Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I've been working doggedly on my syllabus for the creative writing class I'll be teaching one week from tomorrow. I'm trying to organize it along slightly more interesting principles than "Metaphor" and "Point of View"—though in fact both of those will be topics. But I'm trying to spice up my narrative section by calling it "Desire and Narrative," just as an example: when somebody wants something, there's a narrative. Unless of course they get it right away; that's why there aren't many stories about the McDonald's drive-thru. (Letters to Wendy's is another kettle of fish.) I'm also going to have my students do their own blogs. I know, just what the web needs, right? But it might be a useful way of making them feel more immediately integrated into the writing world, or at least one of its layers. Half of them probably already have their own blogs, anyway. The author is dead; long live the bloggers.

Some students will no doubt read this blog, which is okay or ought to be. I'm trying to understand how to build a classroom that will be centrifugal without necessarily having a center that is held in place by authority. Many creative writing teachers make themselves or their own personalities or charisma-effects into the very ground of the class, because they don't trust or believe in that the "discipline" of creative writing provides sufficient grounding. A chemistry professor doesn't have to do this. I'm trying to imagine myself as less of an authority figure or even as a coach and instead simply as a more experienced writer who has access to perspectives students 19-21 years old aren't likely to have discovered yet. If I succeed, I wonder if such a stance will be transferable to the literature classes I'll eventually teach, where there is a recognized discipline (though also in its way worthy of scare quotes) for me to stand upon. Hm and hm again.

Any must-read suggestions for my course packet? It's fairly eclectic: a little John Cage here, a little Bobbie Ann Mason there; a heavy sprinkling of Ashbery and O'Hara; a dash of Harryette Mullen and Lee Ann Brown, and some Pound cake. You have till tomorrow morning to send your suggestions.

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