English 237-1 - Spring, 2023

Seminar for Writers

Class Information

Instructor: Corin, Lucy
CRN: 62297
Time: M 12:10-3:00pm
Location: 120 Voorhies


Reading Indirectly is a course in fiction (mostly) and nonfiction prose. It is designed for the MFA candidates in creative writing; others are welcome with permission when there is room. Email lcorin if you are not in the MFA program and are interested in the course.

Every so often, when I am thinking about my reading practice, I think about Francine Prose?s book Reading Like A Writer. When it came out (in 2006) I was excited about it because of its title, but when I read the book, (a perfectly fine book), I thought oh, she just means close reading. Writers definitely close read? good ones, anyhow. I bet lot of them do it without knowing they?re doing it. I think close reading is just what happens when you spend more time really being with a book than what it takes to go through the sentences with your eyes. But in this class, we?ll get more specific and more rangy about tuning in to what happens when we read and how that is related to figuring out how to write. I think too many writers read soley in order to find models, and that can create a self-imposed algorithm of ?like?: you feed yourself more of what already pleased you. That?t not all bad, but it?s not all there is. We will come to consciousness about and consciously apply to books particular ways or aspects of reading that can teach us what is possible in prose and what we care about as writers.
I?m creating a menu of ways of reading that you will all contribute to, and the structure of the course will be that you apply a different way of reading to each book, as you see fit, in relation to your own development as a writer, and in relation to understanding how the book ?asks? to be read. We?ll do some in-class analytic writing and mapping as we try to get into these books in real time. We?ll also have some assignments that try to directly connect reading practice to creative generation.
The books I assembled include: a) books I read a long time ago that I want to revisit in light of current ways of thinking b) books that ask us to navigate (often overvalued and oversimplified) qualities like ?identification? and ?relatability? c) books that I suspect are going to inform my nascent next book, so we can think about reading in order to inform your current projects.
1. the Gwendolyn Brooks and Lillian Hellman are both out of print. I encourage you to track down a used copy and order it asap, but I?ll also provide scans. Also, I did just teach the Brooks last year, so if you are in the class and not excited for a re-read so soon, I have Ideas for you.
2. We?ll only be reading Part 1 of Batuman?s The Idiot. I think you should buy the book, but I?m also going to provide a scan of the excerpt because I?m assigning it first and the bookstore routinely understocks books I order.
3. Because the bookstore routinely understocks books I order, I hope you will anticipate that possibility and buy them early or just order them from a non-Amazon source yourself. (Honestly, our bookstore is Amazon and I?d rather you support an indy store or buy used from a place like Powell?s.) Just plan ahead. I?d love us to all be working from the same editions, but I?d rather we just all have hard copies in whatever way is possible.


Grading is holistic and is based on the quality and consistency of your participation in the seminar and the quality of your analytic and creative assignments. You can be absent once during the quarter before it affects your grade.


Maybe , Lillian Hellman
The Idiot , Elif Batuman
Concrete Island, JG Ballard
Crazy for Vincent, Herve Guibert
Senselessness, Horacio Castellanos Moya
The Removed, Brandon Hobson
Maud Martha, Gwendolyn Brooks