Thursday, February 10, 2011

Great Opportunity: Spring Creative Writing Course, Fiction Writing Workshop

Hi Folks -

I'm excited to let you know about a new course, Fiction Writing Workshop (ENG276.5672), I'll be teaching in the Spring. If you're interested in creative writing or are looking for a fun elective, have a look, and feel free to pass along to any LaGuardia Students who might be interested.

PLEASE NOTE: The catalogue lists Creative Writing (ENN 198) as a prerequisite for this class. HOWEVER, If you wish to enroll and haven't taken ENN 198, please send me an email at and we may be able to make arrangements.

Thanks, and hope to see you in the Spring.

Fiction Writing Workshop
ENG 276.5672
Mondays and Wednesdays, 6-7:30 PM
Distilled moments, chance encounters, the internal thought and the external action, the spoken and the unspoken, the familiar made strange and the strange made familiar: in this class we will explore the boundless possibilities of short fiction. Students will be encouraged to experiment with a variety of forms and techniques, share their work with one another, give and receive constructive feedback, and to take risks throughout the writing and revision process.

We will use a reader containing short fiction (and some creative non-fiction) by a range of writers with diverse backgrounds and styles, including Jorge Luis Borges, Dorothy Allison, Sherman Alexie, Jamaica Kincaid, John Dos Passos, Raymond Carver and Miranda July. We will use these writers as inspiration, as idea-generators and as the jumping off point for a variety of writing projects.

We will undertake writing exercises and games that explore such elements of fiction as character, dialogue, description, plot, time, and place, using techniques and elements including collage, found texts, observation, chance, and collaboration. Throughout we will focus on multiple and overlapping elements of the writing process, with a special emphasis on the various possible approaches to revision.

All students will have the opportunity to have selected work published in a chapbook that will be created by the group. We will also discuss other opportunities for publication.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Updates/Announcements: Featuring the Green Book!

Hi All - We had a great visit to the wonderful exhibit at the Bronx museum. If you weren't able to go, and would like to visit, I have passes for you to visit free. Directions are on their website here.

After the visit, post your impressions- what historical events did these photos shed more light on? If you can't make it, stay tuned for an alternative post. If you haven't yet signed up, let me know if you're coming.

If you can't make it up to the Bronx, take a look at this gallery of photos of civil rights figures. Click on some of the images and describe one that speaks to you - want does the photo and the story behind it suggest about the history of civil rights and the issues we've been discussing. The essay on this page is also interesting: what do you make of Obama's statement that African-American history is very different from the experiences of minorities in other countries?

For Monday: Choose one of these readings from the green book to report back on: what is the author's core argument and how does it relate to the themes we've been discussing? Which of authors would agree or disagree with these arguments?

1) Robin D.G. Kelley, excerpt from "Race Rebels" (p. 96-99)
2) Adoph Reed Jr., "Why is There No Black Political Movement?" (p. 99-100)
3) Thomas Frank, "Why Johnny Can't Dissent," (p. 316-27)

On essay 3: Be sure you have gotten your topic chosen and approved. Then begin looking for sources that talk about the context of your source, or that describe its reception or afterlives. See Step II on your handout for guidelines about this. Post links to the sources you find. Then start to think about theoretical/course texts to use. Make suggestions for your colleagues and post your own.

For the week of May 21st, begin your draft - see the second half of your handout for guidelines. Post a first or a body paragraph on the blog for feedback.

For those working with issues of the police and incarceration, this interview might be helpful: notice how the title of the author's book points to the connection to the civil rights era.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Topics for Essay #3/Bonus Post

For Monday, May 10th, you'll do your first blog post about your topic for essay #3. For this essay you're going to select a work of art (a painting, song, film, poem, story, etc) that you think has some political meaning. Or, select a political act that has some cultural piece. You can use some of the works we've discussed in class. Or you can use one that was in our readings/packet but we didn't get to. Some examples -

Nina Simone's "Four Women" (lyrics in course pack)

Eudora Welty's "Where is the Voice Coming From?" (course pack)

The Black Power salute by John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics. (see David Zirin reading in course pack)

Some other possibilities connected to our course readings:

Bob Marley, "Redemption Song"

Bob Marley, "War" (If you're researching this one, don't miss Sinead O'Connor's use of the song in a different political context!)

Bob Dylan, "Masters of War"

Public Enemy, "Fight the Power"

Public Enemy, "911 is a Joke,"

Public Enemy, "By the time I get to Arizona," This one is timely! It would be interesting to see if people are referring to it in the new context of the current Arizona law.

Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing (1989 film)

If you're interested in graffiti, you could write about 5 pointz, or a similar space, or a particular work of public art.

If you're interested in the women's movement and the issues raised in Alice Walker's essay, you might look in to the quilts done by the women of Gee's Bend Alabama (see the example at the start of the post and google for more.)

And Here is a link to an interview with an Iraqi artist about his unique brand of political art that would make a great essay topic. At the end of the interview, he has an interesting response to the quesiton, "Do you consider yourself a political artist?"

And here is the myspace page for lowkey, and Iraqi-British rapper using this now-global form for political change.

Just be sure you're picking a specific text: you don't want to do a whole overview of Nina Simone's career, or you won't have time to do anything but summarize.

Your text/act need not be from the United States. It can touch on issues - like the environment - we haven't much discussed. If there's an issue or type of text you're interested in but can't think of an example, pose a question in the comments and we can help you find one: 30 minds are better than one.

Post your choice of topic and reflections by Monday, May 10th. Look at the posts by your colleagues for ideas. Look for my comments about your topic.


Bonus posts:

What did you think about 5 Pointz? Is the art there 'political'? Is it political art? Where in the city's landscape do you see public art of different kinds? What ideas does it contain? Here's an article about graffiti in another context - what connections do you see to our trip or your other experiences with graffiti?

And here is an interview with David Zirin, author of the chapter on Mohammad Ali and the '68 Olympics that we read, about the responses in the sports world to Arizona's anti-immigration law. Notice the comparisons he makes to Ali and Carmichael. Share your thoughts on this breaking story and whether and how you think sports can have a political impact.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Announcements and Links!

Looking for scholarships? Did you know that you can apply online for scholarships from the CUNY foundation, and that international students are eligible to apply? Go to the foundation website to apply.

Ever wonder who the activists of today are, the ones following up on the work of the activists we've been reading?

Next Monday LaGuardia will be having a day-long event about community organizing: what people do to make change about the issues that are affecting them day to day. Here is the schedule. If you can attend any of the events, post your thoughts for extra credit.

One of the issues touched on will be the DREAM act - one proposal to credit more equity in education. Learn more about it here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Post Five and Lots of Links

For the week of April 19th, here are 3 choices for your post #5:

1) Post part or all of your drafts of essay #2 or your revision of essay #1 for feedback.

2) Respond to any of the links below: what strikes you and what do they have to say about the possibility of using art for social change?

Here is a recording of Nina Simone singing "Four Women." There are some versions of her doing it live on youtube you can explore as well - the variations are a trademark of hers. How do you see this song connecting to Civil Rights and/or the Black Arts movement?

Here is an obituary of Carolyn Rodgers, a poet of the Black Arts movement. What does her life story and the evolution of her work tell you about art and social change?

Here is Gil Scott-Heron performing "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" along with footage put together from Youtube to illustrate some of the ideas in the poem. What idea of 'revolution' does this poem point us towards? Thinking about our discussion of LeRoi Jone's poetic language of the concrete and the vernacular, what types of language does Scott-Heron use?

Here is a link to audio or video of the activist and journalist Juan Gonzalez reading Pedro Pietri's poem "Puerto Rican Obituary." Gonzalez was an activist with the Young Lords and a friend of Pietri's. What do you think are the poem's aims as a political work of art?

And here is the New York Times article from 1967 about Muhammad Ali's refusal to be inducted into the army. What do you notice about this language use? (I particularly love that there's a section entitled "Groups Use Signs")

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Post #4: Writer's Choice!

Lots of options this time! For Monday, April 12th, respond to one or more of these topics on your blog. Be ready to share your responses in class on Monday.

1) Read the sample of Black Arts poems in your packet ("Nikki Rosa," "Revolution," "Jazzy Vanity," "Neon Diaspora," "poem at thirty" and "Black Art") Choose one and describe your response. Do you think it's a work of political art? If so, is it effective? How does it relate to the kind of art Larry Neal calls for in his manifesto?

2) On p. 123 of his essay, Stokely Carmichael refers to the difference between individual and institutionalized racism. What is this distinction and why is it important? Which do you think is a bigger problem today?
3) Do you agree with Larry Neal that our ethics and aesthetics should be connected? What do you think makes art ethical (if anything)? What do you think are examples of ethical and non-ethical art?
4) Describe your response to the Read-a-Thon or to Kathrine Cleaver's talk if you were able to attend.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Post #3

Read Larry Neal's manifesto, "The Black Arts Movement." How would you describe the kind of writing Neal calls for? How does he see the arts in relation to political struggle and as a part of a movement?

Added bonus: this manifesto was published in the Summer of 1968. Do a little research on the events of that year. What was going on that might have shaped Neal's ideas?

Related announcement: We'll be talking about the Black Power movement and its 'cultural wing' the Black Arts movement in the coming weeks. There's a great related event going on at LaGuardia the week after break, a chance to hear from someone who was there. If you can go, please post your thoughts for extra credit.

Here's the information, thanks to Prof. Victor Rosa:

The Black Literature Series Committee of the English Department is honored to present activist, law professor, and memoirist Kathleen Cleaver, who will speak at the Little Theater on April 8 at 10:30 a.m.

Professor Cleaver was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and served as communications secretary of the Black Panther Party. She has taught at Emory University, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yale University and Sarah Lawrence College. Awarded fellowships at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, she has completed a memoir, Memories of Love and War.