Introduction to Literature: Creative Writing and Literature

ENG 273 001 (CRN: 74989)

Class Meets: MWF, 1230-1320, in KUY 302

Professor Susan M. Schultz                                                Ms. No`u Revilla, Ph.D. apprentice

214 Kuykendall Hall                                                            314 Kuykendall: nrevilla@hawaii.edu


Office hours: M,W, 1:30-2:45 & by appointment

Syllabus: https://sites.google.com/site/documentarywriting/  

English 273: Introduction to Literature; CW & Lit

Documentary Writing

Required Texts: available at Revolution Books

Kamau Brathwaite, Trench Town Rock

R. Zamora Linmark, Leche

Kaia Sand, Remember to Wave

W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants

Eleni Sikelianos, The Book of Jon

Other materials will be available on-line, including the all-important Purdue Owl site: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

(Answers all questions having to do with grammar, citation form, works cited, and much more!)

Course goals:

--To make you aware of—and well versed in—a cutting edge literary form that brings together public and private concerns, literary and journalistic writing, poetry and prose, writing and collage.

--To make you better thinkers and writers about literary texts. To show you how to read analytically and as a creative writer.

--To make you better creative writers, using the format of documentary writing.

--To have some serious fun.

Course Requirements:

--You are responsible for knowing what's on the syllabus. Bookmark this page and that of our blog. Check often, as there will be additions and emendations along the way.

--Attendance is required. You may miss three classes without a valid excuse. Beyond that, your grade will suffer. You must complete all the work for the course in order to pass.

--Participation is crucial. Do the reading for the day before class. Write 300 words or so on the class blog by Friday of every week. Look up words, place names, historical facts before class. Google is your friend. Come to class with something to say, or a question to ask, about the reading. You will be rewarded for good preparation.

--Our blog is at http://documentarywriting.blogspot.com/. Say yes to the invitation to join, then go directly to the blog to post (under “new post” at the top). It helps to have a non-UH gmail account for blogging purposes. We will keep track of your postings, but not alert you if you are behind, so stay on track!  Be good citizens on the blog. Treat each other with respect. Read each others' posts, because you will learn from each other, as well as from your instructors.

--Every Friday there will be an in-class exercise. You are welcome to use these exercises to generate your poems and essays for the class, but you will need to elaborate on the exercises, and intensively revise what you write in class. Ms. Revilla and I are available to talk you through the process.

--Write two short essays and four documentary pieces (poems 1 & 2; proses 1 & 2). You will make a final chapbook (explanation to come) out of your documentary pieces as a final project. You may revise and resubmit your essays for two weeks after you get your grades and comments. If the revision is successful, your grade will go up.  If it isn't, your grade will remain the same.

--Meet with our Ph.D. graduate student apprentice, No`u Revilla, for conferences at least three times this semester to talk about your work. Meet with me at least once. You are responsible for keeping your appointments. If you can't make it on time, let us know beforehand.

--If you have any disabilities, I'm happy to work with KOKUA. Please visit their website to find out what services they offer. Here: http://www.hawaii.edu/kokua/services.htm

--Do not plagiarize. Plagiarism will result in an F for the course. (This issue gets a bit tricky with documentary writing, and we'll talk about that when we get to it.)

--I will let you know when to use electronics, such as laptops or iPads, in class. Otherwise, turn off your phones and other electronics. Absolutely no texting or facebooking or other use of your devices! Ms. Revilla will be our fact checker. I will confiscate electronics until the end of the class if you start texting, etc..  


--15% participation

--15% first essay

--25% second essay

--25% final project

--15% final exam

--5% instructor's discretion (based on effort, improvement, etc.)


Page numbers will be provided when we start reading each text.

Monday, August 20: Introductions, expectations, a question or two.

Wednesday, August 22: “I remember” exercise in class. To prepare, read the following: http://engl219spring2011.blogspot.com/2011/04/writing-prompt-3-joe-brainard-remembers.html

Pay special attention to the ways in which Brainard's private memories meld with more public concerns (history, culture, sexuality, advertising and so on).

Friday, August 24: In-class exercise. Collages.

Monday, August 27: Read Phil Metres's essay on documentary poetry: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/180213

Read the poems he writes about; there are links in the headings to his discussions of the poems. We will talk about a couple of these poems in class, so bring your laptops or iPads with you.

Wednesday, August 29: Read Sikelianos, The Book of Jon, Introduction and 1-33; Listen to her interview with Leonard Schwartz on "Cross-Cultural Poetics" here: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Sikelianos.php

Friday, August 31: In-class exercise.

Monday, September 3: No classes. Labor Day. Read Mark Nowak interview here: http://www.12thstreetonline.com/2011/01/14/mark-nowak-interview/

Wednesday, September 5: Sikelianos: keep reading! (at least to 59)

Friday, September 7:  In-class exercise.

Monday, September 10: Sikelianos: finish the book. Poem #1 is due.

Wednesday, September 12: Start Sand, Remember to Wave; Take a careful look at Sand's website and figure out what's important to her and her work: http://kaiasand.net/  Read her introduction.

Friday, September 14: In-class exercise.

Monday, September 17: Sand; Listen to Sand's voice here: http://poetryproject.org/tag/kaia-sand; read the title poem.

Wednesday, September 19: Sand: Spend 15 minutes or so on this site about internment of Japanese-Americanst: http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/japanese_internment/internment_menu.cfm  Read the afterword to the title poem.

Friday, September 21: In-class exercise.

Monday, September 24: First Essay is due

Wednesday, September 26: Sand: read the rest of her book.

Friday, September 28: In-class exercise

Monday, October 1: Kamau Brathwaite; Listen to Leonard Schwartz's interview of Brathwaite here: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Brathwaite.php  Poem #2 is due.

Wednesday, October 3: Brathwaite

Friday, October 5: In-class exercise

Monday, October 8: Brathwaite

Wednesday, October 10: Brathwaite

Friday, October 12: In-class exercise.

Monday, October 15: Topics for your second essay.  Finish Brathwaite.

Wednesday, October 17: Linmark, Leche: listen to Linmark here: http://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/content/r-zamora-linmark-rolls-his-rs  Read title page through page 44.

Friday, October 19: In-class exercise; Read Linmark, 45-85.

Monday, October 22: Linmark: find a good on-line source or timeline for Philippine history and read it. Get a cursory sense of the culture, the religion, the linguistic complexities, and the economy of the Philippines. Read 86-136.

Wednesday, October 24: Linmark; read 139-174.

Friday, October 26: In-class exercise. Read Linmark 175-202/

Monday, October 29: Linmark   Prose piece #1 is due; Read Linmark 203-241.

Wednesday, October 31: Linmark Read 242-268.

Friday, November 2: Second essay is due. Discuss in class.

Monday, November 5: Linmark, Leche: listen to Linmark here: http://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/content/r-zamora-linmark-rolls-his-rs  Read 269-301.

Wednesday, November 7: Linmark; Finish the book!

Friday, November 9: In-class exercise

Monday, November 12: No classes: Veterans' Day Observed

Wednesday, November 14:  W.G. Sebald; read the HIstory Channel material on the Holocaust: http://www.history.com/topics/the-holocaust

Friday, November 16: In-class exercise

Monday, November 19: Sebald: listen to this interview with Sebald, done eight days before his death in a car accident: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSFcTWIg-Pg   Prose piece #2 is due

Wednesday, November 21: Sebald

Friday, November 23: No classes: Thanksgiving break

Monday, November 26: Workshop your creative pieces.

Wednesday, November 28: Workshop

Friday, November 30: Workshop

Monday, December 3: Workshop

Wednesday, December 5: Last day of class


English 273: CW & Literature

14 September 2012

Prof. Susan M. Schultz

Ms. No`u Revilla



Paper Topics: Essay #1



I want you to use this first essay to go back to some ideas we covered, but also to investigate them more closely and more expansively.  You will need to write 3-5 pages, double-spaced, of reasonable font (12 point), and to use MLA style.  (Put pages quoted in parentheses.)  There should be an argument, which is clear from the beginning of the essay.  You will need to use quotations. Your ideas should come from the poems, not be imposed upon them. You need to put a title on your essay—not “Essay #1,” but a title that tells your reader what you’re writing about (poem & idea about the poem).



--Write an essay in which you do a close-reading of a section of The Book of Jon that we have not read together in class. Consider some or all of the following questions as you think about your essay: why is the section written in this form (whether letter or paragraph or story or list or poem, etc.)? What are the significant details and what are their effects? What pronouns does the poet use and why? In what order does she tell a story, and why?  (Your questions here: _______________________?)




--Like other documentary writers, Sikelianos is interested both in the private world of her family and in her father’s public world. The first world offers us memories; the second gets written as history. Write an essay in which you show how she balances the personal with the public in her book. What are the influences of the public on Jon’s private world? Don’t restrict yourself to one section of the book; instead, look through the whole book for relevant passages and quotations.




--Documentary writing often sounds quite flat. Charles Reznikoff is nowhere obvious to be found in his poems, which convey no emotion of their own.  Often, the writing sounds more like journalism than like poetry. Same goes for Muriel Rukeyser in her poems on the Gauley Bridge disaster, and for Carolyn Forche in her poem about the central American colonel. Perform an experiment in which you rewrite one of these poems, using a highly emotive language. Then write an essay in which you talk about what happened when you changed the “objective” surface of the documentary poem into the “subjective” voice of your rendition. Is the second poem as effective as the first? Why or why not? Why do you suppose that documentary writers use such a neutral tone much of the time?



--Sikelianos often gestures at stories she never tells us. She makes lists of stories to be told, sketches out a film that contains no images, leaves information out (like the name of the song she put on the jukebox at the bar). Find places in the book where important details, stories are left out. Why? What is the effect on the reader of this lack of information?



--I’m auditing a course on Modern American Poetry out of the University of Pennsylvania (it’s on-line). One of the statements made by the head TA is that “poetry does not include information.” Clearly, documentary poetry does include information, and this student has written to tell her so! Write an essay in which you discuss what happens to information when it enters a poem, and what happens to the poem when it includes information. Lest you wander too far astray, choose one poem or section of a book (Sikelianos’s or Sand’s) as a focus for your argument.






--Use MLA form. Double-space your essays and put them in a reasonable font size (12). You can find MLA guidelines on Purdue's Owl website, here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/


--Have a main point, an argument, and state it toward the beginning of the essay (in the first paragraph, say). You may feel that your main point is obvious and not want to come out with it, but I can't read your minds. So tell me what you're about to show me before you show it. Then you can elaborate and complicate your argument with the help of quotations from the source text.


--Do not generate your argument out of thin air. Instead, spend time getting to know the poem or poems you're working on. Look carefully at word choice, meter, rhyme, line endings, enjambment, and the rest of your arsenal. Allow the argument to come to you, rather than imposing it on the poem. You may feel that this is a less ambitious approach, but paradoxically, it leads to more ambitious work.


--Use quotations from the text, but be sure to integrate them into your prose. Don't just plunk them down, unattended, rather use them to guide the reader to an awareness that your interpretations are persuasive.


--Do NOT write a five paragraph essay for the sake of five paragraphs. You're in college now, and five paragraphs tends not to get the work done. Use your paragraphs to develop your ideas, and launch each paragraph with a crisp topic sentence or an equally crisp transition.


--Your introduction sets up a problem and proposes to solve it. Your conclusion is a different sort of beast. Your conclusion is not a summary (“I just wrote this, and here it is again”), but an ending to your essay that explores some of the implications of your argument. (If, for example, you've written about how Emily Dickinson fails to maintain her rhyme scheme in a poem, you might write a conclusion that steps away from her specific poem and talks about the way in which the breaking of forms affects our reading of poems.)


--You must have a title on your essay, one that does (a lot) more than announce that it's "Essay #1." The title should let the reader know what poem is being discussed and what your main point is. Good titles are hard to write, so save some time to compose yours.


--Proof-read your work, or ask a friend to look it over before you turn it in. Get rid of pesky errors, typos, mis-spellings, and so on. They do affect the way your paper gets read, because they (can) reflect on the amount of care you've put into your work.

Topics for the first prose piece and the second essay

English 273

15 October 2012

Prof. Susan M. Schultz

Ms. No`u Revilla

Topics for your first prose piece & your second essay

Due dates:

Monday, October 29 (prose piece)

Friday, November 9 (essay)

First prose piece: two typed pages (can be double-spaced). These are all based on our reading of R. Zamora (Zack) Linmark's Leche.

--Pick a term and write a definition for it. Then write a story that goes with the word.

--Write a series of “tips.” They do not have to be for tourists. Then write a brief story that relates to one or more of the tips.

--Write a very short story based on something that happened in your family. Include historical background.

--Write a series of five postcards that tell a story. Make sure to pick good postcards.

--Write a story about a word with more than one meaning or write about a misunderstood word (because of accent or deafness).

--Write a very short story about a moment of cultural confusion.

--Tell a very long story in a very few words, perhaps in one paragraph, or two.

Second essay topics: 4-5 pages, double-spaced.

--Discuss the way in which Kamau Brathwaite's uses of font sizes, shapes, and spelling determines the way in which a reader performs and interprets one section of his book. Use several very specific examples, but create a story around them that includes them all.  Each example may be unique, yet all of them should work toward an idea or message you find in the book.

--Discuss Kaia Sand/Bao Ngygen's uses of lay-out and space in Remember to Wave. How do non-verbal sections of the book contribute to the work's meaning? You may write on “Uptick,” if you choose. Remember that that poem is based on a movie.

--Show how Linmark uses documents in LECHE to develop characters (choose one). Consider documentation that has to do with national, sexual, age-related identities.  How do we get to know a character by way of the documentation s/he carries?


 --Analyze Book II or Book III of LECHE for the way in which Linmark tells his story.  What happens first, second, third?  What are the effects of his "discourse" in telling the "story" (remember our discussion of the difference between story (what actually happened, in the order it happened) and discourse (how the story is told). Think about how switching the order of some elements of the book would change the story.

--Linmark's book was written for several very different audiences at once.  There's the inside audience of Filipino readers from Hawai`i who immigrated as children (as some of you did); there's the audience of people from Hawai`i who did not come from the Philippines; there's the audience of Americans who don't know Hawai`i or the Philippines, and so on.  Show your reader how Linmark manages, in one section of the book, to address all of these audiences without losing any of them (through too much information, or too little).

English 273

8 November 2012

Prof. Susan M. Schultz

Ms. No`u Revilla

Final Project Prompts

Choose one, and enjoy yourselves!

--Make a chapbook out of your creative work for this class. Here is a description of the chapbook:


And here is where to find images of chapbooks (professional ones):


And here are directions on how to make a chapbook:


Consider binding your chapbook with recycled materials. Make between 2 and 22, either one for me and one for you, or one for every member of the class.

Feel free to be adventurous with materials, shapes, everything about your little book.

--Make a video of one of the poems or pieces of prose we've read (or written) this semester. Then write a 3-4 page essay on the process of making it (why you chose the text you chose, where you set the video, what background your chose, what music, if relevant, and so on). You may make your video by yourself or with others, but each of you must then write a separate short essay.

Here are some poetry videos off the internet:


This is Yamanaka reading the poem Bob Holman mentioned in class.


This was a project initiated by a poet laureate, Robert Pinsky, which shows people reading their favorite poem and talking about it.

English 273

16 November 2012

Prof. Susan M. Schultz

Ms. No`u Revilla



Prose Piece #2



Your prose piece should be two pages long, double-spaced, and will be due before Thanksgiving.  There will be a free pass on email submissions this time, just be sure to send as attachments to smspoetryprof@gmail.com and to send again, if your piece gets lost amid the tens of thousands of other emails.  And have a wonderful Thanksgiving! This is a class I wouldn’t mind sharing my turkey with . . .


All of these prompts are based on our reading of W.G. Sebald’s novel/memoir. Feel free to mix fact and fiction in what you write. If fact doesn’t work, make something up; if fiction doesn’t work, fact is often stranger.


Here are prompts.  Choose one, or mix and match:


--Take a walk, either in reality or in your mind (sans devices!) to a place you do not know well. Describe that place in precise detail. Then allow your mind to wander to another place you remember, one that reminds you of the place you’re visiting in the present. Write a digression of several sentences on that place, and then return to the place you’re visiting now. Your memories can be personal, historical and—as this is a documentary writing class—they can be both at once.  In fact, you’re encouraged to mix personal and historical in this piece.



--Write a non-fiction or fictional piece about a personal/historical event. Incorporate two photographs into your piece. These photographs do not need to be directly related to the event, but should complement your writing about it.



--Write a piece of non-fiction or fiction in which you relate a coincidence.  No cheesy coincidences allowed, just the really surprising ones like the hiker found in the ice and then found decades later on a newspaper headline, or the interesting people who come your way after a death in the family, who may or may not seem to be messengers from the deceased person. 

Final Projects

Friday, November 23: No classes: Thanksgiving break

Monday, November 26: Finish Sebald (extra day on him)

Wednesday, November 28: Workshop

Friday, November 30: Workshop

Monday, December 3: Workshop

Wednesday, December 5: Last day of class; present projects

Do either of the following two projects:

--Make a chapbook (google it!) out of your creative work for this semester. You may make your book out of any material, recycled or new. I would prefer that you make enough copies for the entire class, but if your wallet is thin, please make at least two of them, one for me and one for you. Think about size, shape, covers, illustrations, title, and write a short bio of yourself to put at the back of the book. You can find instructions for how to make chapbooks on-line. Start early, and enjoy!

--Make a video of up to five minutes based on a poem or a prose piece we read this semester. Then write a three to four page essay on how you made your video. Why did you set it in the place you set it?

Did you use music and, if so, why? What did you try to draw out of the text? Was there anything you left out, and why? If you choose to make your video with another student, you must each write separate essays on the project. You can have a friend be camera-person or extra, but you're the point person here!

Sign up for workshop days, when we'll form groups and talk about your work. Be sure to bring a full draft of your project, not just some stray ideas.