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COURSE NAME: "Creative Writing Workshop: Writing the Eternal City"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2017

INSTRUCTOR: Elizabeth Geoghegan
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 3:00 PM 4:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN 110 with a grade of C or above

This interdisciplinary writing workshop employs the city of Rome as its muse and offers instruction in several genres of creative writing. By examining a variety of works inspired by the Eternal City, students will learn how to evaluate literature in light of an aesthetic and historic precedent, as well as participate in the long tradition of international writers who have recreated Rome on the page. The course will also problematize Rome, exploring the ancient city’s contemporary contradictions and complexities and the way writers both perpetuate and dismantle certain myths, such as the illusory La Dolce Vita. Writing workshops will acquaint students with the techniques and tools used to critique and incorporate critical feedback into their own revision process. Through studied writing practice and the examination of the Roman setting as a vital literary component, students will generate a final portfolio of textual interpretations in response to the Eternal City.
Students will engage in studied writing practice and keep a journal in which they will document the city of Rome, so they may later shape entries into more substantive, polished work, regardless of genre. The course will move between writing workshops, traditional lectures, discussions of the assigned readings, student presentations of journal assignments, and in-class writing. Occasionally, the meetings will incorporate a field trip or site visit; some assignments will require outings within the city of Rome to be made during the student’s own time. Readings will correspond to the specific genres and the assignments connected to them. The final portfolio will include a combination of the following forms:  poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction such as diary, memoir, personal essays, and travel writing.  Born of the philosophy that all writing benefits from careful critique and thoughtful revision, the workshops will aid students in the development of critical thinking and editorial skills, helping to foster an aesthetic sensibility about their own writing, the writing of others, and ultimately a more thorough understanding of several genres encompassed by the term “creative writing.”
Students completing this workshop will have spent an entire semester exploring the rich literary tradition inspired by the city of Rome and they will have featured Rome in their own writing, whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. They will be familiar with the writing techniques employed when producing works within various genres of creative writing and they will have gained experience through generating a portfolio of their own work.  Lastly, they will have acquired the editorial skills necessary to offer critique and to self-edit, and taken their own work through various stages of revision.
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Daisy Miller James, HenryOxford World ClassicsISBN-10: 0199538565 Available at The Almost Corner Bookshop (Trastevere.)
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone Williams, TennesseeNew Directions ISBN-10: 0811221458 Available at The Almost Corner Bookshop (Trastevere). Note: other print editions of the text are acceptable. No digital copies allowed in class.
The Other LanguageMarciano, FrancescaVintage ContemporariesISBN-10: 0345804481 Available at The Almost Corner Bookshop in Trastevere. Paperback or hardback version acceptable; no digital editions may be used in class. THIS IS A REQUIRED TEXTBOOK.

Conscientiousness of in-and-out of class peer reviews (workshop critiques)Students will provide copies for their colleagues and be required to give both written and oral feedback to their peers during the workshops. 15%
Conscientiousness of self-editingStudents are required to revise their work over the course of several drafts and to include a process analysis for each piece, detailing the editing process. 15%
 Assigments will take the form of written responses to readings & assigned outings and other homework to be done in the journal (or sketchbook). Writing assignments will include a combination of microfiction, short stories, creative nonfiction sketches, longer reflective essays or memoir-styled pieces, and two or more poems10%
Final PortfolioThe Final Portfolio is the sum total of the student's work produced over the semester. The portfolios should contain polished revisions of each of the works along with a process analysis. Detailed portfolio guidelines will be provided in class.40%
Homework, Written Work, Assignments, In Class PresentationsHomework assignments will vary, but are often written responses to the readings and/or responses to creative writing prompts. 20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Attendance Requirements:  students are required to attend all scheduled class meetings and to participate in all classroom activities. In addition to this weighting of attendance, students are allowed only two absences (no questions asked, no excuses needed).  However, each additional absence beyond the two allowed will result in the significant reduction in the final grade for the course.  Students with more than five absences will fail the course. Student arriving at class after the class attendance has been taken will be counted as absent.   Please refer to the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Note: This is a facsimile of the actual schedule; the class calendar of assignments with dates and specific deadlines will be handed out at the beginning of the term. 

Date & Topic Covered

Sketchbook Outings, Readings & Assignments

Week One


Course Intro: Setting as Character

Rome as muse; Fiction Writer’s Tool Box; The Short Story

Read  “Cat in the Rain” (Hemingway) & Microfiction packet (handouts)

Thursday: Microfiction

Read  & be prepared to discuss: “Twin Beds in Rome” (Updike)  & “Roman Romance” (Marciano)


Week Two:

Tuesday Narration & Voice

Read: Daisy Miller by Henry James

Solo Outing/Homework Assignment #1:  Choose a bus you are unfamiliar with and ride it in a random direction, observing what you will. Create a microfiction (even just a scene up to 350 words) inspired by what you witness; in some fashion try to incorporate some essence of the bus, the characters on it, or the Roman bus-route. (Observe/Learn what you can from the stories we’ve read so far and the way they heighten the tension by containing characters in confined spaces.)  Bring to class.

 Thursday Narration & Voice, continued


Homework Assignment 2: Write a 2-3 page response to James’s novella exploring some aspect of his technique (voice, narration, POV, pacing, structure, etc.)

Week Three:

Tuesday: Workshop

Snapshot Due (See Survival Guidelines); bring copies

Thursday: Workshop

Read & prepare critiques for the snapshots – bring to class with oral & annotated comments ready

Week Four:

Setting & Characterization / Setting AS Characterization:

Tuesday The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone


Read & be prepared to discuss: The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams (bring text to class).

Solo Outing/Homework Assignment 2:  Journal Assignment:  After reading the novella visit the Spanish Steps, climb them, and walk along the Pincio into the Borghese gardens. OPTION A) Write a 1-2 page response to the novella discussing the way Williams employs the Roman landscape to shape his tale structurally & reflect the interior life of his characters. OPTION B) Alternately, you may write a 1-2 page microfiction about a character in this location. Bring to class.


Incorporating details & gestures in your work

Read: Short Stories TBA & be prepared to discuss

Week Five

Structuring your story

Read & be prepared to discuss: Short Stories TBA



Dialogue: In class writing exercise

Read & be prepared to discuss: Short Stories TBA

Week Six:

Tuesday Workshop

Short Stories Due 

Thursday Workshop

Read & prepare peer reviews (critiques) for workshop 


Week Seven:

Tuesday Workshop

Read & prepare peer reviews for workshop

Thursday Creative Nonfiction & The Roman Memoir (INTRO)

Read & be prepared to discuss: “How to Replace a Driver’s License” (Eco) & “Decline & Fall” (Dyer)

Week Eight:

Tuesday: Details in Nonfiction; choosing which story to tell


Read: TBA

Homework Assignment 4:  Part 1a) Devote a section to your notebook to brainstorming for nonfiction. Begin a list 3-5 topics for each of the various nonfiction genres (e.g. Travel, Food, Memoir, Personal Essay, Research-driven Essay, etc.) Add to this list as things occur to you. Part 1b) Write a list of “10 Things I Love About Rome” and “10 Things I Hate About Rome” – bring to class.




Roman Vignette due; bring copies (See Guidelines)

Spring break


Read & prepare critiques of vignettes for workshop

Week Ten:

Micro-workshop continued

Read & be prepared to discuss: “3275” (Monette) & essay TBA (handout)

Thursday Reflective Roman Essays due



Week Eleven

Tuesday Workshop

Read & prepare critiques

Thursday Workshop

Read & prepare critiques

Week Twelve

Tuesday Workshop

Read & prepare critiques

Thursday Workshop

Read & prepare critiques


Week Thirteen

Tuesday Intro to Poetry

Readings: TBA (Packet of Roman poems)


Poem #1 due


Solo Outing/Homework Assignment 3:  Visit Campo dei Fiori at least 3 times during the week (morning, afternoon, evening/night), sit at the base of the statue or in a café and document what you see. Draft a poem (free verse, formal or prose), bring to class.

Week Fourteen:

Poem #2 due

Tuesday Workshop

Read & Prepare Critiques for the Roman Poems

Thursday Workshop

Read & Prepare Critiques for the Roman Poems

Week Fifteen Workshop & Final Q&A for Portfolios




No exam for this class; No late portfolios will be accepted. No exception.