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Writing and Politics

ENGL 3306.401
also offered as: AFRC 3306.401
W 1:45-4:45pm
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This is a creative writing workshop for students who are looking for ways to use their writing to participate in electoral politics. Student writers will explore a number of different forms—such as blogs, essays, op-eds, fairy tales, social media posts, short videos, or podcasts. We will publish your work, in real time, with the multimedia platform #VoteThatJawn. Launched in 2018 after the March For Our Lives urged youth to register and vote, #VoteThatJawn greatly helped increase registration of 18-year-olds in Philadelphia in 2018, 2020, and 2022.

Imagine a creative writing class that answers our desire to live responsibly in the world and to have a say in the systems that govern and structure us. Plus, a course devoted to learning to write with greater clarity, precision, and whatever special-sauce Jawn your voice brings. Student writers act as an editorial group sharing excellent, nonpartisan, fun, cool, sometimes deadly earnest content for and about fresh voters. In addition, you will gain experience in activities that writers in all disciplines need to know: producing an arts-based event and a social media campaign, working with multimedia content, and collaborating with other writers, artists, and activists. You will develop greater resourcefulness and initiative in writing, connecting, researching, editing, and publishing. English 3306 will sometimes work directly with diverse populations of youth from other colleges and high schools throughout Philadelphia, too.

As it performs a civic service, this class is listed as an Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course. This course is cross-listed with Africana Studies.

Click here to view syllabus with assignments.


Writing and Politics, Spring 2024

Faculty: Lorene Cary,



Our class will act as the non-partisan editorial group to populate, its social media, and its youth registration-and-vote event! Your writing and multimedia storytelling and posting combat the toxicity and nihilism that turn off young people. Instead, you bring the party: fun + passion + integrity + wit, could be naughty wit. These make voting a rite of passage to adulthood, kinda cool. In class, online and in person, the core of this project is connection, despite and even because of noise, distraction, and the traumatic facts we take to the polls.


We partner with PA Youth Vote, because thousands of new voters are in high school; with Committee of Seventy, because Philadelphia’s nationally-recognized good-government organization monitors PA voting facts up to the minute; with and with Vote That Jawn’s social media manager and a scholar or writer from our reading list, because you’ll want to know the people you’re working with. 


Usually, we take time to write, rewrite, and polish. Now and then, we respond to the news. That’s our origin story: My UPenn students responded to the 2018 March for Our Lives withthis feature on—and gave birth to VoteThatJawn.


Workflow and assessment

You will be assessed on two bodies of work: writing we produce in-class, often as a class or in groups; and four individual blogs, essays, or their multimedia equivalent and response papers. We will also create social media posts and tiles. We host one citywide event, “Trend That Jawn.” The last one, produced in coordination with Temple students and high schoolers, touched 250,000 individuals. 

Work is assigned to be completed in 30 minutes to an hour, three  to four days/week. I make the first assessment; then pass your work through our top editor, Becky Sinkler, former editor of The New York Times Book Review and Candace Brown, our social media manager, head of Fresh Fruit Media Group. Publishing is the grading standard. You revise until your work is publishable, which crosses the threshold of B+ or better. Revision can be fascinating. No, really.

One text is required: Walk with Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, by Kate Clifford Larson. Other readings will be mostly short and digital.



English Major Requirements
English Concentration Attributes
  • Creative Writing Workshop Course Minor (AECW)
  • Journalistic Writing Minor (AEJW)
College Attributes