English 321S.01 “Writing the Body"

Intermediate Workshop Writing of Fiction
Professor JP Gritton
3:30 - 6:00 pm

Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” opens as might the establishing shot of a film: the reader learns of the long, white hills of a Spanish valley before the narration “zooms in” on a train station, then a café, then the table where two Americans are sitting. That the medium of film has impacted the way writers like Hemingway write is obvious — what is less obvious is what we lose when we write like “a camera with its shutter open.” This course invites students of the craft of fiction writing to consider this question: what if our attention was not just on how a scene looked, but how it tasted, sounded, smelled, and felt? In other words, how do you write the body?

This course will build on the concepts outlined in “ENGL 221S – Introduction to the Writing of Fiction.” Students will work to apply the concepts outlined in craft essays by Kate Bernheimer, Pete Turchi, and others to their own fiction through weekly writing exercises on setting, point of view, characterization, and voice. This exploration of elements of the craft will be complimented and informed by a parallel study into how masters of the form write the body. From Jamel Brinkley’s capoeira-infused “Everything the Mouth Eats” to memoirist David Mura’s Where the Body Meets Memory to Alice McDermott’s story of love and illness “Post,” we’ll explore how a careful attention to sensory detail can enrich our fiction.

A student’s success in this class is based on four elements, each of which amounts to roughly a quarter of their grade: 1) attendance and participation in class discussions; 2) keeping a journal in which a series of in- class writing activities will be held; 3) the submission of a short story, and a revision/expansion; 4) workshop (reading, marking up/editing peer submissions, the composition of workshop letters, and contributing to discussion on workshop day).