Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Art of Editing

ENGL 126.301
instructor(s):
T 1:30-4:30

This course takes a critical and practical approach to the art of editing. Is the editor simply a “failed writer,” as T. S. Eliot claimed, or is good editing the key to a writer’s clarity and integrity? In addition to exploring theories and histories of the red pen, we will consider a few case studies of editorial interventions, such as Ezra Pound’s excisions and revisions of Eliot’s The Waste Land, Marianne Moore’s five-decade quest to revise a single poem, and the editor who was discovered to have invented Raymond Carver’s distinctive narrative style. We will immerse ourselves in the technical aspects of editing, covering such topics as the difference between developmental and line editing, the merits of MLA and Chicago style, proofreading in hard copy and digital environments, and when to wield an em dash. Students will gain practical editing experience, learn about a range of different levels of editorial interventions, and investigate the politics of language usage and standards, reading from literary texts such as Gloria Anzaldúa’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary, and Dohra Ahmad’s Rotten English anthology to ask crucial questions about what “standard English” really means. This course counts toward the Journalistic Writing Minor.