teaching history

course descriptions (2020–2024)

Becoming Ungovernable: Experiments in Surrealist Expression
Level: Advanced High School, University
Course Dates: June 22–July 27, 2022; June 26–August 7, 2024

This course focuses on what we can learn about stories when the rules are all our own, when we let go of trying to imitate reality and begin the strange process of evoking it. “Make up a story,” Toni Morrison once said, “For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light.” What happens when we write a story in the dark? 

Over the course of six weeks, we’ll experiment with the very notion of what a story can or should do. You will learn the rules of storytelling and find your ways of ignoring them. Our experiments will be informed by a wide array of contemporary writers, including Tommy Orange, Sabrina Orah Mark, and Helen Oyeyemi, alongside their literary ancestors, Octavia Butler, Franz Kafka, and Donald Barthelmé. This is a workshop informed as much by the strange as it is by play. Be ready to discover more about your imagination. Expect to leave with surrealist craft techniques, a small portfolio, and significant experience in experimentation.

The Invention of Monsters: Crafting Imaginary Beings for Modern Myths
Level: Advanced High School, University
Course Dates: June 21–August 9, 2023

In even the oldest stories, monsters represent our most mortal aspects: our fears, our vulnerabilities, our violences, our darkness. They hold in their spirits the essence behind every fable. Every culture writes its own monsters; every imagination feeds its own beasts in its shadows. In a world where we’re so often fed one version of what we can be, monsters, in the words of Guillermo del Toro, “are the patron saints of otherness—everything people say should not be.” Even stories without strange beasts tend to have an element of the monstrous at their core. 

This is a course for the aspiring writers who identify with imaginary beings in every form: the illegible, the terrifying, the shape-shifting, the other-worldly. Over eight weeks, we will study monsters canonical and rare across cultures and eras, reading stories by literary greats like Jorge Luis Borges, Angela Carter, and Octavia Butler and contemporary masters like Laura van den Berg and Helen Oyeyemi. All of this will prepare you to write monsters of your own. 

This workshop is informed by an emphasis on play. The best monsters are generated from a place of mischief: we will experiment broadly with an emphasis on writing stories in the dark, experimenting with your strangest thoughts. In addition to learning about the fundamentals of good storytelling, you can expect to write a small portfolio of short stories, discover the deepest recesses of your imagination, and leave with a small bestiary crafted in community with other lovers of myth and mystery.

English 205: Introduction to Creative Writing
Level: University
Course Dates: January 10–April 29, 2022

This course acts as an introduction to the craft and practice of creative writing. Throughout the semester, you will cultivate not only your creative habits but your attention and generosity as a reader and writer. The course is guided by certain assumptions: that language and the way we use it matters; that we each are invested in the opportunity to be exposed to new work by published writers and by your peers; and that you will take care with each other’s work and with your own (care, here, meaning rigor and respect). 

We become better writers when we practice writing. By the end of this course you will write regularly to gain a better understanding of your process, your values around the written word, and the vocabulary you need to cultivate a writing practice that feeds your creativity. 

In this class, you’ll be writing original poetry and fiction. You will practice the skills of drafting, revising, and commenting on others’ creative work within a workshop setting. Creative writing is a wonderful and strange experience, and I encourage you to explore whatever interests you through your writing. In other words, be weird. Be playful. 

English 106: First Year Composition
Level: University
Course Dates: August–December, 2020; January-May, 2021

Writing is a way thinking, of seeing what we think. When we begin to use writing to expand our understandings of ourselves and our disciplines, we open the door to new levels of consciousness. 

In this class, we’ll be interpreting and composing texts in both digital and print media across a variety of forms. You’ll be engaging in active learning, which includes class discussion, learning in small groups, problem solving, peer review, and digital interaction. 

To facilitate that opening, we’ll be reading many different styles of writing, experimenting with our writerly voices, and building a multi-disciplinary portfolio that reflects the growth I hope you all see through the semester. 

By the end of the course, your portfolio will:

• Demonstrate rhetorical awareness of diverse audiences, situations, and contexts
• Compose a variety of texts in a range of forms, equaling at least 7,500-11,500 words of polished writing (or 15,000-22,000 words, including drafts)
• Critically think about writing and rhetoric through reading, analysis, and reflection
• Provide constructive feedback to others and incorporate feedback into their writing
• Perform research and evaluate sources to support claims
• Engage multiple digital technologies to compose for different purposes