I am writing this review because I don't want others to have to experience what my peers and I went through. I would not recommend taking any classes with Philip Lopate. While he did provide writing advice, Prof Lopate's critiques were frequently also based on his personal opinions or politics. This made the atmosphere of the workshop very fraught because he didn't meet the writer where they were at, instead offering his own vision. Students frequently wrote about their lived experiences, and often these were experiences that Prof didn't share; his "opinions" on someone's life or identity were sometimes offensive or irrelevant. I did not trust his writing advice, because of the opinions he included along with it. Prof Lopate's critiques opened the door for other students to share their own personal opinions on pieces, which a few times resulted in students yelling or speaking aggressively about another student. These moments left me shaken and uncomfortable, even when they weren't about me or my work. These moments were not interrupted, addressed, or regulated by the Prof. Prof. Lopate enjoys referring to some themes and writers as "universal" and speaking about others as niche or potentially having "no audience." Without fail, the universal vs. particular for him divides along the lines of straight/cis/white/normative/able-bodied/neurotypical vs. everyone else. The structure of the course was to have a critique, while the writer is not allowed to speak. After the critique, the writer is meant to say a few words. Prof Lopate facilitated this, but would often forget to ask certain students if they wanted to speak before moving on to the next critique. These students were most frequently women. Some disturbing moments throughout the class: -On his syllabus, he says that everyone must participate unless for some reason they are "pathologically shy." -To a student who wrote about their struggles with weight and self-image: "Looking at you, you’re not fat, and that’s an insult to people who actually are fat." -About a Black author: "He's the last not-angry Black man. -On a queer woman's essay: "Not all straight men are bad." -On a student's essay about their experience with mental illness: “There’s this elite clubbiness, now everyone has to be bipolar. -On a student's essay about an abusive relationship: “Not all men require women to be subservient. and "It's not fair to the men who aren't like this guy." -On a woman's outfit: "I used to be able to say that’s a pretty dress, but I can't anymore." -On Rudyard Kipling: "The colonists could really write." -Describing an Indian character: "exotic."
I don't think Bo's teaching UW in the future so I'll be brief: he's everything you want in a UW professor. Interesting readings and discussions, lots of helpful comments on each draft, fair grading and expectations, interesting and fun occasional tangents, easy to talk to in office hours, and invested in students.
Curious about different creative writing genres (I've dabbled in poetry in the past), I was surprised to find that most of the other students in this small workshop were actors, screenwriters, and/or theatre or film majors. They brought perspectives and voices and pieces that knocked my socks off. Once weekly for 2 hours, we cast each other to read our 5-page scenes, followed by a brief discussion of the assigned reading (one play, usually 70-100 fast, enjoyable pages). Prof. Tolan has a lot of wisdom to share, so soak it all up! I feel like I've grown and learned a lot. Would recommend for non-CW-majors!!
I actually had her two years ago. But I came to see her page and saw that there was only one review of her. To follow the previous review and underscore how bad she is, I'm pretty sure that nobody in our class got an A. She was completely ineffective at explaining the already impenetrable reading. The only chance to get over a B in the class entailed going and sitting with her in the writing center and walking out more confused than when you entered. Do not take this section under any circumstance it will make your first year that much harder.