Image of books stacked on top of one another

2020 Fall Courses



Book 1

Instructor: Imad Rahman
Campus: Cleveland State University
Day & Time: Wednesday, 6:00-8:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 610, sec 50

Designed to be taken in conjunction with Book 2 in the spring, this workshop shapes and sharpens 75 pages of original student fiction into viable manuscript projects. These books-in-waiting will be workshopped, both traditionally and a little less traditionally, in three forty-minute rounds over the course of the semester. Our tour guides for this journey will be four critically-acclaimed books of recent contemporary fiction: Ottessa Moshfegh's Death In Her Hands, Aravind Adiga's Amnesty, Quan Barry's We Ride Upon Sticks, & Samanta Schweblin's Mouthful Of Birds. Some of our concerns this semester will be: different ways to conceptualize, inhabit, plot, develop and complicate a novel; how to effectively escalate and compress a short story & organize a stand-alone story collection; and for the especially adventurous, what exactly is a novel-in-stories: an ungainly spillover from a short story collection or the fragments of a ruined novel or a form which contains both the compression of the story and the cohesive expansive unity of a novel? And finally, the big question: how could you, how should you, how will you write one of these books?

Fiction Workshop

Instructor: Hilary Plum
Campus: Cleveland State University
Day & Time: Tuesday, 6:00-8:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 610, sec 51

This workshop will offer engaged discussion of your work-in-progress and a semester-long dialogue on the making of fiction. Writers will submit works of fiction several times during the semester and will discuss peers’ writing weekly, as usual. We will proceed in spirits and modes of rigor, collaboration, discovery, mutuality, experiment, return, embodiment in language, hope, historiography, detection, polyphony, nearness and distance, beginnings and endings, midnight and rain. Together we’ll consider how narration in fiction works line by line: how voice realizes itself; the role of narrator and/vs. character; how detail means or matters; how the artifice of fiction houses fact; the positioning of the reader, as in a mirror; genre as resource; subjectivity and systems; forms of verisimilitude and representation; world-building and its responsibilities and freedoms; fiction as an alternative present. Short craft readings and exercises will arise out of our discussions, deepening our attention to how precisely fiction takes form. No books assigned. Contact: h.plum@csuohio.edu

Flash Fiction & Hybrid Flash Prose

Instructor: Mary Biddinger
Campus: University of Akron
Day & Time: Tuesday, 5:20-7:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 3300: 689-805

Ideal for anyone interested in working with a malleable and innovative form, as well as for those experienced with writing flash fiction or brief hybrid prose, this workshop will help writers generate, discuss, and polish short prose pieces. We will begin by considering the history of the short short story, and see how the form has evolved and broadened to intersect with other genres. Optional prompts will encourage experimentation and provide points of departure for generating new work, and students will receive substantial feedback from the instructor and classmates. This 100% online workshop will include synchronous discussions (within the 5:20-7:50 pm Tuesday evening timeframe), individual online conferences with the professor, and asynchronous online workshop conversations on our Brightspace forum. Student work will be the primary text in this course, but additional readings—including both flash pieces recently published in literary magazines, and craft essays—will be provided by the instructor as electronic resources.

Delivery method: Synchronous discussion with asynchronous online workshop forum.

Craft & Theory of Dark Fiction: Making Monsters and Haunting Houses

Instructor: Christopher Barzak
Campus: Youngstown State University
Day & Time: Thursday, 5:10–7:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 45614

Gothic fiction and the monsters it creates moves through a variety of times and places, but it became a vigorous form of American Literature due to early practitioners like Poe and Hawthorne. Later, Southern Regionalist writers like Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner took up the mode and used it to explore the darker aspects of life in their post-Civil War South. In contemporary American fiction, we still see the Gothic, the Grotesque, and Supernatural fiction operating to grapple with the darker aspects of life. This course will examine novels, novellas, and short stories that move between examples of these genres from the past and the present, with some additional examples of these genres operating in fictions from other cultures, as well as ancillary movements like the New Weird. Potential readings include works by Joyce Carol Oates, Theodora Goss, Jamaica Kincaid, Shirley Jackson, Nova Ren Suma, Jeanette Winterson, Victor LaValle, and Stephen Graham Jones. 



Craft & Theory: The Forms of Love: Writing a Community Memoir

Instructor: Caryl Pagel
Campus: Cleveland State University
Day & Time: Thursday, 6:00-8:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 615

The history of memoir is rife with “I”; self as subject, source, and point of view. In this class we’ll discuss what happens when the story of the self relies upon or requires the stories of others to be told. We’ll discuss such social formal strategies as epistolary, conversation, case study, inquiry, retelling, oral history, interview, chorus, and collage. We’ll consider the boundaries between inclusivity and appropriation; the responsibility involved in getting a communal account correct; and how we might think of memoir not as the secret story of the self but crucial public work. Class texts will include Renata Adler’s Speedboat, Caren Beilin’s Blackfishing the IUD, Joe Brainard’s I Remember, Annie Ernaux’s The Years, James Galvin’s The Meadow, Mitchell Jackson’s Survival Math, Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, Kiese Leymon’s Heavy; Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me, Sarah Minor’s Bright Archive; and Abigail Thomas’s Safekeeping.

Creative Nonfiction Workshop


Instructor: David Giffels
Campus: University of Akron
Day & Time: Tuesday 5:20–7:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 3300:689-801

In this MFA creative nonfiction writing workshop, students will propose a semester-long writing project tuned toward their own literary style, goals and writing background. Once the proposals are discussed and approved, each student will submit two to three pieces of original work to be read and discussed by the workshop participants. Individual readings will also be assigned, tailored to each writer’s aesthetic and goals.



C&T: Loose Meters & Free Forms: A Study of Traditional Form in Contemporary Poetry

Instructor: Catherine Wing
Campus: Kent State University
Day & Time: Thursday, 4:25-7:05 PM
Course Number: ENG 66895

If Louis Sullivan’s dictum that “form ever follows function” is true, then what can be said of form’s role in poetry?  Even on clear (and optimistic) days the function of poetry remains somewhat elusive, while the idea of strict poetic form leaves many poets uneasy.  Are we, as Frost would have it, “playing tennis with the net down,” or have we, a la Ezra Pound, freed ourselves from “the sequence of the metronome” and “the shackles of the iamb”?  In this class we will explore form’s role in poetry, as we consider where we might stand in relation to it, as writers. The class will serve as an introduction to (and practice of) form’s basic mechanics, as well as an investigation of what effects these techniques have on a reader.  We’ll look at the evolution of form over time—sapphics to sonnets, iambs to Oulipo—to determine what different structures can accomplish. No formal background required, just an open mind and a willingness to experiment.  

Poetry Workshop: Poem as Translation

Instructor: Steven Reese
Campus: Youngstown State University
Day & Time: Wednesday 5:10-7:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 45993.6966

Just to get our wheels turning, we’ll mull the idea of poetry as translation from experience into language—like any other kind of writing.  But with poetry, the language into which experience has been translated seems itself a translation out of the “normal” language we would use to describe or otherwise account for the experience—why?  And when we try to translate the poem back into the “normal” language by way of paraphrase, something substantial is lost—what, exactly? In translation, “fidelity to the original” is a standard measure of quality; is there anything like this criterion involved when we discuss a poem’s translation of experience? Finally, poetry is famously resistant to translation into other languages—Shelley refers to “the vanity of translation” when it comes to this genre; why is this?  Whether we can answer these questions or not, the pursuit should give us some insight into the course’s main business: writing poems.



Playwriting Workshop

Instructor: Michael Geither
Campus: Cleveland State University
Day & Time: Monday, 6:00–8:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 612

This is an open workshop, an opportunity for you to write freely and without stylistic constraints.  The first four to five weeks of class will be largely generative and we’ll discuss published plays that come from contemporary playwrights.  From that point forward we’ll focus on workshopping and individual meetings.  The goal here - for both students enrolled as playwrights and students whose work is focused in a different genre - is to understand how writing works in real time by completing a single unified work of considerable length or a series of shorter related pieces.



Reading, Writing, Seeing: Issues in Contemporary American Screenwriting

Instructor: Laura Beadling
Campus: Youngstown State University
Day & Time:  Monday, 5:10-7:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 45677

Although it has long been a truism in Hollywood that the screenwriter gets no respect, this class will examine the work of contemporary American screenwriters as well as help students master the unique style and format of screenwriting.  In this class, we will read both contemporary American screenplays from a variety of genres and screenplay theory by leading theorists of the form, including Kristin Thompson, David Bordwell, Rosamund Davies, J. J. Murphy, and others. Along the way, we will watch and analyze several films and produce both analyses of already-produced screenplays as well as portions of our own screenplays. Satisfies the NEOMFA literature requirement. Contact: llbeadling@ysu.edu

Wright, Ellison, & Baldwin

Instructor: Dr. Philathia Bolton
Campus: University of Akron
Day & Time: Wednesday, 5:20-7:50 PM
Course Number: ENG 3300: 689-804

This seminar privileges for consideration works by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin. These writers are joined together for study because of the timing of their emergence as writers and the role each played in the other’s public perception. The course will afford opportunity to examine this connection and the ways in which the works of these men speak to each other. Most importantly, we will interrogate what their writings suggest about a writer’s awareness of audience, positionality, and competing purposes assigned to the literary exchange.



Literary Editing and Publishing

Instructor: Hilary Plum
Campus: Cleveland State University
Day & Time: Wednesday 6:00–8:50 PM
Course Number: English 497/597

This course will combine hands-on work in small press, magazine, and DIY literary settings with a comprehensive study of the structures and issues that characterize contemporary publishing. Students will gain both practical skills and theoretical background in the work of literary editing. The course will consider the editorial process and author/editor relationships; the history, tradition, and forms of the book; connections between presses and larger cultural communities; reading publics in the internet age; and the role of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook. We will consider how to develop an editorial aesthetic and editorial practices, as well as practical approaches to budgets, mission statements, online platforms, submissions, design, and distribution. Students will articulate connections between their own work and the social, cultural, and economic contexts of contemporary publishing. The coursework will culminate in a final publishing project that students will design, with instructor guidance, and in which they may pursue their own interests (in web or print publication; translation; book design; marketing; etc.). This course will contain a collaborative laboratory component and is recommended for those interested in interning or reading for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, the Vindicator, Whiskey Island, or other literary and cultural publications. Contact: h.plum@csuohio.edu



Creative Writing in the Community 

Instructor: Katy Daley
Campus: Kent State University
Day & Time: Monday, Time TBA
Course Number: 

This course will prepare students to apply their knowledge of creative writing in a community-based teaching residency. Class will meet once a week for the first part of the semester and shift to every other week after residencies begin. In class, students will explore community-based learning and what it means to be a literary teaching artist in the field of service learning. Students will also receive coaching in developing creative writing lesson plans that encourage and inspire participants. We will regularly workshop lesson plans so that students have ample practice in implementing lessons before they begin their residencies. Students will apply academic experience to community-based projects and build a resource of lessons and writing samples for a variety of populations. Field experience in addiction recovery centers, trauma recovery centers, shelters, community centers, senior centers, and correctional facilities will be assigned by instructor and agreed upon by students. Students will be expected to teach in the community a minimum of one hour a week for six to ten weeks at a location agreed upon by the student and instructor. Contact: kdaley5@kent.edu 

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English Department
Kent State University
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