Who are we? How do we know what we know? How does our context change us?
In this course, we'll take full advantage of our three weeks together to hone our craft across genres and to begin the long task of answering these questions. Stanford's unique location - in the heart of tech country, close to both a vital urban center and staggering natural beauty - will provide us with a starting point and a loose framework. We'll use a rich variety of contemporary and canonical reading (text, visual art, film) to explore the idea of a (technological) frontier, representations of the city, and myths and imagery of the California landscape. Field trips highlighting strong places in the region and frequent visits to Stanford's galleries will anchor each phase.
But our emphasis will rest equally on developing the skills of expression, observation, and modulation that make or break a writer. To this end, our most important tool is the workshop model, and we will discover both how to make it work and how to make the best use of its criticism as we revise. Learning how to revise well is the other great goal of this course: there is simply no substitute for the painstaking work of sifting the products of one's own imagination, and so we will devote significant class time to revision exercises and individual tutorials.
Of course, we will push our own boundaries with frequent writing exercises, mostly in fiction and poetry, figuring out how to make each work and discussing everything from sharp character development and coherent narrative arcs to sentence rhythm and the evocative power of syntax. Alternating genres, and experimenting with creative nonfiction, will keep our thematic investigations lively and expose us to the potentials inherent in each mode of expression. By the end of the term, each student will have assembled a carefully tuned portfolio that demonstrates achievement across genres and dedication to one.