Writing Workshop I

Course Objectives: To practice different kinds of writing, to explore the meaning, function and expression of language, to learn basic documentation, argumentation and research skills, to enhance reading skills, to do close textual analysis and to develop a strong voice and point of view.

Improvisation Workshops: Come prepared for in-class writing every week, where we will explore every aspect of linguistics, semantics, vocabulary and syntax as well as connections between the mind and the body and its extensions. This is a skills and style, NOT a content course: the theme of home is only used to illustrate different kinds of writing and to focus the study of Middlemarch.

Requirements: Grading is based on attendance, participation (50%), and ten points each for five short writing assignments on the theme of home: 1)Expository/argumentative with at least 3 sources; 2) Descriptive; 3) Narrative or Lyrical or Personal Memoir; 4) Critical/analytical; 5) Dramatic

Texts: MLA/APA Handbooks, and MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot

Breakdown for Fall 2005

9/10: Diagnostic. Introduction to Course

9/17: Exercises for 2) Description. Begin reading MIDDLEMARCH, focusing on descriptive passages. Lecture on kinds and styles of description and how it used in different disciplines.

9/24: Lecture on MIDDLEMARCH and beginning close textual analysis.

10/1: Descriptive assignment due. Exercises to find voice.

10/8: Exercises on Narrative/lyrical/personal memoir.

10/15: Narrative assignment due. Lecture on difference between personal and dramatic writing.

10/22:  Lecture on close textual analysis and difference between critical and creative writing. Rough draft of close text due.

10/29: Close textual analysis due.

11/5: See film of Middlemarch.

11/12: Expository writing due.

11/19: Lecture on argumentation and beginning research skills.

12/3: Argumentation draft.

12/10: Second draft with more research

12/17: Argumentation/research papers due. Correct MLA/APA format.

Please read midsemester lecture carefully

Literature Majors: How does returning home structure plot and develop character in the works of Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Sheridan, Voltaire, T.S. Eliot, Leslie Marmon Silko, Edward Abbey, Ernest Hemingway, Chinua Achebe, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Don DeLillo, William Faulkner, Eugene O'Neill, Nawal el Saadawi, Joyce Carol Oates, Virginia Woolf etc?

Business Majors: What is the psychosociology of home ownership?

Media Majors: What is so comfy about the consumer home created by the mass media? Are conformity, comfort and competition essential ingredients of the contemporary home? What illusions of home does the personal website create?

History, Political Science and Philosophy: How do descriptions of interior design and architecture reflect the mores, meanings, objectives, in short, the history of a period?

Writing Majors: How do memoir and psychoanalytic writing enhance our appreciation and sensitivity of home? How is home connected to memory, sensuality and growth?

Health Science: How do home therapies such as horticultural, wilderness, ecospiritual, shamanic therapy etc. enhance our well-being, healing both mental and physical illness? Could therapists analyze home environments as closely as they analyse verbal memories of the past, body language and emotional expression?


Past Syllabi:

Literature Reading List


LYSISTRATA by Aristophanes

KING LEAR by Shakespeare

SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

CANDIDE by Voltaire



A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN by Virginia Woolf


THE GREAT GATSBY by F.Scott Fitzgerald

WHITE NOISE by Don DeLillo

THINGS FALL APART by Chinua Achebe

CEREMONY by Leslie Marmon Silko


Literature Students at Home with their Great Books:

Beverly Blythe at Home

Ramie Johnson at Home

Jones at Home

Anna Scarpa at Home

Lisa Walsh-Miller at Home

Research about Different Kinds of "Home":

Caldwell, Robert: WILDING IN ATLANTA


Giraldo, Sandra: HOME ONLINE

Isenberg, Errol: TELECOMMUTING

Kraus, Celine. PRISON


Mitchell, LaToya. THE REAL WORLD



Thimoleon, Jacqueline: HOME HEALTH CARE



Youmans, Kerry: PRISON AS A HOME

HOME: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski, Penguin 1987
A PLACE CALLED HOME: Twenty Writing Women Remember edited by Mickey Pearlman, St. Martin's Press, 1996
HOUSE AS A MIRR OR OF SELF by Clare Cooper Marcus, Berkeley 1997

For C.C. Marcus, "a home fulfills many needs: a place of self-expression, a vessel of memories, a refuge from the outside world, a cocoon where we can feel nurtured and let down our guard." (2) More importantly, the home expresses our unconscious needs and conflicts, the other sides of our selves we have submerged. There is a deeper meaning of home-- how we clean or don't clean and clutter it, how we choose, build and arrange it, how we share or don't share it, where, when and how we spend our time. The history of home should be an integral part of both the psychoanalytic history of the person and the culture at large. Sometimes what we do in private is more revealing than what we do in public.

This is an excellent theme for interviews and field trips, for excursions into history, the library, the internet, the community. The timespace compression of cyberspace the frequency of global travel have changed the experience of the traditional Euro-American home. All the stories we tell our journeys towards or away from home, leaving and returning, finding and losing the land, people, and places we love and/or hate. What do men do to go home? Don't they all want to return home triumphant, impressing their mom with their accomplishments, taking over Dad's place, the way King Oedipus did? Think of what the women did in Lysistrata, how they made themselves beautiful and seductive, only to deny their homecoming husbands the treasure they wanted most. It was a sacrifice for the women as well since they were almost as liberated sexually as American women in the late twentieth century. What kind of a conditional homecoming is this? Who has the power here? Isn't it a kind of castrating homecoming?

Then look at King Lear where the old father struggles with how he will divide up his home and endow his daughters with his inheritance. Here merit is rewarded with land, and all the hypocrisy, lies, jealousy of human nature surface in this struggle for power and goods. What kind of nurturing home is this? What kind of family? We examine families in Eliot's The Family Reunion, Wilder's The Long Christmas Dinner, Sheridan's School for Scandal. Virginia Woolf's A room of one's own talks about the privacy and solitude and silence of home needed for a woman to be a writer, a creator of something other than babies. The traditional home imprisoned her creativity. Hemingway's the Snows of Kilimanjaro reveal how a man's last dream before death was about adventure rather than home. Home had deceived, disappointed, abandoned and eluded him. So we will examine these plays and stories, maybe a few poems about home.

What contemporary novels or screenplays are about returning home? How is home visualized? How does it differ from our birthplace? How do we imagine and plan or stage our return? Why do we want to return? What does this reveal about our character? Why would we stall such a return? When do we acclerate it? So do we accelerate return when we get sick, older or are ready to die? Some animals return to the wilderness when they are ready to die. Could we acclerate return for any other reasons? What screenplay is about accelerating return? Is there any instance when returning enhances our health and productivity and well being so much that we do something great when we get there? Do we accelerate return when we are ready to make a nest and procreate? All of us want to be praised by our parents, real, fictive or transferential. We want to go out into the world, accomplish things, and then come home and be praised. Rarely does this occur. So why accelerate the return? How does it change and develop character, how does it force the plot to a climax? What is the climax? What would literature be without the concept of return? Isn't return a consummation even more complete than the orgasm of a crisis/climax? Man in his place, the nurturing, the need. Or is return a return to adventure, to the dream of those dazzling peaks? And home a prison? When and how does home become a prison-- by thwarting development, establishing unpleasant memories, or what?

Throughout history, the human story has involved a journey of adventure and/or exile with a conscious or unconscious desire to return home. Home need not be one's birthplace, especially at the cusp of the twenty first century when global travel and relocation are so prevalent: sometimes we search for a home, a stage where our deepest needs and desires, mental, physical and spiritual, are met and nurtured. Our birthplace presents us with an environment to which we adapt in early years. If we grow up in an urban ghetto, we may learn to be rough and foxy, skeptical and self-reliant. The noise and dirt of urban life is part of our sensory heritage; we may play basketball. We may even be afraid of the wilderness. Consequently if we grow up in the wilderness, hiking alone is no problem, and the dirt and noise of urban life may really disturb us. But there is more to this than adaptation. Our birthplace is also the place where our first psychological wars of identification and identy are fought, and sometimes the blame, hate and frustration are so great that we feel we can escape from this pain by leaving home forever.

The problem is that the evil parents and siblings have often been internalized and it may take years of therapy to exorcise them. In books like You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe, we are faced with the dilemma of being treated like a child or an ordinary person instead of someone special when we return home. Men in the Euroamerican tradition have forged their identity by breaking away from the homeland, surpassing their parents, and making a "name" for themselves, other than their own name. When they return home they are rarely given the appreciation they crave. But it is not always for appreciation and fame that we return home-- it is often for nurturing in times of trouble or sickness, for rest when we are tired, for delicious sensory memories when we are burnt out. If our memories of abuse and maltreatment exceed these more pleasant memories then we may have to stage our own return.

So what are the elements of "home" that we long for when we "stage" a return, rather than returning to our birthplace? First, there must be congruence between our physiology and the geography of the environment. Sometimes people with a depressive tendency prefer sunny, warm climates. Often those who have dry skin or brittle personalities, prefer humid, rainforest type of surroundings. Some like the crisp, clean whiteness of wintery climes, some the sea, others the mountains. I often say I'm a big mountain, not a ball and beach, burbs and boroughs girl. But big mountains require fitness, hard work, strength. Most people prefer to vegetate on the beach. Proxemics is also a big issue. Some people go nuts smashed like sardines in the New York subway system. Others dislike driving for hours on a desolate highway. Some people don't mind crowding their life into a tiny studio; others need at least a few extra rooms to feel normal. This may relate to how they were brought up but it could also be their physiology. If there are quiet, low key individuals they might be fine in crowded, noisy places filled with human odors. But if they are already hyper and overstimulated, this kind of stimulation could bring them to a boiling point. Everyone has an ideal place in their dreamworld to which they return. It may be an unnaturalistic mosaic of layered places, of something that could never exist. Once we stage this return, why do we stall it? As soon as I closed on my first condo, I planned trips to Colorado and Washington State.

Everyone is afraid of being trapped, of having to live forever in a predictable prison, even of our own choosing. We want home and adventure at the same time. In this world of homospatial images on the internet, more and more we superimpose home over those new places we conquer. Isn't this flirtation with the staging, stalling and accelerating of return a late capitalist indulgence? Indigenous people rarely flirt with the idea of leaving their homeland. They may journey to get food or to fight but they breed, get sick and die where they are born. The whole idea of comparative homelands, of choice, of return, demands either the luxury of global travel or the means of travel and time available to colonial explorers. Some of those people travelled and returned but many just escaped or relocated to a new environment. What is the difference between immigration and the staging, stalling and accelerating of return? Immigration closes doors and one begins again to forge a new home with memories of the best of the old place. There is often little choice. While immigration still exists at the cusp of the twenty first century, the staging, stalling and accelerating of return involves more choice than immigration, more choice than colonial exploration, and certainly more choice than what is available to indigenous people. It is a byproduct of the global technology age. We feel the earth is ours--we can find or make a home anywhere and we can decide when, how and why to return to it.

The irony is that so many of the "homes" are similar-- the same Starbucks, yuppie health food, movies, recreational parks albeit with different geography, banks, supermarkets. So when we move from home to home, so much is the same. Thanks to huge global corporations, even European cities with distinctive cultures look more and more alike. So we choose in terms of geography, climate, and the proxemics of the people, as well as the intellectual proclivities of the group. Living in Manhattan has to be different intellectually from living in Macon, Georgia. So why do so many of us feel estranged from home? Have we lost the distinctive, particular flavor of the land with our corporate conformist takeover?

It is similar to the Western hospital which is supposed to be a place of healing yet rarely heals anything although certain diseased organs and cells can be treated. These hospitals are so sterile, so white and clean and earthless, that there is no alignment of our chakras with the elements of the ecosphere. Recently a patient was very ill at New York University hospital. No matter what kind of massage or bodywork I did I couldn't get her to stand up, walk and begin her rehabilitation. It wasn't until she began horticultural therapy at the Rusk Institute that she was able to integrate enough earth, water and air into her being able to recharge herself. There are also certain kinds of people that remind us of home, for good or for bad. When we are with someone cooking, cleaning, making love, we sometimes feel as if we are at home. Hopefully, we'll be able to marry them.

My watch broke for some strange reason. Does return stop time? Or give the illusion of stopping time? If we aren't growing aren't we dying? Is return an attempt at stasis? To seize the moment and freeze it in a cradle? But when a baby stays too long in the womb it kills itself and the mother.