SYLLABUS for FICTION WRITING

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MPW 980 LIFE LINES: THE POEM AS MEMOIR Class #39298
7:00-9:40 P.M. Wednesday 3 Units Room WPH 603
SYLLABUS for
LIFE LINES: THE POEM AS MEMOIR
with Aram Saroyan
([email protected]/323-298-5609/www.aramsaroyan.com)
Spring Semester 2010
INTRODUCTION
From Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality” to Allen Ginsberg’s
“Howl” to Lorine Neidecker’s minimalist lyrics, poets often base their work
on their own and others’ real lives. Our main focus will be on reading and
writing poetry, but this class will also sample a variety of prose works based
on real events: from James Baldwin’s personal essay “Notes of a Native
Son” to Virginia Woolf’s spoken address “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown.”
While the emphasis will be poetry, we welcome students majoring in other
genres and ideally the course will serve as a tonic quickener across the
literary spectrum. Our text will be a course Reader and The ABC of Reading
by Ezra Pound, a poet’s handbook but one recommended by the best-selling
novelist Larry McMurtry, among others, who rereads it every year.
COURSE TEXTS
THE ABC OF READING by Ezra Pound. New Directions.
LIFE LINES: THE MEMOIR IN POETRY AND PROSE. Edited by Aram Saroyan.
Available at the USC Bookstore, the reader includes the following works:
Poetry
SONNET XVIII
INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY
ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE
THE SOUL SELECTS HER OWN SOCIETY
THE LOVE SONG OF ALFRED J. PRUFROCK
THE RIVER MERCHANT’S WIFE: A LETTER
HELEN
AMONG SCHOOL CHILDREN
MUSICIAN
I KNEW A WOMAN
“Remember my little granite pail?”
WM. SHAKESPEARE
WM. WORDSWORTH
JOHN KEATS
EMILY DICKINSON
T. S. ELIOT
EZRA POUND
H. D.
W. B. YEATS
LOUISE BOGAN
THEODORE ROETHKE
LORINE NIEDECKER
2
THE FISH
SKUNK HOUR
AUNT ROSE
I KNOW A MAN
THE DAY LADY DIED
THE RICK OF GREEN WOOD
SUNDOWN: THE LAST OF THE WINE
PEACE
MYSTERIES OF SMALL HOUSES
MY UNCLE AT THE WAKE
REMORSE AFTER SHOPPING
ELIZABETH BISHOP
ROBERT LOWELL
ALLEN GINSBERG
ROBERT CREELEY
FRANK O’HARA
EDWARD DORN
PAUL BLACKBURN
TED BERRIGAN
ALICE NOTLEY
BILL ZAVATSKY
ELAINE EQUI
Prose
MR. BENNET AND MRS. BROWN
EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
NOTES OF A NATIVE SON
A DAY’S WORK
PERSONISM: A MANIFESTO
MY 1960s
VIRGINIA WOOLF
EDMUND WILSON
JAMES BALDWIN
TRUMAN CAPOTE
FRANK O’HARA
ARAM SAROYAN
The reading assignment will be given weekly. Each week we’ll consider the
assignment in detail and I'd like you to have your impressions of the material
freshly in mind. In essence, we’re reading as writers rather than strictly for
pleasure, and the more specific you can be in your response the better.
WRITING ASSIGNMENTS
I will give regular writing assignments, but I encourage you to generate your
own projects over the course of our weeks together. Near the end of our sessions
I’ll ask you to write a profile of a favorite poet in which you review his/her
career, and quote from work you find of particular interest.
I’ll give you notes on examples of your poetry that you choose to turn into me
three times over the course of the semester: after the fourth, eighth and twelfth
sessions.
COURSE SCHEDULE
3
January 13, 2010
Questionnaires and Introductions
Discussion of Syllabus
Telephone Tree
How a poem means—discussion.
ASSIGNMENT: Bring in a work by a poet you particularly treasure.
January 20, 2010
Reading and discussion of treasured poem assignments and how each
utilizes language, rhythm, meter, vowels and consonants.
ASSIGNMENT: Write a short poem with attention to the way the words
“embody what they indicate.” (Alfred North Whitehead).
READING ASSIGNMENT: The ABC of Reading to page 25. Reader:
Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII.
January 27, 2010
Discussion of reading; discussion of class poems.
Reading assignment: The ABC of Reading to page 50.
Intimations of Immortality.
Writing assignment: TBA.
From the Reader:
February 3, 2010
Discussion of the Wordsworth poem and the Pound book and the Imagist
and Objectivist poets: H.D. (Hilda Dootlittle), T. E. Hulme, W.C.
Williams, Oppen, Zukofsky.
Reading assignment: The ABC of Reading through page 70.
Collect poems to return next week with notes.
February 10, 2010
Reading aloud and discussion of papers turned in for notes.
Reading assignment: The ABC of Reading to Section Two (page 93) and
from the Reader the poems by Keats, Dickinson and T. S. Eliot.
Writing assignment: TBA.
February 17, 2010
Discussion of the assigned poems in the reading, and “The Instructor” in
The ABC of Reading.
4
Reading assignment: Read poems in the Reader by Pound, H.D. and
Yeats.
Writing assignment: Write a personal poem, either directly
autobiographical or utilizing a persona.
February 24, 2010
Discussion of Pound selection and poems by
Pound, H.D. and Yeats in the Reader.
Reading aloud and discussion of assigned work.
Reading assignment: Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown in the Reader.
Discussion of the editing process. How reading your own work
repeatedly is a vital part of the literary process.
Assignment: Reread your work and edit it as you decide what to turn in
for notes next week.
March 3, 2010
Discussion of assigned poems and essay in the Reader and the gist of
the change Virginia Woolf characterizes, and the varying strategies of Pound, H.D.
and Yeats in addressing that new emphasis in their work.
Reading assignment: Louise Bogan, Theodore Roethke and Lorine Niedecker.
and Edna St. Vincent Millay by Edmund Wilson in the Reader.
Assignment: Identify a poet for a final prose paper.
Collect papers to return next week with notes.
March 10, 2010
Discussion of Wilson’s memoir and of the poems by
Bogan, Roethke, and Niedecker. Literary relationships.
Discussion of the poets you’ve chosen to profile.
Assignment: Use this interim to read more about and by the subject of
your profile.
March 17, 2010—Spring Break. No meeting.
March 24, 2010
Discussion of the possibility of publishing a class magazine.
Why Doing It Yourself (DIY) makes sense in today’s literary culture.
Discussion of blogs, zines and web pages.
Reading assignment: Read poems in the Reader by Ginsberg, Creeley,
Dorn and Blackburn, and the prose by James Baldwin and Truman
Capote.
Writing assignment: TBA.
5
March 31, 2010
Discussion of the reading and the mix of the personal and the
sociopolitical in poetry and prose. Discussion of Ginsberg’s “Howl.”
Possible titles for a class literary magazine..
Reading aloud and discussion of writing assignment.
Reading assignment: Read poems by O’Hara and Berrigan, and the prose
by O’Hara and Saroyan.
Writing assignment: Write a profile of a favorite poet.
April 7, 2010
Reading aloud and discussion of writing assignment.
Finalize details of class magazine.
Reading assignment: Read poems by Notley, Zavatsky and Equi in the
Reader.
Collect profiles and other papers to return with notes next week.
April 14, 2010
Discussion of more recent poets and current “poetry scene.”
Bill Zavatsky, Elaine Equi, Alice Notley. How Ginsberg’s “candor” is
illustrated in the work of these poets. Jokes, lies, etc.—as in Berrigan.
Choose title for class magazine, settle details of production.
Discussion of poet profiles.
Reading aloud and discussion of pieces handed in for notes.
April 21, 2010
Reading and discussion of poet profiles.
Plan for a publication party at our last meeting.
No assignment.
April 28, 2010
Last meeting. Evaluations. Distribution and celebration of class
magazine.
YOUR GRADE
Your grade will be based on the writing you do for this workshop and on your
contribution to the in-class study that we do together.
The following criteria will be used:
6
Participation
Homework
Submitting work for class critiques
Critiquing other’s work
15%
35%
25%
25%
Grading Guidelines
A final grade in this class is based on the participant's total performance
throughout the semester, not on any single individual work.
In order for the class discussion of new work to be a helpful resource for each
writer, I ask you to keep in mind the following general guidelines:
Listen carefully as work is read aloud by the author. Unless writing notes
distracts you from listening, make notes for your comments afterwards. The
writer may direct questions to people or to the group as a whole. He/she can
initiate topics for discussion. Writers do need to know what works and what is
strong, as well as what needs improvement. Specifics help. Criticism always
refers to the work and never the person.
Please double-space any prose assignment.
I will excuse a necessary absence, but please try to be in touch before the class in
question. Otherwise, I expect you to be here promptly for class and not depart
until the class is dismissed.
A final grade will be based on your total performance throughout the semester,
not on any single individual work. What’s important to me is that you’re
participating in this course with the fullest attention and effort. If I sense that
you have less than a full commitment to what we’re doing, it will affect your
grade. At the same time, I know that each of you has your own rhythm and
approach and I'm not expecting anything other than your best effort and
attention individually, working in the way you personally are learning to work.
I’ve read that a good writing instructor helps the student to write in his/her own
way, while a bad one encourages the student to write in the style of the
instructor. That's something I keep in mind.
EATING IN CLASS
In general, try to confine your eating to before or after the class and/or during
the break (which is usually around 8:30 p.m.) If you must eat in class, try to
7
make it quiet food and/or food without crinkly wrappers, noisy tops et al. which
I find distracting. Thank you.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
I encourage you to seek one another out since this is a unique and temporary
society you have here as fellow writers.
EVALUATION DAY
Your opportunity to write your evaluation of the course and instructor generally
occurs during our last session together.
LAST WORD
I look forward to working with you. Tell me any concerns or interests you have
which you would like to have discussed, clarified or otherwise elaborated. I
want your ongoing feedback. This course is what we make it together.
Statement for Students with Disabilities
Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register
with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved
accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me (or to TA)
as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.,
Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776.
Statement on Academic Integrity
USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty
include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that
individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations
both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using
another’s work as one’s own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these
principles. Scampus, the Student Guidebook, contains the Student Conduct Code in Section 11.00,
while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A:
http://www.usc.edu/dept/publications/SCAMPUS/gov/. Students will be referred to the
Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for further review, should there be
any suspicion of academic dishonesty. The Review process can be found at:
http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/SJACS/.
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