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COURSE NAME: "Advanced Creative Writing and Literature: How to Read Like a Writer"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session I 2017

INSTRUCTOR: Elizabeth Geoghegan
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MTWTH 2:00 PM 3:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisites: Junior Standing and two previous Creative Writing courses with a grade of B or higher
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment, after class

To supplement their traditional university study of literary analysis, this course provides advanced undergraduate students with the opportunity to develop advanced skills at reading literature as a source of improving their own writing, whether academic or creative. Designed primary for advanced undergraduate students interested in creative writing, this course focuses on the reading of literature from the point of view of the craft, or practice, of fiction writing.

Along with seminal examples of the short story, essay, and novel, students will study Flannery O’Connor’s essays on the craft from Mystery & Manners along with Francine Prose’s Reading Like A Writer as key components to help develop their skills as readers of literary fiction with an eye to emulating the skills of accomplished writers. We will also look closely at several works of fiction in short and long forms, in particular several works that “reinvent” traditional ideas about form.

This course is based on the assumption that writers, out of necessity, read literature differently from critics. While critics, scholars, and students of literature typically read to understand or interpret a text, writers read with an eye to emulation of craft. Writers, to learn from their successful predecessors, read meticulously--letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, line of dialogue by line of dialogue, page by page.


For undergraduate students, JCU or otherwise:  Junior Standing and TWO previous creative writing courses with a grade of B or higher.

For American University (D.C.) students: current enrollment in AU's MFA in Creative Writing program.

For non-JCU/non-AU students who wish to receive graduate credit: a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution (transcripts required) and an assessment of a significant writing sample or previous publications (fiction: 20 pages minimum; poetry: 10 poems or twenty pages of poetry minimum).


 Through the use of the technique of slow, meticulous reading, students completing this course will have developed the reading skills necessary to learn how to improve their own creative writing by the analysis of literary fiction and be able to describe the unique stylistic and craft characteristics of the fiction they read.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Reading Like A WriterProse, FrancineHarper Perennial or Union ISBN 10: 1908526076 or ISBN-10: 9780060777050 Available at The Almost Corner Bookshop, Via del Moro 45, Trastevere, Rome 00153.
A Manual for Cleaning WomenBerlin, Lucia Picador ISBN-10: 1250094739 Available at Almost Corner Bookshop, Via del Moro 45, Trastevere, Rome 00153. Please note: Digital copies are not allowed, due to the nature of how we use the texts in class.
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'ConnorO'Connor, FlanneryFSG ReprintISBN-10: 0374521042 This book will be held on reserve & is recommended as a companion for the other texts. It may also be purchased (a/o ordered) at the Almost Corner Bookshop, Via del Moro 45, Trastevere, Rome, 00153.

Midterm Paper Students will do a "close reading" midterm paper. The text will be assigned by the professor. Papers will be a minimum of 1800 words. 20%
Final Seminar Paper/Creative Response PaperStudents will write a work of fiction that exemplifies the close reading skills garnered in class. Text will be chosen by the student. Details/Guidelines TBA. 30%
Oral PresentationStudents will present a “close reading” of a selected story by Flannery O’Connor. Students must select different stories from one another and a story NOT covered in class. Further Guidelines TBA.20%
Literary Events (Attendance & Written Response to events) Students will be required to attend a specified number of literary events and write a response paper. 10%
Preparation & ParticipationStudent participation in the class is graded along with preparedness for our discussions. See JCU attendance guidelines for further information as well as the note on class requirements. Students who are more than 15 minutes late will be counted as absent. Students who leave early without permission will be counted as absent. Students who use a mobile phone or other device for any reason that has not been approved by the professor (e.g. sending a text message) during class will be asked to leave and counted as absent. 10%
Homework 10%

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 cou
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.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. 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 reduction of the final grade for the course by 5%. Students with more than five absences will fail the course. Please refer to the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.  


Participation is of the utmost importance. Literary criticism and lectures will provide a foundation for the course, however student(s) will be expected to come prepared to contribute to class discussions, as well as to be prepared for the days when session notes are due. (Detailed guidelines will be provided & posted on Moodle). Submitting assignments: For papers and/or homework assignments, you are required to submit a hard copy & also to upload an electronic copy to Moodle. If you are not able to submit to Moodle due to unforeseen circumstances, please email me the work. Unexcused late work will drop one letter grade for each day it is late. Assignments that are over one week late will receive a grade of 0. NOTE: Written assignments that are 1) not stapled, 2) formatted correctly and 3) submitted in both hard copy and electronically will drop one letter grade for each of these infractions. Please make a note of the format guidelines included with each assignment overview handed out in class and posted on Moodle. Please keep in mind that an F or 50 is still preferable to a 0 with respect to your final grade. If you need an extension, you must ask me 48 hours before the due date and simply asking me 48 hours in advance is not a guarantee of being given an extension. Lastly, and please note that NO EXTENSIONS will be given on the Seminar Paper. All papers must be MLA format (e.g. typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, with in-text citations, works cited, etc.) Check the MLA or make an appointment in the JCU Writing Center, if you have any questions about MLA format. Papers will be downgraded for failure to adhere to the MLA and any other specified guidelines, including being stapled.

Other requirements: -Showing up more than 15 minutes late for class will be considered an absence. You may still attend the class, but you will not be counted as present even if you choose to stay.

-Leaving class early without permission is not allowed. Students who do this may be counted as absent and will also be downgraded for participation.

-Simply coming to class and not paying attention is not considered being present. If you are not actively engaged in the discussion at hand I will count you as absent.

-No Laptops, no iPads in class. (Kindle/E-readers are allowed with my permission only.)  No phones allowed in class. No text messageing allowed in class. Students who are caught sending text messages or emails on their device/phone will be asked to leave class and counted as absent.

-Please see the JCU handbook for guidelines about absences, but bear in mind that you are only eligible for 2 unexcused absences before your grade will drop. 

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: Please note that this schedule is provisional. The EN 485 section of the class will have assignment guidelines that differ -- regarding the page length of assignments and so forth --  from the graduate level section (EN 585) of the class. Detailed guidelines, class dates & assignments are forthcoming and /or posted on Moodle. Note: assigned readings should be done before the first day of the week if a class date is not specified. 


Course Schedule

Week 1 

Intro to Close Reading & Focus on the short stories of Flannery O'Connor

Readings: Tuesday RLW Ch.1 Close Reading, Ch. 2 Words, Ch. 3 Sentences

Stories: A Good Man is Hard To Find” & “Good Country People”

Readings: Wednesday “Revelation” & Parker’s Back” (O’Connor) & OCW The Nature and Aim of Fiction” (handout, O’Connor).

Homework: Each of you will be assigned a paragraph from a story & be expected to give us a close reading and lead the discussion on that section.

Always be prepared to discuss the assigned readings and to apply the techniques from RLW.

*By Thursday each of you should inform me which O’Connor short story you want to do a presentation on from the collection. Students are not allowed to present on the same story, nor on stories covered in class.


Week 2: Flannery O'Connor, 3rd Person POV & Structure

** Please note that June 2nd is a National Holiday (no class); makeup class will be attending one extra literary event & writing a 3-page response. This makeup assignment is due by June 16th. Please submit via email and as hard copy.

Reading Monday: OC: “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction” & “The Fiction Writer and His Country” & “Writing Short Stories”(Handouts/Moodle); RLW Ch. 4 Paragraphs, Ch. 5 Narration

Presentations (Monday 5/30 & Tuesday 5/31); Each student will give an oral presentation of a close reading of an O’Connor story.

Wednesday: Read from MANUAL:  “My Jockey”, “Angel’s Laundromat”,  “Unmanageable”, “So Long”, and “A Manual for Cleaning Women” & “Carmen”


Week 3 

Contemporary Short Stories & Stream of Consciousness in the Short Story: Lucia Berlin

Reading: 1st half of week: MANUAL; Read “Here it is Saturday” “Let Me See You Smile”, “Wait a Minute”, “Phantom Pain” & “Mama”

Reading: 2nd half of Week Interlocking stories as novella: MONKEYS (whole text), RLW Ch. 6 Character, Ch. 7 Dialogue, Ch. 8 Details

Homework: Each of you will be assigned a paragraph from a particular story & be expected to give us a close reading and lead the discussion on that

Thursday, June 9th:  Midterm Papers Due. (Midterm Papers will be on Lucia Berlin’s work, specific guidelines TBA)


Week 4: Course Wrap Up

Dialogue and Details

Homework: Each of you will be assigned a scene/section/chapter (TBD) & be expected to give us a close reading and lead the discussion on it.

Reading: RLW Ch. 9 Gesture

Week 5: Turning Close Reading into Fiction Writing; Readings (TBD)

Homework: Each of you will be assigned a scene/section/chapter (TBD) & be expected to give us a close reading and lead the discussion on it.

Final Papers Due in class. No late papers. No extensions. No exceptions.