Seminar in Creative Writing: Community Narratives & Points of View

Prof. Kristiana Kahakauwila

ENG 713: Seminar in Creative Writing

Tuesday & Thursday, 1:30-2:45pm. We will meet synchronously on Zoom.


Community Narratives and Points of View

The course begins with the premise forwarded by Russian literary critic Michal Bakhtin that fiction, by its nature, is polyphonous because the characters represent multiple viewpoints and argue for perspectives separate from those of the author or even the central narrator. However, certain points of view such as Omniscience, Second Person, First Person Plural, and Serial push the idea of polyphony to new narratorial heights. How do these points of view layer voices and perspectives, creating work that eschews a single vision? What is the effect of this multiplicity—on a craft level, and on an ethical one? How might an author looking to draw in community histories and legacies employ these and other techniques to enrich the multiplicity of their text? And finally, what are the potential pitfalls and risks of using these lesser-engaged points of view? This course focuses on more communal POVs to explore craft techniques such as plotting, sequencing, characterization, the reliability of narrative voice, the political potency of fiction (and creative nonfiction), and the power of language. The class remains ever concerned with the idea of community and how narratorial choices underline (or undermine) group experience, cultural norms, gendered spaces, and national and ethnic identities.


Student Learning Outcomes

To establish a foundational knowledge of each point of view and its development in different eras and/or literary schools of thought.

To learn techniques for incorporating research into your fiction and/or other creative work.

To consider the multiplicity of story as well as how a single author might represent a community’s narrative, as well as the ethical considerations of such a representation.

To develop your personal aesthetic, as well as to deepen your understanding of how craft choices create a sense of aesthetic.

To continue building the writing community you’re developing here.



Reader Responses: In the first half the term, a mix of critical and creative reader responses are due weekly. The responses are fairly short, ranging (depending on the prompt) from 500 to 1,000 words. Any of these responses can be expanded, revised, and combined to use in the midterm and/or final project.


Teaching Demo: A brief craft talk that helps elucidate or broaden understanding of one of the course readings is also required. Along with this presentation, the student will submit 3-4 discussion questions.


A research portfolio is due at the mid-term. The goal of this is to use research techniques and sources such as archives, oral histories, biographical data, and interviews to explore several perspectives on a real event or moment. This moment can be personal, familial, communal, national, or international in scope. Likely this work will feed into the final project/paper.


Editorial feedback in the forms of workshop letters and verbal feedback with peers.


A final project, either creative or critical and likely feeding into the thesis or dissertation, is due at the end of the term.



Texts Under Consideration


Critical essays will be available, for free, on Laulima along with short creative pieces. The novels can be purchased or borrowed from our library. I’ll email enrolled students with the finalized novel list prior to the start of the spring term.


Critical Works Under Consideration:

“After Bakhtin” by David Lodge from After Bakhtin (1990)

“On Omniscience” by Robert Boswell from The Half Known World (2008)

“Detail” by James Wood from How Fiction Works (2009)

“Ethnicity & Craft” by Jennifer De Leon from Poets & Writers (Jan./Feb 2015)

“The A-B-C of Multiple Story Lines” and “The Four Questions Concerning the Narrator” by David Mura from A Stranger’s Journey (2018)

“Class and Consciousness: ‘We’ Narration from Conrad to Post-Colonial Fiction” and “At First You Feel a Bit Lost: The Varieties of Second Person Narration” by Brian Richardson from Unnatural Voices: Extreme Narration in Modern and Contemporary Fiction (2006)


Book-Length Texts Under Consideration:

Morrison, Toni. Jazz. Vintage, 2004.

Otsuka, Julie. The Buddha in the Attic. Anchor, 2012.

Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad. Knopf, 2010.

Grace, Patricia. Dogside Story. Penguin, 2001.

Jones, Edward. The Known World. Amistad, 2003.