointment)


This Creative Writing course uses the personal essay a way to examine our relationship with the U.S.-Mexico Border.  Joined for nearly 2,000 miles, from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas and from Tijuana, Baja California to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, these borderlands offer us an opportunity to explore their points of difference and find greater relevance where they converge.  Since the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe in 1848, the international boundary has meant different things to different people, as it continues to do so today.

We will spend the first part of the course reading about the border, as well as learning about the personal essay in its various forms.  For the remainder of the course students will write their own personal essays having to do with their experiences or perspectives on the border. These narratives can be drawn directly from experiences of life on or near the border, or they can be drawn indirectly via the experiences of a family member or friend so long as the student/writer maintains some personal connection to the essay.  Each student will write two original essays, one of which will be discussed in a workshop setting and the other which will be discussed in a conference with the instructor.

We will use three basic steps to develop your creative writing abilities.  The first step is for you to learn how to read like a writer, being aware not only of the content, but also the mechanics behind an essay—scene development, narrative structure, sensory details, etc.  Learning to identify these elements will help you understand how to make use of them in your own work.  You will have at least one assigned reading, either an essay or historical document, for most of our class meetings.  For the early part of the course, you will also read various sections of the textbook dealing with the craft of non-fiction.  From time to time you can expect a short pop quiz over these reading assignments. 

The second step is for you to learn how to critique essays within a workshop setting.  By critically examining someone else’s writing you will discover the strengths and weaknesses in your own work.  The idea is to develop your editing skills so that you can then further develop your own writing, in and out of this class.

The final step is for you to actually write essays that apply the skills we have discussed.  After each critique of your work, you should have several ideas on how to improve the original draft.

Since this course is part workshop, your participation in the class discussion is critical to your final grade.

Note: We will consider only creative non-fiction, which means you will be asked to use more of the literary techniques discussed in the text and during class, as opposed to the more traditional approach followed in a typical research paper.


Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, 3rd Edition, Janet Burroway, Publisher—Pearson Longman

Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots & Graffiti from La Frontera, Ed. Crosthwaite and Byrd, Publisher—Cinco Puntos Press

Course Packet: Writing Border Narratives
     Available at Jenn’s Copy & Binding
     2200 Guadalupe St. (lower level)

Recommended:  Spanish/English dictionary
                         The Elements of Style (4th Edition), Strunk & White

Students with Disabilities:

Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259.

For more information, please download the full syllabus.

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