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Writing Philadelphia

ENGL 210.301
W 2-5:00 pm

This course is devoted to engaging with the diverse literary histories of Philadelphia, from its many celebrated practitioners of creative and journalistic prose to its vibrant poetry and spoken-word legacies. Students will engage with literatures of the city as readers and thinkers, but also as writers crafting and workshopping their own original creative works in ways that engage their own experience of the city: its landscape, architecture, politics, cultural history, and visual arts. Beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, poetry by Frances Harper and Walt Whitman, W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Philadelphia Negro, and fiction by Edgar Allan Poe and George Lippard, we will consider how literary mappings of the city establish how the contours of place allow certain literary forms to take shape. We will move through to the present day, when works such as Buzz Bissinger’s A Prayer for the City, M. K. Asante’s Buck, Susan Landers’s Franklinstein, or Yolanda Wisher’s Monk Eats an Afro use long-form journalism, memoir, documentary poetry, and performance to engage critically with a changing Philadelphia story. In addition to in-class presentations and critical writing, students will forge their own creative responses to the material, using their own wildly variant experiences of the city to explore how literature responds to place.

fulfills requirements
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Creative Writing Seminar Requirement of the Creative Writing Track