Shakespeare pondered the matter (can you picture Hamlet without skull in hand?). Whitman, Woolf, Lorde. Margaret Atwood and JK Rowling. Doctor Seuss. Doctor Who. The Penn Museum has, among its collections, a thousand human skulls, because a 19th-century physician thought he could answer the question using crania and calipers. What does it mean to be human? In this workshop class, we will use writing to explore multiple pieces of this puzzle: identity and authority, love and death, what we make and what we break. You will read and write across form, from sonnet to lyric to flash fiction. There will be conversations with Philadelphia writers and artists and scientists; we will explore objects from our own Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (anthropology=study of human beings) to consider answers in things left behind. You will learn about the bones of writing: the basic elements on which we build. Over the term, you will put together a portfolio of original short prose and poetry, combining experience and creativity to come to your own conclusions about what it means to be.
Required: willingness to participate, to be a little bit brave in your own writing, to be thoughtful and thorough in your critique of others’. Not required: past writing experience. And skulls.