MAY 5, 1999

 ENGLISH 791R , The New Yorker 
 Spring 1999

Wednesdays, 1:00-4:00, Hagey Hall 247
This is a writing class, based on the ancient notion of imitation, and taking its exemplars from The New Yorker magazine. There are no other magazines like this one; it is the Anti-Wired, a devoutly literate examination of (post-)modern life, in a staggering number of its facets,--political, technological, cultural, social, historical, personal, educational, even artificial. Its defining approach is a commitment to thoughtful language, and its defining vehicle is The Feature, a really big, exceptionally graceful essay, on anything.
The pedagogical principles 
Nobody can teach you how to write; I'm not sure anybody can teach you anything at all (not you, particularly; don't take it personally: the generic 'you'). But there are two ways that you can improve your writing--by reading and by writing--and this course is designed to give you plenty of opportunities for both. The peg, of course, is The New Yorker, which every week contains some of the most topical and elegant prose in English, and which provides a number of culturally driven non-fiction genres that we can play around in. 
We will read ten issues of The New Yorker, the ten that come out from the second to the eleventh weeks of the course, and discuss each issue in class. We will write ten imitations of the genres and voices it embodies, and discuss those imitations in peer-editing sessions. The final project will be A Feature.
You should have two objectives in taking this course: to become a better writer, and to produce a publishable feature article. 
Among the most notable topics we will not be pursuing are the fiction, poetry, and cartoons or The New Yorker



Hagey Hall 247, x5362
Home phone (Milton): (905) 876-3972
Participation, twenty percent. 
Writing, twenty percent. 
Seminar, twenty percent. 
The Feature, forty percent. 
Irons in the fire, John McPhee 
The New Yorker, ten issues

Professional feature writing, Bruce Garrison (Recommended)

No late assignments will be accepted, no extensions will be granted, and no incompletes will be awarded, without very strong reasons. 

 May Hello, good to meet you.
 May McPhee & The New Yorker McPhee, Irons
 May The Current Cinema Book Review: Irons
 May The Theatre Movie Review New Yorker 24/5/99
 June Capsules Drama Review New Yorker 1/6/99
 June Guest: Malcolm Gladwell Capsule Reviews: Three Movies New Yorker 7/6/99
 June Talk of the Town  Capsule Reviews: Three Cultural Events New Yorker 14/6/99
 June Profile Talk of the Town New Yorker 21/6/99
 June Annals of X Profile New Yorker 28/6/99
 July Feature Annals of X New Yorker 5/7/99
 July Shouts and Murmurs Feature Outline New Yorker 12/7/99
 July Features redux Shouts and Murmurs New Yorker 19/7/99
 July So long and thanks for all the fish New Yorker 26/7/99

Course Participation

This is a component of the course I take very seriously, and you should enroll in this course only if you are prepared to contribute regularly to class discussions and to engage the job of peer reviewing very thoughtfully. Each of your assignments will be edited by a class member, and each week you will edit another class member's assignment. Notice that this is course participation, not simply class participation--that is, your success here will depend not just on how you perform during class time, but also on how fully you undertake the out-of-class peer review sessions.

Half of your participation mark will come from my assessment of your classroom contributions, half will come from your peers' assessments of how much help you've been to them in their writing. Everybody will submit a memo to me evaluating all of their peer reviewers; anybody who fails to submit such a memo will get zero for course participation. I'm not kidding.

Writing Assignments

There will be ten writing assignments, which I regard as a simple and straightforward obligation. Write them and make the deadlines, and you'll get the full twenty percent here; miss one deadline, and you'll get fifteen percent; miss two deadlines and you'll get zero percent. I'm not kidding.

Seminar Presentation

We will be analyzing the magazine section by section in seminar presentations. These may be individual or group assignments, depending on class numbers. The idea is for each of the discussion topics to be student led, but again this depends on class numbers.

The Feature

You will be evaluated on choice of topic, depth of analysis, and elegance of construction.