Foundations of Creative Writing

A foundation holds up disciplines, buildings, institutions. To found something is to create a sturdy basis on which to build a structure. And so we will begin discussions that will last well beyond one semester of work together: questions of aesthetics, process, poetics (why we write what we write), politics, institutions. During out time together we will create structures for ourselves: we will think hard about what it means to be a writer in terms not just of form and theory, but also our places in institutions large and small. The course will be composed of three major sections: in the first we will discuss philosophical and theoretical backgrounds to writing, from Plato and Aristotle to the present, with a growing emphasis as we go on how to write from within a particular place. In the second, we will discuss ways in which creative writing has been institutionalized in universities and schools and address issues of pedagogy. In the third, students will be asked to do research on a small press from Hawai`i or elsewhere, interviewing its editor and some of its authors, tracing its history, examining its procedures, and thinking through its arguments (every press is an argument).

Readings will include pieces by Plato, Aristotle, Sidney, Wordsworth, Shelley, Laura Riding, Adorno, Deleuze & Guattari, Kamau Brathwaite, Barrett Watten, Jules Boykoff & Kaia Sand, Muriel Rukeyser, Candace Fujikane, Nandita Sharma and others. These will be available on-line or in a xerox packet.

Other texts will include Hazel Smith’s A Writing Experiment and Jill Yamasawa’s Aftermath, as well as some essays about creative writing pedagogy.

During the final third of the course, students will be asked to acquire several publications by a small press, whether books or chapbooks or journals. I will help, where I can, in getting you good prices. You will map out a plan for your own small presses.


  • participation in class and a class internet group;
  • leading class discussion and one oral report;
  • final project of 15-20 pages;
  • participation in a colloquium with students in other 625s