Spring 2016 Graduate Course Offerings—CWE & Literature






ENGL 551. Advanced Multi-Genre Creative Writing Workshop
Instructor: David Zimmerman

An advanced multi-genre creative writing workshop. Students work intensively on book-length manuscripts of fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry.



ENGL 554. Graduate Fiction Workshop
Instructor: K. L. Cook

In this MFA fiction workshop, students will write, workshop, and revise projects of their choice—short-shorts, stories, linked stories, novellas, or novel excerpts.  Students not enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing and Environment Program must have permission from the instructor to enroll.



ENGL 556. Graduate Poetry Workshop
Instructor: Debra Marquart

The central image of the graduate poetry workshop will be the circle. Every week, in a large or small round-table workshops, we will discuss poems generated by members of the class. This course is designed in such a way that students with varying levels of expertise in poetry writing will feel comfortable bringing their poems to the workshop.

The created poem rises up out of the poet’s consciousness and intellect, but parts of it are drawn from the environment through which the poet walks, which includes newspaper headlines and the troubling stories they report, conversations participated in or overheard, foods and their accompanying tastes and smells, photographs of lost or forgotten ones, words heard in passing. Why certain random details select out of the mish-mash then combine in unpredictable ways to coalesce into a poem is sometimes a mystery, even to the poet. Yet, the poem itself is evidence that it happens.

In addition to the workshop poems, class members will often write a second (flash-length) companion piece of creative work. This may be another poem or a very short prose piece, of fiction or nonfiction, that works to connect or plumb some aspect, however peripheral, of the poem’s generative environment (social, political, emotional, economic, historical, ecological, geological, to name a few).

The approach to discussing work will be open-ended and organic, rather than prescriptive and formulaic. We will discuss our impressions of the poem’s inner workings—its images, metaphors, inventions, language, rhythms, acoustics, and surprises.   In the course of the semester, we will also take some class time to read, discuss, and write critically about a few poetry collections, as well as read and discuss a few short critical essays.

Poetry Collections (UNDER CONSIDERATION)

  • Nikki Finney, Rice: Poems
  • Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn
  • Maurice Manning, The Gone and the Going Away
  • Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
  • Lee Ann Roripaugh, Dandarians: Poems
  • Julianna Spahr, That Winter the Wolf Came



ENGL 557. Studies in Creative Writing: Pop, Flash & Form
Instructor: Ned Balbo

In a world saturated by technology, popular culture is inescapable: its images pop, flash, and form, illuminating our experience. But how can we, as creative writers, make use of its rich resources? At its core, popular culture marks the passage of time; high culture and human history determine its forms and bear its mark; icons that lose their currency retain the imprint of their era. What will last and what will not? That very question, which we direct toward our own writing, is even more crucial when we incorporate popular culture into our work.

This course for MFA students will consider the ways that genres marked by concision—flash fiction, micro essays, prose poems, and poetry—allow us very different means of exploring popular culture, including the use of hybrid genres born of the boundaries between. How could the techniques of film inspire an approach to fiction? Does a film’s minor character deserve her own dramatic monologue? How does a favorite song lead to a micro essay on race or gender? How can a folk song lead to a poem about the history that inspired it? How does work about popular culture echo other ekphrastic traditions? What archetypes influence a comic strip that haunts our memory?

Course readings will include selections from a variety of sources, including Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Eula Biss’ The Balloonists, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Edward Galeano’s Genesis, Albert Goldbarth’s Dark Waves and Light Matter, and Ai’s Vice, as well as readings from After Yesterday’s Crash: The Avant-Pop Anthology (fiction), Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry, Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing, and Brevity: A Journal of Concise Nonfiction.

Class time will combine discussion of assigned reading and models with a multi-genre workshop; students will be encouraged to explore several genres and/or to discover new ways of reinventing or blending existing ones.



ENGL 559. Creative Writing Teaching Internship
Instructor: K. L. Cook

Students assist in an introductory creative writing class. Some supervised teaching but mainly evaluation of submissions and individual conferences. Requirements and grades determined by participating instructors.



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/forms-2/. (On this webpage, 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 in Literary Editing
Instructor: Debra Marquart

In English 589, the Supervised Practicum in Literary Editing, MFA students gain expertise in publishing and editing in a hands-on, real world setting. During the spring semester, MFA students assume editorial duties for Flyway: A Journal of Writing and Environment, a nationally distributed literary journal.

Coursework includes the following activities: screening submissions, meeting in a roundtable discussion with fellow editors to discuss top tier submissions, corresponding with authors, editing and proofing accepted submissions, assisting with layout, overseeing contests such and the “Iowa Sweet Corn Prize” (fiction & poetry) and the “Notes from the Field” prize (nonfiction), and promoting the magazine on social media and in other venues. Editors of the journal also representFlyway at AWP, the national conference of the Associated Writing Programs, each spring semester. (www.flyway.org)





ENGL 531. Topics in the Study of Literature: Absence in Cinema
Instructor: Justin Remes

The composer John Cage once asserted, “There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear.” This course will attempt to theorize the role of absence and erasure in cinema and other art forms. This will include an analysis of films without sound, films without imagery, and found footage films in which pre-existing imagery has been erased. We will also give attention to texts in other art forms that traffic in absence, including poems without words, music without sound, canvases without paint, and Garfield without Garfield. Films screened will include works by Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Douglas Gordon, Walter Ruttmann, Nam June Paik, Takahiko Iimura, Naomi Uman, Cory Arcangel, and Martin Arnold.



ENGL 534. American Literature since 1865: Representations of the Self in Modern Autobiography
Instructor: Connie Post

Are blogs and tweets edging out other forms of lifewriting in the United States? Should autobiographers tell the truth, or do they have the right to break what Jacques LeJeune calls the “autobiographical pact” by fudging the facts? What is the connection between the production of autobiography and late capitalism? Take English 534 and join a hot debate about the genre of autobiography, long regarded as the “ugly duckling” of literary study. Critics and writers have much to say about the genre, and so will we in our examination of lifewriting by Americans primarily from 1900 to the present. Through a variety of critical approaches, we will explore the impact of race, gender, and class on autobiography and consider whether modern autobiographical praxis in the United States is the expression of a unique individual, a unique generation, or a unique nation.

Texts include Benjamin Franklin’s 1867 The Autobiography; Zitkala-Sa, Four Autobiographical Narratives; Jane Addams,Twenty Years at Hull House; John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks; Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; Richard Wright, Black Boy; Alfred Kazin, A Walker in the City; Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems; Mary McCarthy,Memories of a Catholic Girlhood; Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior; Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory; Cheryl Strayed, Wild; and a final selection to be chosen by the class. 3 credits. Constance Post, Instructor.

Requirements: Seminar presentation, term project, review essays, and final exam.



ENGL 543. The Study of Environmental Literature
Instructor: Brianna Burke

Becoming Beast: The Humanimal in the Age of Biotechnology and Escalating Ecological Crisis

This semester we will tackle four theories within the growing field of the Environmental Humanities—Ecofeminism, Environmental Justice, and Trans- and Post-humanism—to ask: what does it mean to be human in the age of escalating ecological crisis? What does it mean to be animal? Through what ideological and political mechanisms are some considered more human, or more animal, than others? How do emerging practices in the biosciences—particularly bio-engineering and genetic manipulation—trouble the boundary between human and non-human? How can we talk about ethics or social justice when it comes to our treatment of our environment, of animals, and of other (human) beings? Might it be true that in the age of climate change we are all just so many beasts slouching toward extinction? Might this demand that we re-think what it means to be human immediately?

The texts are largely from the late 20th– and early 21st-century, and may include Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (2009),The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010), Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2004), Mama Day by Gloria Naylor (1989), Tracks by Louise Erdrich (1989), Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (2010), A State of Wonder by Ann Pachet (2014), Tropic of Orange by Karen Tai Yamashita (1997), Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins (2008), Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2012), and Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes (1996).