Fiction Seminar: The First Person

Jun 2017

I loved this course. I would have appreciated more feedback on my writing assignments but I genuinely enjoyed this seminar just for the sake of listening to Professor Lipsyte talk about different works of fiction. I came to a better understanding of what makes good writing solely from listening to him explain the successful aspects of different short stories and novels. Everything we read was great. I really appreciated that he didn't make us submit write ups on the works and trusted us to do the readings and come to class prepared. He allowed enough space for everyone to talk and also maintained a good balance of commenting on the works himself. Professor Lipyste has a wonderful aura and a great perspective on life in general. Just listening to him talk about his observations and perceptions of the world makes me understand why he is such a great writer.

Jan 2010

There is apparently, no set syllabus or even tacit agreement on a general syllabus for this class, so, as it gets passed from Professor to Professor, it changes dramatically. Rebecca's First Person Seminar is less a tour of the first person (she gives each week a first-person-related heading, but rarely references it), but rather a tour of Rebecca Curtis' Favorite Things That Happen to be Written in the First Person. That said, the books and short stories on the list are engaging, great texts--but whether they really taught us any valuable lessons specifically about First Person narrative is questionable, at best. Furthermore, we were assigned the same assignment twice for our imitation assignments, leaving me to deduce that Rebecca couldn't really think of another thing to teach us about the First Person narrative. Based on this one assignment twice-assigned, the thesis of the class was this: to write a first person narrative, you need a good plot outline. That's it. We spend little to no time talking about voice, style, etc. Plot is the only factor worth dwelling on in a first person narrative--that was the basic thrust of the class. I was super-glad to get the chance to read Junot Diaz, Ed Park, Murakami, Kincaid, and Ishiguro, among others, but I remain rather unenlightened about the first person narrative overall. I also felt that Rebecca really struggled to manage the class, letting two or three very opinionated students dominate the conversation. In most creative writing classes hand-raising is not necessary, but Rebecca treated us pretty much like high schoolers, requiring raised hands, giving pop quizzes, and opening the course with a condescending lecture about how she knows we don't think creative writing is cool (when in fact, as majors, most of us think it's very cool). If you want to learn something truly revelatory about the field, this class isn't for you.

Dec 2009

This was an alright course. Rebecca's anecdotes and examples of ideas can ramble on and on and ultimately be meaningless, pushing aside time that could spent actually talking about the works. However, most of the readings for this semester were really great (she polled the class to choose new ones because some of her old course books were too tedious) and very inspiring--they were mostly made up of really modern literature, a lot of which is kind of experimental, and all of which ends up being original and interesting. The purposes of each of the books are all very diverse, so it leads to a very eclectic pallet by the end of the course. As a professor, she's really quirky and becomes a character unto herself; for the first half of the semester, her opinions and tangents were really boring, but by the end she became more endearing when it became clear how much she cared about the works, about the students, and about teaching writing--she may have loosened up and became a little less awkward. There were often points of contention between how a student thought of a work and how she did, but the discussions played out well most of the time. NOTE: More than 50% of this course is not about the use of the first person. Perhaps it's because there's really nothing to say about the first person, perhaps she could work harder on focusing on first person, but much of the discussions become about what the books were like, points in the narrative and character, and the general themes and purpose involved. It becomes as much a review of modern literature as it does a review of the first person, but this isn't really a bad thing. Overall, her sporadic opinions can get in the way of enjoying the course sometimes, but it was an easy class that made the reading worth doing. The assignments are quick and painless, and there's really no reason to stress over the imitations--they can be fun and useful, and if you do the assignment right, you won't fail (and if she enjoys your writing and you do a good story, she'll give up to an A+).