ENGLISH 254     FICTION WORKSHOP: The First-Person Narrator
FALL 2010
J.G. Brown    Fletcher 204     x6434

Richard Ford, Rock Springs
Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son
Wells Tower, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
Selected stories (to be distributed)


Attend class. Two unexcused absences will lead to a reduction in your final grade. Three or more unexcused absences will lead to failure. If you know that you’ll have to miss a class, let me know ahead of time and make arrangements for a classmate to pick up any material distributed in class and to inform you about any assignments.

Turn in assignments on time. Late work will be penalized one letter grade for every day (not every class) that it is late. All work should be turned in via Google Docs. If you do not know how to use Google docs, you should consult with the academic computing office. Documents should be named in this manner: YourName.exercise1.doc (or docx).

Be prepared for class. You are expected to participate in the discussions in class in a thoughtful, responsible, and energetic manner.  It is imperative that you come to class prepared. Read all assignments by the day they’re due. Our schedule will no doubt require adjustments as the semester moves forward, but assume we’ll get to whatever’s on the schedule unless I explicitly push back (or forward) an assignment.

Proofread your work. I expect all work to be free of mechanical errors. Assignments with persistent and egregious errors will be returned ungraded. If you are unsure about mechanics – when to properly use a semicolon, for example, or how to correctly punctuate dialogue – please consult one of the many guides or make an appointment at the Academic Resource Center.

Attend Writers Series events on campus. (Please plan ahead so that you can resolve conflicts that you might have with the scheduled readings and lectures.)

Writing exercises
Short stories
Written critiques of your classmates’ work

Writing Exercises: 20%
Stories: 40% total
Revision: 20%
Class participation and critiques: 20%


A writing workshop has a number of purposes. It offers a critical but supportive environment for the apprentice writer, providing an audience that is willing to read, with a careful eye, works that stand to be improved through sustained and repeated revision. It offers an opportunity for discussion of the formal and thematic elements of particular genres – in this case, fiction – through the use of both professional and apprentice models. Finally, since the writing workshop addresses how a work is made as well as what that work becomes, it offers an opportunity to explore how experience and imagination are used in creating a work of art.

An appreciation for literature begins with enthusiasm. By learning to identify what makes a particular text interesting, entertaining, informative, or compelling, you will begin to understand the relation between literary texts and life itself — i.e., how the formal qualities of a particular literary genre may be used by the writer to explore the various subtleties, difficulties, moral dilemmas, and triumphs that are a part of being human.

By organizing your thoughts and presenting them to your classmates in our discussions, you should come to see that literature is comprised of many components, each of which is part of a complex, integrated whole, each of which is available for discussion, analysis, and debate.