Fall 2016 Graduate Course Offerings—CWE & Literature

ENGL 550. Creative Writing: Craft and Professional Practice

Instructor: K. L. Cook

A multi-genre craft course required of all incoming students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment.  Students develop an understanding of craft and environmental writing across genres (poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama) as well as learn about editing and publication practice through the lens of a working literary journal, Flyway: A Journal of Writing and Environment (http://flyway.org/).  Other course activities include presentations on the production practices of leading literary journals, individual editing projects, pragmatic tips for finding publication outlets for polished creative work, and a field trip to publishing houses.  The class also takes a field trip to the Everett Casey Nature Reserve as well as to another location.  In 2015, the class will attend the Prairie Festival, hosted by the Land Institute during the last weekend in September.  Required of all new students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment.


ENGL 555. Workshop: On Place & Travel: World Building in Nonfiction Writing

Instructor: Debra Marquart

In this nonfiction workshop, we will focus on how to evoke entire worlds while narrating our personal stories. We will explore the idea of homeground—how first landscapes can imprint themselves on us through their geological, historical, anthropological, political influences—and then we’ll look at the ways that travel and movement, a kind of willful disorientation through encounters with new landscapes, might allow us to see place and home in new ways, possibly illuminating our own story. We’ll analyze the idea of milieu—how to recreate the remembered dream of a place—and we’ll cover various subthemes that arise in stories about travel and movement, such as immigration, flight, exile, expatriation, tourism, exploration, adventure, and wanderlust.

Each week, class participants will write either short (postcard-size) or long creative pieces that will be discussed in large and small group workshops. Each week, we will also work through a course packet of salient, well-chosen excerpts from published texts that will allow us to observe how other writers have meditated on homeground and travel, as well as accomplished world building in their published work.

A starting list of texts that will likely be excerpted in the course packet include the following: Barry Lopez (Arctic Dreams); MFK Fisher (Long Ago in France); Orhan Pamuk (Istanbul: Memories of the City); Jamaica Kincaid (A Small Place); Anatole Broyard (Kafka Was the Rage); Barbara Hurd (Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains); Gretel Ehrlich (The Solace of Open Spaces); William Kittredge (Hole in the Sky); John McPhee (Oranges); Alain De Botton (The Art of Travel); Kristen Iverson (Full Body Burden: Growing up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats); and Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer).


ENGL 557.  Studies in Creative Writing: Screenwriting

Instructor: David Zimmerman

This course is a soup to nuts introduction to the art of screenwriting.  Although this is a workshop based creative writing class, much of the semester will be spent learning the craft, format, and history of screenwriting.

The semester will be split into three aspects.  The first section will cover the process of creating a screenplay.  We will go over everything from the basic format of a screenplay to creating lively, realistic dialogue to the importance of research.  The second section will deal with deep analysis of films. Each student will choose a film, discuss an aspect of craft, and reverse engineer a scene back into screenplay form.  The third section will be devoted to the writing of a full length screenplay and workshopping drafts of the resulting script. Some of these assignments will run concurrently.

This will be a practical, hands-on class.  Much of our time will be spent discussing aspects of craft and screenplay structure, working on exercises that will help you understand the basic parts that make up a good script, and then watching films that demonstrate these things. We will also read three or more screenplays, including but not limited to China Town, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Thelma and Louise. The choice of screenplays is still in flux.

ENGL 560.  Environmental Field Experience

Instructor: Debra Marquart

Students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment register for three credits and spend a term on a project that requires environmental fieldwork. Fieldwork experiences might include the following kinds of activities: working for a federal, state, or private non-profit environmental organization; partnering with an environmental activism organization or advocacy organization working toward a cause of interest for the student’s research; or living and working in a specified natural area and engaging in environmental fieldwork that enhances the student’s understanding of environmental issues.

A proposal must be submitted to and approved by the English 560 field experience coordinator prior to the commencement of fieldwork. Students should confer with their advisers or the field experience coordinator prior to writing the proposal. An informational document, “MFA Guidelines for Completion of English 560,” and the approval form, “MFA Environmental Field Experience Proposal,” are both available for download on the following website: http://www.engl.iastate.edu/graduate-students/resources-for-current-students-faculty/. (See the links for the two 560 documents under the subheading, “Program Specific POS Forms.”)

The 560 field experience culminates in a formal public presentation of the student’s experience and a short creative reading of work that demonstrates the way the field experience has informed the writer’s work. A final portfolio of the writing samples and other documentation will be submitted to the field experience coordinator as a final requirement of the 560 Environmental Field Experience.


ENGL 589: Supervised Practicum Literary Editing

Instructor: Debra Marquart

Students assume editorial duties for Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment, a nationally distributed journal of writing and environment. Prereq: English 550, a least one graduate creative writing workshop, and permission of instructor.


FALL 2016—Literature Graduate Courses


English 521: Teaching of Literature and the Literature Curriculum

Instructor: Donna Niday

How do I begin to create or revisualize a semester’s literature course? Should I teach chronologically or thematically? Should I use literature circles, literature portfolios, dialogue journals, or online exchanges? How do I incorporate more multicultural texts into the curriculum? In this course, we will discuss text selections, discussion techniques, and strategies to encourage class members to read and think broadly and deeply as current or future teachers. Class members will read and discuss several pedagogical texts, connect theory and pedagogy, complete several short assignments throughout the semester, and conclude the course by composing an appropriate syllabus with unit plans. This course is appropriate for individuals who are-or may someday be-teaching at the middle school, high school, community college, or college/university level.

Texts: Contact Donna Niday at dniday@iastate.edu for a complete list of texts.


English 531: Topics in the Study of Literature

Instructor: Matt Sivils

Imagining Apocalypse: Narratives of Environmental Catastrophe

From nuclear Armageddon to horrifying pandemics to the quiet cataclysm of greenhouse emissions, the popularity of narratives about the end of our world seems to rise in step with our ability to make such predictions come true. Once merely victims of natural disasters, our species has since become complicit in large-scale environmental destruction. Humanity is the disaster. In this course we will investigate imagined environmental calamity so that we may better understand, and perhaps better remedy, our all too real impact upon the Earth. “Apocalypse,” writes Lawrence Buell, “is the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal. . . . for the rhetoric of apocalypticism implies that the fate of the world hinges on the arousal of the imagination to a sense of crisis” (Environmental Imagination 285). We will spend the semester investigating how authors of apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction incite this “sense of crisis.” Along with filmic texts such as Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach (1959), Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia (2011), and AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010-present), we will read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; P.D. James’s The Children of Men; Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home; Richard Matheson’s, I Am Legend; Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos. We will enrich our discussion of these texts by reading a selection of critical sources devoted to literary apocalypticism, ecocriticism, natural disasters, disease studies, and related issues. Assignments include leading a class discussion, short written responses to readings, and an article-length critical paper of publishable quality.


English 538: Fiction

Instructor: Barbara Ching

Ivy Leagues, Red Bricks, Land Grants: Academic Fiction and Educational Access

In this 3 credit course we’ll read at least 3 “academic novels” and other documents such as the Morrill Act, Northrop Frye’s brief critical essay “The Mythos of Spring,” and sections of a memoir, From the Basement of the Ivory Tower by Professor X, and journal articles on the assigned novels. We will start with Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim (1954) set in a provincial English red brick university established to educate students whose backgrounds did not lead them to Oxford or Cambridge. The second novel is Jane Smiley’s novel Moo, set in a very recognizable land grant university. Our reading of these texts will be informed by both genre theory and by historical and rhetorical perspectives on the ways in which educational access and college and university rankings have been created, defined, (de)valued, and imagined. You will select a third novel from a set of choices to be determined by student interests and you will present your reading of the novel to the class. Grades will be determined by participation (20%), class presentations (40%) and a final paper (40%).


English 540: Drama

Instructor: Linda Shenk

Shakespeare, Performance, and the Rhetorical Tradition

In this course on drama, we will study some of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays alongside texts from the rhetorical tradition—a combination that unlocks the clues Shakespeare gives for the actor; the way that persuasion & negotiation are naturally theatrical; and the way that we can, as teachers, engage students when teaching plays and rhetoric. In class, we will often stage scenes, follow early modern practices of identifying rhetorical figures to examine character, and read critical essays from various perspectives and disciplines. Although this hands-on seminar is not a theater or rhetoric course, its focus is designed to appeal to graduate students from a range of sub-disciplines in the English Department who wish to study the theatrical-rhetorical craft of Shakespeare’s plays. Attention will also be given to how techniques we study in the course can be applied in one’s pedagogy and job searches. All course participants will be able to tailor their final research projects to explore ideas related to their individual areas of expertise.