Saturday, February 12, 2011

Update from MFA-land

Now into my second semester of San Diego State's MFA in creative writing, perhaps it's time for an update on classes, teaching and volunteer work, publication news, etc.:

I'm serving as a Teaching Assistant for English 220, Introduction to Literature.  This is not your mother's literature course (with a theme like Robotic, Erotic, Electric, you know it's not a review of dead white guy lit).  The lecture is taught by Professor Bill Nericcio, while twice a week I teach a "breakout" discussion class.  Professor Nericcio is all over the map with his high energy act--teaching students to understand literary concepts by analyzing everything from classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the realist surrealist art of Magritte to contemporary film and music (click on the link above to get a taste).  I'm given pretty much complete freedom with it, so I'm trying to keep it fun--everything from playing a round of "exquisite corpse" while discussing how Magritte titled some of his paintings, to sharing clips of Pat Boone singing "Speedy Gonzales" during a discussion of Prof. Nericcio's chapter on the cartoon mouse (from his book Tex{t}-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America).

In addition to reading all the work for the Literature class (so I can try to speak intelligently about everything), I'm also taking three classes.  One is a "form and theory of fiction" course with Professor Stephen-Paul Martin.  I had him last year for a contemporary literature course.  Whereas last semester we mostly discussed the content or "story" of the books, this semester the focus is more on the approach and decisions of the authors--why did they choose this strategy over that in telling the story?  For a busy grad student, I appreciate that we spend two weeks covering each book, as opposed to last semester's "book-a-week."

My second class is a creative nonfiction class with Professor Hal Jaffe.  The focus is on the stories that society overlooks, ignores, or oppresses (for example, the mentally ill, the politically oppressed, outsider artists).  We're not just looking at ways of telling a story through words, but through other means (such as film).  I'm also doing something of an independent study with Prof. Jaffe.  Hopefully I'll be able to post later on the project that I hope will grow out of that, but my goal is a fairly heavy revision of a rough novel I wrote a few years back (something of a political satire, perhaps owing a debt to Vonnegut).

One of the reasons I wanted to attend SDSU was the opportunity to work with Fiction International, San Diego State's journal which they describe as "the only literary journal in the United States emphasizing formal innovation and progressive politics" (two areas right up my alley).  I started volunteering with them last semester and now I'm part of the staff, learning the ropes of the assistant editor position.

In publication news, I had a "Santa vs the cockroaches" apocalypse story in Jersey Devil Press's Holiday Half-Issue.  Also, my poem "Orange" was selected for the forthcoming San Diego Poetry Annual due out April 2011. This poem previously won "Best in Show" at the Del Norte County Fair but was never published.

All for now.

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