Fiction Laboratory

Spring 2014 quarter

Taught by

book arts, literature, creative writing

In this introductory literary arts program, we’ll investigate the tradition of experimental literature by treating literary experiments—our own included—as creative research into the possibilities of language and narrative. The alphabet, the language, the myriad tropes and formulae for literary expression and the archetypal patterns that haunt our stories: we will view these as a vast table of elements that can be combined and synthesized into new substances: new genres, prose forms, syntax, strategies for reading and making reasons to write. 

Our own creative work will provide a rigorous testing ground for literary ideas. Student writing will be examined by faculty and peers on a regular basis with half a mind toward developing one's craft, and the other half toward investigating, for its own sake, the complex relationship between reader, text and writer. Program seminars will emphasize a lineage of exceptional exceptions: novels and short fiction of the last half century by writers who have taken careful stock of shifts in literary and cultural theory. Lectures will introduce students to analytic reading practices, literary criticism and theory. Throughout the program, we'll practice rich and extended reading of just six book-length works (along with short ancillary texts). Thus, just three pairs of authors will shape our studies: (Pair 1) Virginia Woolf and Samuel Becket;(2) Italo Calvino and Harry Mathews; and (3) Thalia Field and Ben Marcus. Each pair will comprise the focal point for a three week unit; each unit will include an in-class exam. 

Students enrolled in the program should be prepared to read the range of challenging texts, practice the art of writing in the spirit of experimentation and play, conduct independent research into complex questions relevant to program texts and themes, and participate actively in program seminars, workshops and critiques. Interested students should study the program schedule carefully, as there will be extensive in-class work, as with a studio-based program; in our case, studio practice means writing, reading and critique.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

writing, literature and aesthetics.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Sophomore; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 20


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30150
So (16 credits): 30151
Fr - So (1-16 credits): 30477

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