Department of English

Deb Olin Unferth


Associate ProfessorM.F.A., Syracuse University

Deb Olin Unferth

Contact

Biography


Deb Olin Unferth is the author of the memoir Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; the story collection Minor Robberies; and the novel Vacation, winner of the Cabell First Novel Award. Her work appears in Harper’s, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Granta, and elsewhere. She has received three Pushcart Prizes, and a grant from Creative Capital for Innovative Literature.

Courses


CRW 355F • Advanced Fiction Workshop

34765 • Fall 2017
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM CAL 221

CRW 355F  l  Advanced Fiction Workshop

 

Instructor:  Unferth, D

Unique #:  34765

Semester:  Fall 2017

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer Instruction:  No

 

Prerequisites:  CRW 340F (or E 341).

 

Description:  This is an advanced course in fiction writing for students working toward the creative writing certificate. Students will write either three original stories of at least 8 pages each or two original stories and one revision.  They will also write extensive comments (1-2 pages) on their classmates’ stories.  In addition, students will have the opportunity to trade stories and exchange comments with the Pen-City Writers, the Texas Prison Creative Writing Certificate Program sponsored by the English Department.  All work must be original, written for this class, not for another class taken earlier or concurrently.

 

Policies:  You may miss two classes without penalty.  After that your grade will begin to drop.  This is a no-screens class.  All materials will be used in class in hardcopy.

 

Readings:  Students will purchase a course packet of selected published stories.

 

Requirements and Grading:  First story 20%; second story 20%; third story/revision 20%; comments on classmates’ work 20%; participation and attendance 20%.

E 380F • Literature For Writers

35775 • Fall 2017
Meets TH 5:00PM-8:00PM CAL 323

The Art of Memoir and the Personal Essay

This genre is often marked by the urgency the author has to tell the story, a need that translates into fresh methods, new forms, and a struggle to decide what it means to say something is true. In this class we will discuss many approaches to (attempts at?) writing about one’s own life, time, generation, or place. These will include everything from first-person war essays to coming-of-age narratives, from comics to meditations. We’ll read collage and cross-genre texts, along with narrative self-portraits and aphorisms. We’ll talk about how these books are shaped, from where they draw tension, how they assemble and disassemble a self, how they use historical or political setting, what they leave in and cut out, and ultimately why these books move us.

Possible readings will include some combination of books or excerpts by these authors (subject to change):

Patti Smith, Renee Gladman, Sarah Manguso, Frank McCourt, Maxine Hong Kingston, Maggie Nelson, James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, Steve Martin, Leanne Shapton, Sei Shonagon, Malcolm X, Sarah Ruhl, Franz Kafka, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Eula Biss, Michael Herr, Claudia Rankine, Carrie Brownstein, Ishmael Reed, Julie Doucet, Frederick Douglass, David Foster Wallace, Alison Bechdel, Marjane Satrapi, Art Spiegelman.

In addition we will read memoir pieces written by my current students in a maximum-security prison in southern Texas.

Students will do a final project of their own writing in the genre.

 

CRW 330 • Literature For Writers

34620 • Spring 2017
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM CAL 200

CRW 330  l  Literature for Writers [Certificate]

Instructor:  Unferth, D

Unique #:  34620

Semester:  Spring 2017

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer Instruction:  No

 

Prerequisites:  One of the following: CRW 325 (or E 325), 325F (or E 325F), 325M, 325P (or E 325P).

 

Description:  Short Stories --

This is a new course.  Originally created for graduate creative writers, this course is now offered at the undergraduate level.  This class will focus on creative nonfiction, which has exploded in the past thirty years and continues to expand its reach with its many unique approaches to form, style, and narrative.  We will read selections of memoirs, biographies, comics, meditations, cross-genre texts, essays, reportage, aphorisms, and more.  We’ll talk about how the work is shaped, from where it draws tension, how historical and political contexts interact with subject and style, and ultimately why the work moves us.

 

Texts:  We will read full books or selections by some of the following writers (tentative and subject to change):  Eula Biss, Patti Smith, James Baldwin, Maggie Nelson, Zadie Smith, Geoff Dyer, Siddhartha Deb, John D’Agata, Bernard Cooper, Avi Steinberg, Sarah Ruhl, Claudia Rankine, Sei Shonagon.

 

Requirements and Grading:  We will do in-class and take-home creative writing exercises as responses to the readings.  Some of these will be handed in for short workshops.  Students will do presentations and hand in an end-of-semester original work of creative nonfiction.

E 385N • Creatv Writing: Wrkshp In Fict

35675 • Spring 2017
Meets T 12:30PM-3:30PM CAL 200

Creative Writing: Workshop in Fiction

In this class we will workshop student fiction projects and talk in conference, always with an eye toward inciting fresh ways of thinking about fiction. Edward P. Jones once said about writing The Unknown World, “I did things in the novel that I never learned you’re not supposed to do.” The genius and strength of the story and novel are how they are endlessly remaking themselves by doing what they’re “not supposed to do.” In this way they continue to speak through time, express the world, individuals, and generations. The question we will frequently consider as we workshop is: how do we do what we’re not supposed to do—with control, craft, beauty, humor, momentum, and revelation? The ambition is to help one another create and hone a body of such work.

CRW 325F • Fiction Writing

34380 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 5:00PM-6:30PM CAL 221

CRW 325F  l  Fiction Writing

Instructor:  Unferth, D

Unique:  34380

Semester:  Fall 2016

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer instruction:  No

Prerequisites:  One of the following:  C L 315, E 603B, (316K,) 316L, 316M, 316N, 316P, 316K, or T C 603B.

Description:  Each week for the first half of the semester, we will focus on a different element of craft—everything from intriguing first sentences to breathless endings.  We will spend time on description, setting, dialogue, conflict, and more. I will assign in-class exercises and short take-home assignments, some of which we will discuss in class.  We will read stories by 20th and 21st century writers and focus on how these writers make use of plot, form, voice, and style.  In the second half of the semester, students will each write a complete short story, which we will workshop.  On the last day of class students will hand in short reading responses to individually selected books, identifying an element of craft that particularly interests them.

Through story workshops, generative exercises, discussion of published work, and individual suggested reading, students write new work and read the work of others always with an eye toward inciting fresh ways of thinking about fiction.  Students should emerge from the class with a solid grounding in narrative and with a collection of work in various stages of completion.

Texts:  reading packet.

Requirements and Grading:  Short writing assignments: 40%; Longer Short Story: 30%; Attendance and participation: 20%; Short responses: 10%.

CRW 355F • Advanced Fiction Workshop

34435 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM CAL 221

CRW 355F  l  Advanced Fiction Workshop

Instructor:  Unferth, D

Unique #:  34435

Semester:  Fall 2016

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites:  CRW 340F (or E 341).

Description:  This is an advanced course in fiction writing for students working toward the creative writing certificate. Students will write either three original stories of at least 8 pages each or two original stories and one revision.  They will also write extensive comments (1-2 pages) on their classmates’ stories.  All work must be original, written for this class, not for another class taken earlier or concurrently.

Policies:  You may miss two classes without penalty. After that your grade will begin to drop.  This is a no-screens class.  All materials will be used in class in hardcopy.

Readings:  Students will purchase a course packet of selected stories.

Requirements and Grading:  First story 20%; second story 20%; third story/revision 20%; comments on classmates’ work 20%; participation and attendance 20%.

CRW 330 • Literature For Writers

33690 • Spring 2016
Meets MW 3:30PM-5:00PM PAR 302

CRW 330  l  Literature for Writers [Certificate]

Instructor:  Unferth, D

Unique #:  33690

Semester:  Spring 2016

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer Instruction:  No

Prerequisites: One of the following: CRW 325 (or E 325), 325F (or E 325F), 325M, 325P (or E 325P).

Description: Short Stories --

This is a new course. Originally created for graduate creative writers, this course is now offered at the undergraduate level. This class will introduce creative writers to “short shorts” or very short stories: stories under 1,000 words or so. It’s a playful, provocative form that came into its own in the 20th century and continues to surprise with its many unique approaches to form, style, and narrative. We will read and discuss them all semester.

Texts: We will read full books or selections from the following (tentative and subject to change): • Collected Stories, Franz Kafka • Collected Stories, Lydia Davis • Trout-Fishing in America, Richard Brautigan • Grapefruit, Yoko Ono • Two Kinds of Decay, Sarah Manguso • Atlas of Remote Islands, Judith Schalansky • The Voice Imitator, Thomas Bernhard.

Requirements and Grading: We will do in-class and take-home creative writing exercises as responses to the readings. Students will do presentations and hand in an end-of-semester original set of short shorts of their own creation.

CRW 340F • Short Story Workshop

33710 • Spring 2016
Meets MW 5:00PM-6:30PM PAR 302

CRW 340F  l  Short Story Workshop [Certificate]

Instructor:  Unferth, D

Unique #:  33710

Semester:  Spring 2016

Cross-lists:  n/a

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer Instruction:  No

CRW 340F and E 341 may not both be counted.

Prerequisites: CRW 325F (or E 325F), or 325M.

Description: This is an intermediate course in fiction writing for students working toward the creative writing certificate. Students will write three original stories of 7-12 pages each and write extensive comments (1-2 pages) on their classmates’ stories. All work must be original, written for this class, not for another class taken earlier or concurrently.

Texts: This course is primarily a workshop, but we will also read some published stories for discussion of craft. These stories will be posted on Canvas.

Requirements & Grading: Three stories (7-12 pages each) and writing critiques.

Story 1: 20%; Story 2: 20%; Story 3: 20%; writing critiques of classmates’ stories: 20%; class participation: 20%.

CRW 325F • Fiction Writing

33625 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CAL 200

CRW 325F  l  Fiction Writing [CERTIFICATE]

Instructor:  Unferth, D

Unique:  33625

Semester:  Fall 2015

Cross-lists:  n/a

Flags:  Writing

Restrictions:  CRW Certificate students

Computer instruction:  No

Prerequisites: One of the following: C L 315, E 603B, (316K,) 316L, 316M, 316N, 316P, 316K, or T C 603B.

Description: Each week for the first half of the semester, we will focus on a different element of craft—everything from intriguing first sentences to breathless endings. We will spend time on description, setting, dialogue, conflict, and more. I will assign in-class exercises and short take-home assignments, some of which we will discuss in class. We will read stories by 20th and 21st century writers and focus on how these writers make use of plot, form, voice, and style. In the second half of the semester, students will each write a complete short story, which we will workshop. On the last day of class students will hand in short reading responses to individually selected books, identifying an element of craft that particularly interests them.

Through story workshops, generative exercises, discussion of published work, and individual suggested reading, students write new work and read the work of others always with an eye toward inciting fresh ways of thinking about fiction. Students should emerge from the class with a solid grounding in narrative and with a collection of work in various stages of completion.

Texts: reading packet.

Requirements and Grading: Short writing assignments: 40%; Longer Short Story: 30%; Attendance and participation: 20%; Short responses: 10%.

E 380F • Literature For Writers

34730 • Fall 2015
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM CAL 200

Novel Novels: Modern and Contemporary Novel Forms

Every generation produces an apocalyptic essay declaring the end of the novel, and yet the novel continues on unabated, reinventing itself with verve as it responds to its own history and the history around it. In this course we examine the novel, a bedrock of fiction tradition and also a chameleon of form and style that remains at the forefront of literary innovation. Focusing on modern and contemporary work, we will consider the singular ways novelists craft and construct their books, build narrative arcs, and develop sympathy and suspension through fresh approaches to time, structure, points of view, visual and graphic elements, and much more.

Selected list of readings may include work by (subject to change): Edward P. Jones, Junot Díaz, Lydia Davis, Nicholson Baker, Jennifer Egan, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Leanne Shapton, Michael Ondaatje, David Ohle, Ben Lerner, Renee Gladman, Flannery O’Connor, Chris Ware, and others.

E 380F • Literature For Writers

35030 • Spring 2015
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM CAL 323

The Poetics of the Short ShortThis course investigates the genre of the modern short-short story, stories less than 1,000 words, a playful, provocative form that exploded during the 20th century and continues to be a vehicle for unique approaches to form, style, and narrative. Readings may include work by: Robert Walser, Franz Kafka, Lydia Davis, Etgar Keret, Anne Carson, Harryette Mullen, Richard Brautigan, Yoko Ono, Thomas Bernhard, the Bible

CRW 325F • Fiction Writing

34845 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM PAR 302

Instructor: Unferth, D

Unique: 34845

Semester: Fall 2014

Cross-lists: n/a

Restrictions: CRW Certificate students

Prerequisites: One of the following: C L 315, E 603B, 316L (or 316K), 316M (or 316K), 316N (or 316K), 316P (or 316K), or T C 603B.

Description: Each week for the first half of the semester, we will focus on a different element of craft—everything from intriguing first sentences to breathless endings. We will spend time on description, setting, dialogue, conflict, and more. I will assign in-class exercises and short take-home assignments, some of which we will discuss in class. We will read stories by 20th and 21st century writers and focus on how these writers make use of plot, form, voice, and style. In the second half of the semester, students will each write a complete short story, which we will workshop. On the last day of class students will hand in short reading responses to individually selected books, identifying an element of craft that particularly interests them.

Through story workshops, generative exercises, discussion of published work, and individual suggested reading, students write new work and read the work of others always with an eye toward inciting fresh ways of thinking about fiction. Students should emerge from the class with a solid grounding in narrative and with a collection of work in various stages of completion.

Texts: reading packet

Requirements and Grading:

Short writing assignments: 40%

Longer Short Story: 30%

Attendance and participation: 20%

Short responses: 10%

 

Curriculum Vitae


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