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JS 2555: Creative Writing from Jewish Perspectives

Posted by on Friday, February 21, 2020 in Uncategorized.

JS 2555: Creative Writing from Jewish Perspectives

Catalog description: Creative writing course with readings as broad how-to guides. How Jewish and non-Jewish writers engage with or distance themselves from their their socio-ethnic/religious identity. Reading and writing in multiple genres including short stories, autobiography, poetry, plays, screenplays and song lyrics. Exploration of different styles and techniques of writing, such as narrative voice and dialogue. [3] (HCA)

Taught by: Judy Klass

From Professor Klass: We look at creative non-fiction, fiction, plays, screenplays, poetry and songwriting over the course of the term, and students try their hands at those genres. I provide examples of established writers using different techniques for each kind of writing; for example, if we are talking about unreliable first-person narrators, and first-person narrators who are peripheral characters on the sidelines watching events, we read short stories with those kinds of narrators, before students write their own. I’d do that in any fiction writing class — but since this is a JS course, all the writers of stories and plays and so forth that we look at are Jewish. Some write about Jewish characters and subjects; many do not. We discuss issues like writing what you know, and imagination, and the ethics of writing in the voice of a character from a different ethnic/cultural/religious background than your own, and human universals and appropriation and so on … but no one taking the course would have to write about Jewish subjects, whether they are Jewish or not. We’ll read some science fiction stories, and a lot of stories about people navigating relationships, or situations that come up in every life.

If we read Metamorphosis by Kafka — we’ll talk about writing surreal and experimental fiction, and about killing of one’s point of view character before the end of the story and continuing the story without him. We’ll also talk about whether there is something “Jewish” about this novella. We read fiction by people like Sholem Aleichem and Cynthia Ozick and Dorothy Parker and a bit of Herman Wouk and JD Salinger. We look at plays and scenes by David Mamet and Ariel Dorfman, and Kaufman and Hart, and Paula Vogel. We look at fixed form poems, like Emma Lazarus’s sonnet on the Statue of Liberty, and rhyming poems by Karl Shapiro, and also at poems by Philip Levine and Allen Ginsberg. We look at poems that are also songs by Leonard Cohen, and songs by Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein and Kander and Ebb and Sondheim and Dylan and Janis Ian and Lou Reed and Billy Joel … and students write their own songs, or song lyrics. It’s a class for trying out different kinds of writing, and maybe being turned on to some first-rate writers — and having fun in a way that a listing on YES cannot quite convey, as it’s a hard class to quantify in a sentence or two. It meets MWF from 3:10 to 4:00 in Wilson 127.

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