University of Pittsburgh

graduate

Classes

For a complete list of courses offered and the most current descriptions, please visit the School of Arts and Sciences course descriptions database.

We offer many courses regularly, but the focus varies from term to term, depending on the faculty member's particular interests. Here's a sample of recently offered MFA courses:

Fiction Workshop with Irina Reyn 

This graduate workshop focused on close readings of manuscripts/theses-in-progress submitted by MFA students. In addition to producing a substantial amount of new and polished work, students considered the ways in which the writer occupies a place in the larger world of letters. Special focus was placed on how to write and publish book reviews in a variety of literary markets.

Readings in Contemporary Fiction

What circumstances contributed to the short story's emergence and evolution? How do certain rhetorical and stylistic features (such as ending with an epiphany, the story as "slice of life," the surprise ending, the adage to show not tell) become maxims, and why? How have writers of short stories invented and re-invented the form? In what way do some short stories function both as "story" and as that author's aesthetic credo? The course covered competing aesthetics in contemporary short fiction and the context by which to evaluate those aesthetics. Students learned about the craft of short fiction, paying close attention to how stories mean (rather than what they mean), and left the course with repertoire of texts to which to refer in workshops and upon which to model their own creative work.

Topics in Fiction with Fiona Cheong

This course took as its subject the writer as the teacher and citizen, designed primarily for MFA graduate students interested in gaining teaching experience beyond the university classroom or in exploring how active partnership with community-based organizations and nature conservancy programs can feed one's own artistry. Based partly at Hill House Association in the Hill District, the course engaged students in collaborative work with "Find the Rivers!" a neighborhood revitalization project. Students collaborated with the University's Community Outreach Partnership Center, and several classes took place at Phipps Conservatory. Individual and team projects may involve collecting oral histories and attending community meetings as research for a neighborhood walking map, organizing a literary and musical event, and leading writing workshops for children and senior citizens. Class discussion focused on alternative ways to design workshops and develop the symbolic imagination, and aimed to help students integrate teaching and writing.

Poetry Workshop/Nonfiction Workshop with Toi Derricotte and Jeanne Marie Laskas

This cross-listed poetry/nonfiction workshop was for graduate students interested in studying and writing hybrid forms of memoir, literary nonfiction and poems, and in exploring the questions: what can poets learn from nonfiction writers? And what can nonfiction writers learn from poets? Students were led in guided practices in immersion research and in gathering information from memory and imagination. Students and faculty explored ways of telling "true stories" dependent on narrative, syntax, rhythm and language dimensions.

Readings in Contemporary Poetry with Dawn Lundy Martin

This course was cross-listed as a graduate literature seminar, Race And Gender In 20th Century Poetry. The class focused on poetry—from African American modernism to African American experimentalism—including work by Melvin B. Tolson, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, N.H. Pritchard, the Umbra Poets, Erica Hunt, Harryette Mullen, Claudia Rankine, Duriel E. Harris, Nathaniel Mackey, and Will Alexander. Students also examined African American digital poetry.

Topics in Poetry 

This class explored how contemporary poets work with and against source texts. Students read several volumes of poetry alongside the texts they have revised, refuted, or otherwise repurposed for their own poetic ends. The goal wasto gain a more nuanced sense of the forces of influence and tradition, quotation and collage, while also becoming skilled in the arts of poetic piracy. Authors considered ranged from Zukofsky (and his uses of Marx) to Elizabeth Willis (and her uses of Erasmus Darwin). As Eliot put it: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal."

Readings in Contemporary Nonfiction

Transformations. The focus of the course was on how certain short-form essays, short literary works of fiction and poetry and magazine articles were transformed into sustained, book-length narratives in the creative nonfiction genre. This included articles that had been expanded into books as well as works from the imagination-based genres (poetry and fiction) that had been reconceived as nonfiction. Many published nonfiction writers visited the class and shared invaluable publishing wisdom, including Lise Funderburg, Sad Dhume, Kavitha Rajagopalan, Julian Rubinstein, and Mitra Kalita,

Topics in Nonfiction: Magazine

This course is an orientation to the publishing industry today as the digital era transforms it. For centuries publishing has been synonymous with print. The curriculum focused first on the traditional print publishing paradigm (books, magazines, newspapers), then shifted to electronic publishing (e-books, audiobooks, PDFs, CD-ROMs, databases, Internet, World Wide Web, Intranet, podcasting, etc.). The course surveyed print and electronic publishing procedures and protocol from acquisition to publication. Topics included: history of writing and the book; American publishing history; economics of the publishing industries; intellectual property, idea protection, and electronic or subsidiary rights; the evaluation and acquisition of manuscripts; the role of literary agents; publishing contracts; the role of the editor; marketing and promotion; design and production; warehousing and order fulfillment; royalties; and subsidiary rights.

Topics in Creative Writing with Carl Kurlander

This course focused on telling stories for the screen, with emphasis on character development, structure, and scene work. Writers will become familiar with screenplay format by reading various texts and screenplays and have the opportunity to workshop their scenes regularly. Ultimately, they will find a large part of the process a quest for structure, story, and their own voice within this form. Clips from classic and contemporary films will be shown. In the past, both poetry and prose students have found this course beneficial in terms of honing their craft, with one of them having won the prestigious Nicholls Screenwriting Fellowship awarded by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. No previous screenwriting experience is necessary, though a passion for movies may help.

Revised 08/21/2014
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