Spring 2001

                                               

WRITING SEMINAR: MAKING MAGIC/TELLING TALES

 

“What is remembered is what becomes reality.” 

-Patricia Hampl

 

“Absolute occurrence is irrelevant.  A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”

-Tim O’Brien

 

“You don’t have anything if you don’t have the stories.”

-Leslie Marmon Silko

 


Class: Monday and Thursday, 1:30-2:50, DAL 42

Instructor: Gloria Biamonte

Office:  DAL 24

E-mail: mailto:gbiamont@marlboro.edu

Office Hours:  To be announced

 

 


Beginning with selections from Patricia Hampl’s I Could Tell You Stories, we will read a range of texts that explore the magic and power of storytelling.  In some of the novels, folk magic as the specific subject matter becomes art; in others, the "magic" is in the storytelling.  We will consider the link between the authority of folk life and the literary power of written texts; we will explore how narratives work to heal the individual and, at times, the community; and we will attempt to experience, through our readings, the meaning in the words that open our syllabus.

 

And, of course, . . .we will write.  During this semester, we will explore writing as an activity that we learn by doing, with some coaching.  For this reason, our class time will be spent generally doing, not listening to lectures about writing.  The way we will work toward our goal is through lots of practice in writing, critiquing, and rewriting.  A long distance runner improves her or his times by running faster, more frequently, and through good coaching.  A painter spends long hours in the studio, reworking line and color—getting it just right.  This class will be your writing studio. You will work on your craft, rewriting, revising, rethinking, polishing; and I will be your coach, your advisor, and your supporter, but not the only coach.  All of your writing will be read by other students, and each of you will become a coach.  We will take seriously the opening line of Patricia Hampl’s book, I Could Tell You Stories: “A writer is, first and last, a reader.” 

           

More specifically we will try to accomplish these goals:

(1)    build up your writing confidence so that you can tackle a variety of writing tasks

(2)    help you find a writing process that works well for you

(3)   let you experience the benefits of writing teamwork—the encouragement, advice, and response of prepared readers and writers

(4)   increase your ability to generate a topic and a controlling idea

(5)   help you to write a documented essay that paraphrases as well as integrates quoted material

(6)   provide you with the skills to support an evaluative statement by establishing criteria

(7)   enable you to strengthen your analytic reading skills by learning to recognize the writer's intention, central ideas, organization, and use of language

(8)   help you to understand the importance of unity, organization and supporting evidence

(9)   allow you to experience the value of language as a tool for thinking deeply and clearly  

 

We will work toward our goal through lots of practice in writing, critiquing, and rewriting.

 

REQUIRED TEXTS

 

The Things They Carried (1990)  Tim O”Brien

Song of Solomon  (1977)  Toni Morrison

Ceremony (1979) Leslie Marmon Silko

Stones from the River (1994) Ursula Hegi

A Pocket Style Manual, Diana Hacker

Handling Sources (Marlboro’s Style Guide)

 

The above texts are available at the College Bookstore. All secondary materials will be in the form of handouts.

 

What you need to do

 

Well, first off and of most importance—keep up with the reading and writing.   Since each discussion and assignment will grow from the preceding one, it is important that you attend class regularly and come prepared to share your ideas.

 

Papers:  You will  be writing four papers—one 2-3 page personal essay, two 5-6 page critical papers on class texts, and one 8-10 page research paper.  In addition, you will write a number of short in-class and take home assignments.  I will provide more information on the requirements for each of these papers as the due dates approach. If you are unable to attend class the day a paper is due, please make sure someone brings your paper to class or puts it in my mailbox.

 

All writing in the course will be revised at least twice, and my comments as well as your peers' comments will provide reader response that leads to revision.  Since I am concerned with the process you move through to reach your final version, I am asking you to attach to your completed work all preliminary notes, drafts, diagrams, and outlines leading to your final copy.  You should date all such material.

 

In addition to your essays, each of you will be responsible for peer reviews of other students’ papers. Much of the class time will be spent working in groups, giving and getting feedback from your peers.  I will be looking at these peer reviews for enthusiastic, honest, and constructive criticism.  We will be discussing helpful ways in which to do this in class.

 

Attendance: Because of our workshop format, attendance is extremely important.  Three absences from class can be tolerated--no effect on your grade and no questions asked. More than three absences will affect your final grade. (In extraordinary cases of proven emergency, this provision will be modified).  Whether or not you are absent, you are still responsible for the work covered and essays are still due on the date requested.  Chronic lateness will also affect your grade.

 

Conferences: Three or four times during the semester. classes will be cancelled and each of you will meet with me for a conference.  These conferences will provide individual time for each of you to discuss your writing.  A missed conference is considered an absence.

 

Evaluation:  In assessing your writing I look for the following qualities: (1) Competence: how thoroughly you introduced your topic, and developed and supported your ideas; (2) Creativity: how much you exerted yourself in being inventive, in taking a risk and trying something new or difficult, in approaching the assignment as more than just an assignment, in making what you write interesting to your readers; (3) Clarity: how clearly you were able to get your ideas across to your readers by focusing your topic and using effective organization, sentences, and words: (4) Correctness: how well you followed grammatical and mechanical conventions (punctuation, syntax, spelling), and  how clearly you documented your footnotes and bibliography; (5) Care: how well you incorporated suggestions and comments from your colleagues and  instructor, and to what extent you presented a neat, readable paper.

 

Don't let this overwhelm you.  I guarantee that it is not as much as it sounds.  The writings will be fun, thought-provoking, and even entertaining.  And, in addition to our class’s community of writers and readers, you have two other great sources for help: check out the Writer's Block, and also look up Marlboro's writing page on the web at www.marboro.edu/~jsheehy/writing.

 

CALENDAR (Tentative course schedule for the opening weeks of the semester—all dates subject to change).

 

The following is a list of our readings.  All essays are in the form of handouts. The reading must be completed by the date listed.

                       

TH 1/25— Introduction to the class “Red Sky in the Morning” and “Memory and Imagination”  Patricia Hampl (handout).  Introduce essay #1.

 

M 1/29—The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien, pgs. 1-88. First draft of essay #1 due.

 

TH 2/1—The Things They Carried, pgs.89-188. 

 

M 2/5—Second draft of essay #1 due.. Please bring three copies to class.

 

T 2/6, W 2/7—CONFERENCES

 

TH 2/8—The Things They Carried, pgs. 1889-246 and secondary material.

 

M 2/12— ESSAY # 1 DUE with drafts, peer response sheets, and my comments.  Please bring two copies of completed essay to class.  Begin discussion of Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison, pgs. 1-112.

 

TH 2/15—Song of Solomon, pgs. 113-186.

 

M 2/19—Song of Solomon, pgs 187-337 and secondary materials.

 

TH 2/22—Draft of essay #2 due.  Please bring three copies to class.

 

M 2/26—CONFERENCES

 

TH 3/1—ESSAY #2 DUE DUE with drafts, peer response sheets, and my comments.  Please bring two copies of completed essay to class.   Ceremony, Leslie Marmon Silko, pgs. 1-63.

 

M 3/5—Ceremony, pgs. 64-176.

 

TH 3/8—Ceremony, pgs. 176-261 and secondary materials.

 

M 3/12—Draft of essay #3 due.  Please bring three copies to class.

 

TH 3/15--CONFERENCES

 

*** SPRING BREAK ***

 

M 4/2—ESSAY #3 DUE.  Stones from the River, Ursula Hegi, pgs. 9-200.

 

TH 4/5—Stones from the River, pgs. 201-295.

 

M 4/9—Stones From the River, pgs. 296-420.

 

TH 4/12—Stones from the River, pgs. 421-525.

 

M 4/16—“Tearing the Silence”  Ursula Hegi (Handout).

 

TH 4/19—Research prospectus due.

 

M 4/23—Draft of essay #4 due. Workshop on integrating sources and documentation.

 

TH 4/26—CONFERENCES

 

M 4/30—CONFERENCES

 

TH 5/3—ESSAY # 4 DUE.

 

M 5/7—Final Portfolio Review

 

TH 5/10—Portfolios due to English Committee

 

 

“History: Was this what history was like:  Could a person quietly enter and leave it?  He felt light, as though he were inside another body.  Perhaps nothing of what was apparently happening was happening at all.  Perhaps history was not made up of realities but of dreams.  People dreamed facts, and then writing invented the past.  There was no such thing as life, only stories” (159).  Santa Evita, Tomas Eloy Martinez