XE: Experimental Humanities & Social Engagement
New York University
Creative writing, expository writing, literature, media studies, history of art
This is a course on method and writing. In other words, it is a course on how we can develop working strategies that will allow us to produce fluent, complex texts—and how we can return to pieces we have already written in order to see them anew and, perhaps, to alter them. Method, etymologically speaking, has to do with the cultivation of a metaphorical road or way. Thus, this course will focus on techniques that are adjacent to the art of writing, if not always identical to it. This is not a workshop, in the sense in which that term is often used in relation to literary endeavors; that said, this is a workshop, radically speaking, in that it will provide you with a set of concrete practices, an improved conceptual vocabulary regarding research and revision, and models for researching and revising your own creative work.
Speaking of method, ours will be unusual this semester, in that I will be asking you to identify a complete (or, very nearly) piece of writing you would like to revise—and then to revise it. I will also be asking you to develop a plan for a new piece of writing. However, you will not actually write this new work as a final assignment for the class. Rather, you will write a plan for writing this new work. This plan, along with your completed revision, will constitute your final assignment. In addition to these requirements, you will complete short writing assignments and make a presentation over the course of the semester.
A few further remarks: In spite of our relative familiarity with the term, method is not always something we recognize readily in ourselves or in our own actions. For this reason, in attempting to describe what method may be, we will have recourse to works of art and literature. Many technical handbooks on how to write and perform research exist; I will provide with you an annotated bibliography of those I consider the best in the field. However, I will not be assigning you such readings, though I expect you will find them useful. Rather, we will be considering method from a variety of points of view over the course of the semester. I will attempt to make the case that method is something that is already variously present in your work and ask you to consider how an exploration of method as a guiding theme may aid you in developing a more deeply engaged relationship with the fields of art and literature. How does our work change when we change our methods—and, pursuantly, how does method unfold in relation to lived time? In examining these matters we will, I hope, begin to be more attentive to the ways in which we practice writing.
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