Inside English Courses

Experience an English course at Duke through the lens of another student.

On March 25th, several Duke English faculty and more than 20 undergraduates met to discuss “Sex, Money, Death (and PIZZA): Why you should be a Creative Writing Minor.” Each semester, the Duke English Department hosts an Open House for students to learn about the craft of creative writing from faculty members whose areas of expertise include poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Faculty share their writing experiences, what attracted them to a particular genre, how they approach writing, what courses they teach, and a… read more about Spring ’24 Creative Writing Open House »

Students in Professor JP Gritton's Fall '23 "Intro to Creative Writing: Writing as Practice" class veered from the traditional classroom setting and enjoyed several inspirational creative writing excursions. These trips, along with a guest lecture on utilizing archives in writing, provided students with physical, mental, and sensory stimulation for their writing assignments. "My idea (for this course) grows out of a powerful sense that all art forms—music, dance, visual art, theater, writing, even cuisine—inform and… read more about In Search of Inspiration – Fall '23 English 110S "Intro to Creative Writing: Writing as Practice" »

Has your class discussed "Like a Prayer" by Madonna this semester? If not, you have missed out and are not enrolled in Professor Tom Ferraro's "Madonna Trouble.” Last year, during one of his graduate-level lectures, Ferraro mentioned that he taught a "Madonna unit" in his Italian-American arts and multimedia courses, and his students responded with, "You gotta teach a course on Madonna!" "Truth is, I can't imagine education in the 20th Century transnational U.S. expressive culture without Madonna (as I can't imagine… read more about “Madonna Trouble” Taught by Professor Tom Ferraro »

A group of students recently joined the Duke English Creative Writing faculty for an Open House. The Open House allowed students to chat with faculty informally about creative writing from all facets, ranging from course offerings to advice on how creative writing can continue beyond the classroom. Among the students in attendance was a local high school senior who has applied to Duke and is interested in majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing. “I thought it was a super great opportunity to meet creative… read more about Fall ’23 Creative Writing Open House »

A packed crowd joined Duke English for a reading and an opportunity to meet and chat with poet Toby Martinez de las Rivas, the 2023-24 Blackburn Distinguished Artist in Residence. Martinez de las Rivas joined the department for the 2023-24 academic year and is teaching two sections of an “Introduction to Creative Writing” this semester, a multi-genre course designed to allow students to experience imaginative literary texts. The "Read & Greet" allowed the Duke community to hear Professor Martinez de las Rivas… read more about "Read & Greet" With Poet Toby Martinez de las Rivas, Blackburn Distinguished Artist in Residence »

Poet Toby Martinez de las Rivas will join the Duke English Department this Fall as the 2023-24 Blackburn Artist in Residence. He recently joined sophomore English major Trisha Santanam via Zoom to discuss the course he is teaching this Fall, English 290S.4.01: "Word & Image." English major Trisha Santanam interviews Poet Toby Martinez de las Riva, 2023-24 Blackburn Artist in Residence read more about Meet Poet Toby Martinez de las Rivas, Blackburn Artist in Residence »

In the Fall of 2023, Professor Chris Ouma will join the Duke English faculty. Recently Prof. Ouma sat down, via Zoom, with sophomore English major Trisha Santanam to discuss the course he will be teaching this Fall, "Small Magazines & African Literary Modernity." His course is one of English's 101S - "Art of Reading" gateway courses taught this Fall. English major Trisha Santanam interviews Professor Chris Ouma read more about Meet Professor Chris Ouma »

While fall registration has passed, there is still a need for an honored Recess tradition: the Arts, Literature and Performance (ALP) Class List which includes ENGLISH 286/GERMAN 275/MEDREN 315: The Legend of King Arthur in Literature and Film (CCI, ALP) and ENGLISH 386/ARTHIST 238: Science Fiction Film (CCI, EI, STS, ALP). read more about Six ALP Classes To Help Fill Your Fall 2023 Schedule »

Congratulations to Amber Manning, the winner of the 2023 Stephen Horne Award for Excellence in Teaching. The English Department at Duke University is excited to award Manning with this well-deserved honor. She was nominated by six students in her Fall 2022 English 208S.01 course, "Criticism and the Arts: No End in Sight."  One student wrote in their nomination:    Amber Manning is one of the best professors I've had at Duke. Her class was extremely engaging, and she cared so deeply for her students.… read more about Amber Manning, Ph.D. Candidate, 2023 Stephen Horne Excellence in Teaching Award Winner »

Most semesters, Duke English offers single-author courses that provide students with the opportunity to study a featured author in depth. During the Spring ’23 semester, “Zora Neale Hurston: Race, Gender, Region, Diaspora,” taught by Professor Jarvis McInnis, was one of these offerings. This course examines the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston, one of the preeminent writers of twentieth-century African American literature. Though best known as a novelist of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston was also a formally trained… read more about Professor McInnis’ “Zora Neale Hurston” Course »

Author, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit, known for helping to make the term "mansplaining" popular, visited Duke on April 19. Her visit began with a workshop with Duke English creative writing students. It concluded with an evening reading and Q&A in the Rubenstein Library. During her visit, Solnit dropped pearls of wisdom that encouraged those who love writing and shared her passion for the fight against climate change. Students in my advanced workshop encountered Solnit's work at a few different stages in… read more about Rebecca Solnit Visits Duke English »

Duke English is excited to announce our 2023 Creative Writing Contest and Scholarship awardees. Congratulations to the following students:    Camden Chin ’26 for “Value of a Dollar” and “Harold” Anne Flexner Memorial Award for Fiction. Family members and friends of former English student Anne Flexner (1945) established the Anne Flexner Memorial Award for Creative Writing to recognize undergraduates for their work in fiction and… read more about 2023 Duke English Creative Writing Contest and Scholarship Winners »

Duke English recently hosted its Spring "Fiction Open House," focused on Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs. A panel consisting of members of the department's creative writing sector: Professors Amin Ahmad, JP Gritton, Mesha Maren, Akhil Sharma, and English Ph.D. candidate Anya Lewis-Meeks, provided insight into MFA programs, writing paths without an MFA and fielded questions from the students in attendance. This "Fiction Open House" event offered undergrad writers in the Duke community a chance to ask about postgraduation… read more about Spring 2023 Fiction Open House »

Award-winning novelist and educator Marlon James recently visited the Duke English Department as the Reynolds Price Guest Author. During his time on campus, James conducted a writing workshop with more than a dozen of Duke's undergraduate creative writers. Then he gave a reading that evening, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A. Duke English's creative writing committee had invited Marlon James to campus for a reading in 2020; however, the event was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While waiting to… read more about Marlon James’ Visit with Duke English as Reynolds Price Guest Author »

One of the main goals for a creative writer is to keep the reader interested.  There are different ways to do this, and in Professor Amin Ahmad's Intro to the Writing of Fiction – "Writing the Unspeakable"-- class, his students learn different strategies by studying the work of contemporary authors. The course is designed for students who want to master the craft of creative writing. I don’t believe that writers are little geniuses who sit alone in rooms and wait for inspirations—I really think that writers need… read more about The Uncertainty Found in Suspense Writing »

During the 2022 Fall semester, Professor Mesha Maren used a David L. Paletz Course Enhancement grant to invite three writers to her "Creative Writing: Autofiction & First-Person" class virtually. “By bringing Juliet Escoria, Scott McClanahan, and Julián Herbert into my classroom (via Zoom) to give lectures and answer questions, I hope to help students to understand how a text is crafted through drafting and revision and the ability for students to place their own writing in the context of the canon. I was able to… read more about Review: Fall 2022 David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series »

We invite you to consider registering for a new English course, ENG 290S.02 American Environmental Poetry, meeting MW 1:45-3:00PM with visiting professor Sharon Kunde. The course comes with codes CCI, EI and ALP and counts for Area III for English majors.  American Environmental Poetry – Sharon Kunde For centuries, poets have been writing about the environment: celebrating its beauty, learning from it, projecting ideas onto it, and finding meaning in it. But recently, humans’ relationship with the environment has… read more about Spring 2023 English Course: American Environmental Poetry »

Duke English recently hosted its first "Fiction Open House," and more than two dozen students attended. Creative writing faculty members met with students to discuss courses offered by the department and future offerings. This event served as an opportunity for students to learn about writing fiction and the courses Professors Mesha Maren, JP Gritton, and Amin Ahmad will teach next semester. The idea for the "Fiction Open House" came from an experience Professor Maren had during her… read more about Students and Faculty Exchange Ideas  »

During the Spring 2022 semester, Professor Sarah Beckwith was asked to teach one of Duke English's gateway courses. "When the department asked me to teach a 101 class, I knew I wanted to call it ‘Arts of Attention,” stated Professor Beckwith.  We are living in an "attention economy" where our attention is grabbed, bought, and sold. It is a commodity. Our interests, desires, and preferences are data mined for advertising and are funding a new generation of unscrupulous media enterprises. And it is making us all… read more about Professor Beckwith’s English 101S – Arts of Attention »

Traditionally when one thinks of a college English course, they would not be surprised to study someone who has won a Nobel Prize in Literature (2016) and a Pulitzer Prize (Special Citation, 2008).  What about someone who has won Grammy Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and even a Golden Globe for Best Original song? Surely, that would make sense for a Music class, but in English? In Professor Taylor Black's English 290S-01 course, "Bob Dylan," however, you get both and so much more.… read more about Professor Black’s Class Field Trip to Bob Dylan Concert »

Do you read crime novels, find yourself scanning the daily newspaper crime report, or love watching true crime television shows? During the 2022 Spring semester, Professor Michael D'Alessandro introduced an updated version of English 290S-2.01, "American Crime, 1800-1914: Fiction and Film."  The concept for this course developed from research that Professor D'Alessandro conducted about nineteenth-century American crime, including some "eye-opening" statistics that left him horrified. He knew right away that, when the… read more about American Crime: Fiction & Film 1800-1914 Taught by Professor D'Alessandro »

This spring, Duke English has had the honor of hosting Kenyan author and journalist Peter Kimani as its Blackburn Artist in Residence. His novel, Dance of the Jakaranda – a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year" – was nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the inaugural Big Book Award in the UK. Kimani currently writes a weekly column for The Standard.  During his time with the department this semester, Kimani  taught two fiction writing courses:    English 221S: Introduction to… read more about Blackburn Artist in Residence, Peter Kimani »

This semester's David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series kicked off with a visit from psychiatrist, poet, and fiction writer, Dr. Joanna Pearson, to Professor JP Gritton's "Intro to the Writing of Fiction - Great Artist Steal" class. Before her visit, Gritton's class read Pearson's short story "Riding," which primed students for a discussion of Dr. Pearson's approach to writing, especially the writing of fiction. In undergrad, she was a pre-med English major and has always felt drawn to writing. Due to her pre-med… read more about Spring 2022 David L. Paletz Creative Writing Guest Series »

This semester Professor Faulkner Fox had the opportunity to finally include a field trip to see a play in-person in her creative writing course, "Plays that Change the World." Professor Fox designed "Plays that Changed the World" as an opportunity for students interested in playwrighting to learn that plays are more than just stage productions. As part of the course, she planned to include at least one field trip to attend an in-person production.  However, the first time the course was offered in the fall of 2020, it… read more about Class Field Trip: "Peace of Clay" at Raleigh Theatre »

This fall, Welsh novelist Sophie Mackintosh, American poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and Mexican novelist Fernando Flores visited Professor Maren’s English 290S class, “World Building: From Genesis to Lil Nas X.”  Students had the opportunity to ask these authors questions about elements of their writing.  Each writer shared their experiences with working through pieces from beginning to end, including how they… read more about In English 290s, Conversations with Authors Enhance Assigned Readings  »

Oftentimes, in my classes, you can hardly distinguish a current syllabus from one of years past. My teachers usually follow a fixed curriculum, a tried-and-true set of lesson plans, course readings, and homework assignments.  But for Professor of English Thomas Pfau, PhD, that’s not the case at all. Even after thirty years at Duke, Pfau still searches for novel subjects to teach. “There are not many classes I repeat,” says Pfau. “I tend to always be prowling out for new materials and configuring new books.” This… read more about Designed for Digital: English 101, 2021 Edition »

When I was younger, I always fantasized about heading up North. I wanted to leave my hometown in Mississippi behind, and say farewell to the magnolia trees, to the humid summers and SEC football. The North was where culture was, and in my mind, it was where writers went.   I had a particular fascination with New York. I associated the city with writing workshops, like Sackett Street or Gotham Writers. I was drawn to the intimacy of those spaces, and their dynamism, too—places where my… read more about English 322: An Exercise in Writing and Self-Kindness »