Course Syllabus


Instructor: Rose Haynes Touhy Office: HUM 275
Section: CW 302-01, TH 7-9:45 PM Office Hours: TH 5-6 PM
Room: HUM 279 Phone: 338-3079 (no voicemail)

Writing, when properly managed, is but a different name for conversation. ~ Lawrence Stern, Tristram Shandy (1760)

One must be an inventor to read well. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

No two persons ever read the same book. ~ Edmund Wilson


In this intensive course on reading for writers, we will immerse ourselves in a wide variety of published literature and investigate the many ways in which reading can inform, instruct, and inspire the writer. Throughout the semester we will approach the act of reading as an essential part of the creative process, in conversation and collaboration with the writing of literature. We will read deeply and avidly from a selection of plays, stories, poems and essays, delving into writing both as a craft and as an art. Together we will look at strategies for reading as writers, and discuss how to use that reading to stimulate our own creative work. Finally, we will begin to examine our own aesthetics and literary tastes, with an eye toward how both shape our views of writing and the world.

Above all, we will be reading not as students or critics, but as artists engaging in the historical and international conversation that is literature. Regardless of our past writing experience, we are all here to push the limits of what we know, to take new risks, to improve our craft and to strengthen our commitment to our writing. This is an exciting and challenging course that will demand courage, flexibility, and hard work. As we make our way through the course, we will be practicing silence, courting foolishness, and wrestling with difficulty. We will also be strengthening those fundamental craft elements that form the foundation of our written work.

Although this is a large class, we will conduct it as a seminar as much as possible, with contributions from each class member forming an important part of our learning. For this reason, weekly attendance and active participation are mandatory.

Prerequisites: English 114 or equivalent. CW majors only; non-majors admitted with consent of instructor.


Required Texts
➢ Course reader
Available for purchase in class at the second class meeting, February 4, 2010 (please bring a check or exact change).

➢ Anna In the Tropics, Nilo Cruz
➢ Wit, Margaret Edson
➢ Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein
➢ Sleeping with the Dictionary, Harriet Mullen
➢ Sonnet 56, Paul Hoover
➢ Little Book of Days, Nona Caspers
➢ My Life, Lyn Hejinian
Available at the SFSU bookstore, or online.

Since this course meets only once per week, we must cover a significant amount of material in each class meeting. Attendance at every class is mandatory, and more than two absences will lower your course grade.

Reading and Blog Responses
Reading: Be prepared to do a lot of reading. A variety of short texts, as well as one or more longer works, will be assigned each week. You are required to write a brief, informal response to one of these weekly readings, which must be posted to the class blog by midnight the night before class. We will go over the guidelines for blog responses in detail in class.

Blog: We will be keeping a class blog at which may be public or private depending on what the class decides as a whole. I hope this will be a forum for exploring questions and ideas that come up as a result of class presentations, readings, and discussions. You will be expected to post to the blog every week, and to comment on at least three of your classmate’s posts per week. I hope the class will want to keep the blog going even after we complete the semester, however that is completely optional!

Writing Exercises
Every week I will provide several exercises, often in more than one genre, for you to try at home. These will be related to the works at hand and are due the following week at the beginning of class. I encourage you to attempt them all, however you will choose just one to turn in each week. Please keep the following guidelines in mind:

• Always date your work and identify which exercise you are responding to. Otherwise you may not receive credit for your work.
• You are required to turn in at least 10 exercises for the semester. This means there will be some weeks when you may elect not to turn in an exercise.
• No late or “make-up” work will be accepted.

Mid-Term Paper
There will be a mid-term essays of approximately 1,000 words, written in conversation with texts covered in class.
➢ Due March 18, 2010.

Final Project
The final project will consist of a creative project, a reflective paper, and a presentation of your project.
➢ Final project presentations will take place the final two weeks of class, May 6, 2010 and May 13, 2010.
➢ Final project due May 13, 2010.


Attendance and Participation
Attendance – 30%
Reading and Blog Responses – 15%

Writing Assignments
Exercises – 15%
Mid-Term Essay – 10%

Final Project
Final Project – 20%
Final Presentation – 10%


Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the instructor. The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process. The DPRC is located in the Student Service Building and can be reached by telephone (voice/TTY 415-338-2472) or by email (