Longing, We Say: Distance in the Literary Imagination (Kirkuk, Iraq)

Course Description

In Spring 2013, the IWP Distance Learning Program's Creative Writing Series in Baghdad, Iraq, came to a close. Based on the success of the project, the IWP Distance Learning Program has partnered with the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to create a new introductory course in creative writing for students and professors at the University of Kirkuk. Conducted via Blackboard Collaborate with supporting materials provided via Lore, class sessions will begin in mid-October and will conclude in February 2014. The course curriculum is divided between fiction and poetry.

In this course, the instructors and participants will explore the role of distance in the literary imagination. In day-to-day life, distance can be an impediment to knowledge, but in literature distance presents an opportunity to the imagination. What we cannot see, we must envision. Where we cannot go, we must project ourselves. This is true for both readers and creative writers. Over five months, participants will consider many forms of distance: distance in space, distance in time, the subtler distances that divide our individual experiences of the world. This course will study how poets and fiction writers address these divides—how they overcome them, celebrate them, reveal them, lament them. And participants will venture into the distance with their own short stories and poems. Class sessions will include thoughtful examination of the readings and collaborative workshopping of participants' writing. Writers and readers of all abilities will be challenged.

Prose readings include excerpts from: Invisible Cities and “The Light-Years” by Italo Calvino; So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell; “The Blue of Distance” by Rebecca Solnit; “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. LeGuin; and “Funes the Memorious” by Jorge Luis Borges. Readings in poetry will begin with popular American ballads and follow that tradition into the twenty-first century through the poems of Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, George Oppen, James Tate, Robert Haas, and Anne Carson.

Instructor for Fiction

Mark MAYER is the Robert P. Dana Emerging Writer Fellow at Cornell College. A former Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is winner of the John Leggett Fiction Prize and the Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His fiction has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and anthologized in New Stories from the Midwest.

Instructor for Poetry

James LONGLEY is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he taught general education literature and creative writing courses. He has served as coordinator of teaching assistants for the Iowa Writers' Workshop and was a recipient of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize. He co-edits LVNG, a journal of poetry and art, and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in SET, The American Poetry Journal, and at petripress.org.

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