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Intro to Creative Writing: Speculative Pasts and Futures

ENGL 010.304
T 6:00-9:00pm

José Esteban Muñoz argues that “queerness is always in the horizon”; Kara Keeling argues that “‘Black futures’ requires acting as if that other world were here now”; Bill McKibben argued in the late 1980s of climate change that “our reassuring sense of a timeless future, which is drawn from that apparently bottomless well of the past, is a delusion.” Speculation is key to fiction, poetry, drama, and hybrid creative work that seeks to imagine other worlds, but also to work that consider other ways this world could be or might have been.


Speculating about what the future might hold has long been a strategy employed by marginalized people to imagine other ways of negotiating present dispossession. But speculation is also central to the work of climate scientists, investment bankers, and public health experts. Speculation is often used at cross-purposes. Some speculate to imagine a future that breaks with histories of violence, while others speculate to profit from existing inequalities.


Speculators variously want to know what the weather is going to be tomorrow, how fast a disease is going to spread, whether we will change our emissions practices or face mass extinction, what an anti-racist society would be like, which stock will be most profitable in six months, whether a family member with cancer has two years to live, or five, or ten. All of these forms of speculation require different forms of betting on the future, and different ways of using and working with the past.


This workshop-based course considers speculation as a primary strategy for both critical exploration and creative writing. We’ll read speculative fiction that imagines near-futures of our planet, including works such as Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous. We’ll also read ecocritical essays and hybrid works that speculate about the futures of climate change and the recent pasts of severe storms and industrial disasters, as well as short critical excerpts from queer and trans theory, Black studies, urban studies, health sciences, and economics, as we consider the various ends to which speculation is used.


In your own practice and in our workshops, you’ll be invited to write between and among forms and to draw from a wide range of disciplines and sources, including from your expertise from other areas of study. Writers working in all genres are welcome!


This course will incorporate a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components. 

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