New Semester, New Syllabi!

Blog, Teaching

The new fall semester starts on Monday, which means that I revised and finalized the syllabi for my call courses.

I am excited to teach all of my courses. I adore Composition I because it is such an essential course, in terms of helping students to acquire lifelong and essential composition and critical thinking skills. I love Composition II because it’s a joy to work with students and watch them start to broaden their world view and begin to think like young scholars.

I am especially excited about my Creative Writing course this semester. Last time I taught it (in the Spring), I borrowed another instructor’s basic guidelines for teaching the course, and it went well. But now I am poised to teach it the way I would like to teach it, and build a course which is thoroughly my own.

I would like students to feel it is a welcome place for them to explore the craft of writing, without feeling like it is intimidating, or something which is unnecessarily daunting. I want to teach them that the craft of storytelling, in and of itself, is accessible to all people and that creativity is something which doesn’t just happen by magic, or something that only a talented few have access to. And that stories have meaning, weight, and life, both inside and outside of the pages of the books they are printed in.

The course objectives, which are in the syllabus:

Objectives:  This course will be an exploration of storytelling and fiction, and how stories and fiction function on the page, and in society and people’s everyday lives.

There are three main tenents for this course, and I want you to star and circle them and keep them foremost in your minds:

  1.  Anyone can write and create and be creative; creativity, art, and language are our human heritage and legacy.
  2.  There is a process for creativity as there is for any thing. In discovering that process the result is not important (ie, whether you write a blog or a bestseller), but the journey and exploration is.
  3. Fiction is not just escapism; it tells us about who we are.

When we explore storytelling and creative writing, we do not just explore fiction as being silly, or escapist (though it can be); but also what those stories tell us about ourselves. (What does it say about our current society, that books like 50 Shades of Grey are so popular? What do movies like The Avengers tell us about who we are and what we fear and desire in life?)

We will do this primarily by reading texts, ranging from the 4,000 year old Epic of Gilgamesh to more contemporary works such as “Hair Today” by Ivan Coyote. We will look at these texts and ask what the stories meant to the people who told these stories, and what they mean to us now.

We will also explore the mechanics of storytelling in the texts we read. That is, we will study what the primary components of most stories and storytelling formats are: description, point of view, plot, pacing and setting, and character development.

And lastly, we will, of course, write. We will take what we have learned from our reading and our study of other texts and apply them to crafting our own stories. Some of these stories will be written; some of them will be verbal/oral; some of them might even have a visual component.

Be prepared to take a step outside of the conventional and to explore stories and storytelling with a focus not on the end-product, but more on the process of creating, crafting, and creativity. With storytelling and creative writing, as with many things, it is truly the journey and not the destination which matters.

I am hoping that my approach will provide them with the right balance of structure and guidance with freedom and play, so that they will feel free to explore and even, innovate. At the very least, they should learn much and have fun.

So here’s to a new semester!

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